3.1.3 The Downfall of the Western Chin - the Beginning of the Barbarian Invasion of China

Table of Contents
3.1.3.1 The Five Barbarian Tribes Rise in Revolt
3.1.3.1.1 The Li Clan of the Hsiung-nü Occupy P'ing-yang and Proclaim an Emperor
3.1.3.1.2 The Li Family of the Ti Tribe Occupy Ch'eng-tu and Proclaim an Emperor
3.1.3.1.3 The North is Divided and Occupied by the Hsien-pei
3.1.3.2 The Calamities of Huai-ti and Min-ti: the Collapse of the Western Chin

3.1.3.1 The Five Barbarian Tribes Rise in Revolt

3.1.3.1.1 The Li Clan of the Hsiung-nü Occupy P'ing-yang and Proclaim an Emperor

In the initial years of Chin Hui-ti, Liu Yuan the Military Commander of the Left part of the Hsiung-nu advanced in position to become the Grand Governor-General of the 5 divisions of the Liu Clan and enfeoffed as the "Brilliant Marquis of Han" (Han Kuang-Hou). Having already been with Ying the King of Ch'eng-tu in garrison in Yeh-ch'eng he considered that the King was unable to bring the affair to a conclusion to that when Yueh the King of Tung-hai was ordered by Hui-ti to advance and attack Yeh-ch'eng, Yuan himself asked to raise and command troops from among the Hsiung-nu tribes to assist in battle and the King of Ch'eng-tu assented to this. Liu Yuan immediately returned to Tso-kuo Ch'eng (the City of the Left Kingdom) where he was honored by all as the Grand Ch'an-yü from this time onward being independent. As has already been said in the prior section, this Hsiung-nü Liu Yuan was an extraordinary personality, having lived for many years in China he was deeply steeped in the textual study of the Classics and was well-versed in a number of books. He was particularly well-vesed in the Mao-shih (the Book of Odes as edited by Mao Hung during the Han Dynasty), the Ching-shih I (the Book Of Changes edited by Ching Fang), the Ma-shih Shang-shu (the Book of History as edited by the Ma Clan), the Ch'un-ch'iu Tso-shih Chuan (a commentary on the Spring and Autumn Annal authored by Tso Ch'iu-ming of the Chou Dynasty) and the Sun Wu Ping-fa (the Art of War by Sun Tzu and Wu Ch'i). There was not a book in the Shih Han Chu-tse that he had not thumbed through. And even more, he also excelled in military skills, long arms skilled archery, and a physical strength that surpassed that of other men. In the past he had lamented, "Sui and Lu had no martial prowess, Chiang and Kuan had no literary prowess!" However, he certainly was a master of both the pen and the sword. He had himself also proclaimed, "The House of Liu of the Hsiung-nu was originally the children of the sisters of the House ofHan and together were but a single family. From Hu-han-yeh on (the rulers of the Hsiung-nu) were just like the brothers of the Han Emperor, so then if the older brother passes away how is it that the younger brother could not follow him? At present the flesh and blood of one family of the Ssu-ma Clan oppress one another, so it is only fitting that Heaven has wearied of the virtue of Chin to revive the age of the great Han." Therefore in 304 (Yung-Hsing 1) he set up official titles and proclaimed himself sovereign ruler, building alters to sacrifice to Heaven and Earth, calling himself the King of Han. In a declaration issued immediately upon his accession it says,

In the past our first emperor, Kao Huang-ti, responded to the times with intelligence and courage to embark upon the great enterprise, the Imperial Ancestor the Emperor Hsiao-wen by means of his illustrious virtue once again rose to the level of the tao of the Han, the Emperor Hsiao-wu expanded the lands of the state and repelled the barbarians . . . these forefathers of ours surpassed the tao of the Three Kingdoms, and their merit was as great as that of the Five Emperors! . . . the traitorous minister Wang Mang filled the heavens with his revolt, our ancestor the Emperor Kuang-wu born with the qualities of a martial sage restored the foundation of the great undertaking (the throne) . . . the father Tsao Tsao and his son follow one another in their odious rebellion. . . . Chao Lieh broadcast beyond the river Min in Shu that in the hope that the evil days had come to an end and there was peace once again all would turn their carts toward the old capital. How could they hope that heaven did not wish the disaster to be repeated and the last emperor distressed and abused! from the ruination of the state and the halting of the sacrifices at the imperial ancestral temple it has already been over forty years! Now Heaven tempts their goodness . . . . allowing the fathers and sons, older and younger brothers to alternately wipe out one another and the common folk suffered bitterly, they cannot be accused of this. Alone, today the vulgar is put forward by the nobles, we continue to repair the enterprise of the three ancestors.

(See Chin-shu, 101 ch'uan, The Record of Liu Yuan-hai)

At the same time posthumous honors were given to Liu Shan who became Hsiao-huai Huang-ti, setting up tablets for the three tsu and five tsung that followed Han Kao-tsu worshipping them. Not thinking about several hundred years of warfare that pitted the Hsiung-nu against the men of Han, quite unexpectedly their descendant Liu Yuan considered himself to be the offspring of the Liu Clan of the house of Han. His raising troops in revolt come from a king of attitude consoling the people by punishing the wicked to restore the state of his various ancestors of the Liu Clan of the house of Han. This really is an extremely contradictory situation in history. However, from this we can detect two facts: the first is the depth of the Chinese cultural influence that Liu Yuan received, and the other is that separated by a half century the vast, mass psychology of society, weary of revolt and pining for order, remembered the Han Dynasty with longing. Moreover, Liu Yuan with this piece of propaganda is focusing on just this kind of mass psychology.

Immediately upon proclaiming himself the King of Han, Liu Yuan formally established a capital at Li-shih (Tso-kuo Ch'eng in is Li-shih, modern Li-shih Hsien in Shan-hsi province) and all of the tribes returned so that his power and influence waxed daily. In 307 he accepted into his service the Chieh, Shih Le. Shih Le's tsu (courtesy name) was Shih-lung and his original name was Pei, in his childhood he as sold as a slave and later joined a bandit gang, he had a brave and resourceful personality, he had cooperated with the "Horse Pasture" Command-in-Chief, Ch'i-sang, in a revolving battle with Chao and Wei, and was defeated by the Chin Han-yang Magistrate, Kou Hsi. Ch'i-sang was killed in the battle so Shih Le sought out the protection of Liu Yuan, with Yuan making him the Fu-han General, the King of P'ing-chin, and Supervisor of the Military Affairs of Shang-tung, to form a section of fierce military units subordinate to Liu Yuan. In 308 he accepted the surrender of the fierce bandit Wang Mi, who had been roaming in the area of Ch'ing, Hsu, Yen and Yu, appointing him as the Ssu-li Colonel. Since Liu Yuan had obtained the forces of Shih Le and Wang Mi, his power and influence expanded greatly, so he then moved the capital to P'ing-yang and proclaimed himself emperor. He divided and sent out Shih Le and his clansman Liu Yao and Wang Mi to invade and they captured Hu Kuan (Jug Pass), plundered Chi-chou, attacked Lo-yang, and harrassed the populations both north and south of the Yellow River, and when taken together with the civil strife within the Chin Royal House both within and without there was agitation and disturbance. In 310 Liu Yuan died and the Heir Apparent, Ho, followed him, but Ho and his younger brother Tsung attacked one another and Ho's army was defeated and he was killed. Liu Tsung followed him as Han-ti and continued to send out Shih Le, Liu Yao and Wang Mi to invade. The military forces of Shih Le were especially vigorous and were virtually unopposed anywhere they went. In the next year Liu Tsung and all of his armies attacked and took Lo-yang to bring about the "Disaster of the Yung-chia Years."

3.1.3.1.2 The Li Family of the Ti Tribe Occupy Ch'eng-tu and Proclaim an Emperor

In the years of the late Han Dynasty there was a band of Ti from Hsi-pa that roamed all the way to Han-chung and in the beginning they submitted to Chang Lu. When Tsao Tsao had already destroyed Chang Lu, this group of Ti of approximately 500 families was moved to Lueh-yang. With the coming of the beginning of the Chin Dynasty during the first year of Yuan-k'ang, a Ti by the name of Ch'i-wan-nien led a revolt creating a disturbance in Kuan-hsi (west of the Pass, Shen-hsi and Kan-su). Afterwards although Ch'i-wan-nien was suppressed in Kuan-chung when once again there was famine, several of these Pa-hsi Ti following these refugees by a circuitous route passed through Han-ch'uan and wandered into Pa-Chung. Among them there were two brother of the Li family, Li T'e and Li Hsiang, who were both capable and resourceful and they had been put forward by the group as its leaders. In 307 the I-chou Prefect, Chao Hsin, wanted to plan a revolt so he accepted into his service the two Li brothers and their followers, relying on them to expand his power and influence. Li Hsiang was made the Wei-kuan General and enfeoffed as the Marquis of Yang-t'ing and at the same time instructed to pacify the recalcitrants and to organize and train troops so that by means of this the Li family became great and strong. It was only later that Chao Hsin had his jealousy aroused and had Li Hsiang beheaded. Hsiang's younger brother, Li T'e, then led his group to counter attack Chao Hsin, and Chao was defeated, he fled and then was killed by his subordinates. Li T'e then immediately took possession of Ch'eng-tu and in 302 (T'ai-an 1) he proclaimed himself the I-chou Magistrate. When the court heard of these changes they especially dispatched Luo shang the Liang-chou Prefect to become the P'ing-hsi General and I-chou Prefect to go and put down Li T'e. At the time Luo Shang's military discipline was extremely lax and unexpectedly he could not match the hold that the Li family had on the people, in Shu the commoners composed a song that said:

Li T'e is passable but Luo Shang will kill us!

Li T'e and Luo Shang went through a long and fierce battle and quite unexpectedly Li T'e was killed by Luo Shang. T'e's younger brother, Li Liu, continued the command of his group and fought with Luo Shang but after several months Li Liu also died so the group put Li T'e's son, Li Hsiung, forward as their leader and Luo Shang was finally attacked and defeated and fled to Pa-tung. Li Hsiung then took over control of Ch'eng-tu and in the year 304 (Yung-hsing 1) he proclaimed himself the King of Ch'eng-tu and in the next year went on to proclaim himself the Emperor of the state of Ta-Ch'eng (Great Ch'eng). This is just the same time when Yueh the King of Tung-hai issued a call to arms in Shan-tung and condemned Chang Fang.

The entry of the two Li brothers, Li T'e and Li Hsiung, into Shu was in the year 298 and it was six years earlier than Liu Yuan's occupation of Tso-kuo Ch'eng and declaration of independence. Li Hsiung's proclamation as Emperor in Ch'eng-tu took place two years before Liu Yuan was proclaimed emperor in P'ing-yang.

3.1.3.1.3 The North is Divided and Occupied by the Hsien-pei

At this time in the northeast the Hsien-pei were composed of four great lineages the Mu-jung family of Liao-tung, the Tuan family of Liao-hsi, the Yu-wen family of Liao-pei, and the T'uo-pa family of Tai-pei. Although these four lineages was all of Hsien-pei stock they did not enjoy harmonious relations but rather as a result of the principle of "make friends with distant countries and attack the neighboring ones", the Mu-jung family, the Tuan family and the Yu-wen family would attack one another and be on good relations with th T'uo-pa family. At the time the leader of the Mu-jung clan, Mu-jung Hui, was the Hsien-pei Army Commander (Hsien-pei Tu-tu) and also proclaimed himself the Great Chan-yu (Khan) of the Hsien-pei, and fixed his capital at Chi-ch'eng. He attacked and annexed several of the neighboring tribes and day by day his power and influence grew. The leader of the Tuan clan was Tuan Wu-wu-ch'en and at the time was enfeoffed as the Duke of Liao-hsi with his capital at Ling-chih (modern Ch'ien-an in Ho-pei) where he was in contact with the P'ing-pei General Wang Chun and in addition to this Tuan Wu-wu-ch'en had also taken one of Wang Chun's daughters as his wife. Later when Tuan Wu-wu-ch'en died his son, Tuan Chiu-lu-chuan, followed him as the Duke of Liao-hsi and he also was still subordinate to Wang Chun. To the west of the Tuan and the Yu-wen clans there was the T'uo-pa clan which occupied the area north of Ping-chou (in the area of Sui-yuan) and was divided into three groups: the first group occupied the northern part of Shang-ku and was controlled by T'uo-pa Lu-kuan; another group occupied the north of Tai-chun and was led by T'uo-pa Wo-i; while the third group occupied the north of Ting-hsiang and was controlled by T'uo-pa I-lu (the younger brother of Wo-i). In the year 307 (Yung-chia 1) T'uo-pa Lu-kuan died and I-lu thus gained the overall management of the three sections and in the east got on good terms with Mu-jung Hui.

When Chin Huai-ti first came to the throne, Yueh the King of Tung-hai was in control of the government and Liu K'un was the Ping-chou Prefect. At this time the Liu Clan of the Hsiung-nu was at P'ing-yang and the north was in upheaval, Liu going forward fighting in one place after another and travelling through tich bushes and dense thickets he established a Military Agency (chün-fu) in Chin-yang. In order to control the Hsiung-nu of the southeast (of Chin-yang) Liu K'un befriended T'o-pa I-lu of the north and they agreed to become brothers, announcing they I-lu was the Great Ch'an-yu and created the Commander of ?? to enfeof him as the Duke of Tai. T'o-pa I-lu thereupon led his tribes to the south requesting all of the land north of Hsing-kuan (that is lands to the north of Ya-men Kuan) so Liu K'un then reansferred the populations of the five districts (hsien) of Lo-fan, Ma-i, Yin-kuan, Fan-ch'i and Kuo-hsien to the south to set it aside to give to I-lu, the T'o-pa Clan through this became powerful and strong, creating the basis for the development later on of the Northern Wei. In the northeast the situation was that Liu K'un of Ping-chou had formed strong ties with the T'o-pa Clan while Wang Chün of Yu-chou had strong ties with the Tuan Clan to form two important military positions from which to control the Hsiung-nu. The tangled, confused and complex situation that existed in the north at this time can been seen on the map.


Attachment: Map of the Areas of Influence of the Five Hu at the beginning of the Chin

3.1.3.2 The Calamities of Huai-ti and Min-ti: the Collapse of the Western Chin

By the time of the last years of the Revolt of the Eight Kings, the Chin Dynasty had already come to have an oppressive state of affairs for besides the Liu Clan of the Hsiung-nu occupation of P'ing-yang and the Li Clan of the Ti occupation of Ch'eng-tu, in the Chiang-hsia region there were revolts of Chang Ch'ang and Ch'iu Ch'en. When the revolt of Chang Ch'ang had settled in Chiang-tun there was then the revolt of Ch'en Min, in Nan-yang there was the revolt of the refugee Wang Ju, and in Hsiang-chou there was the revolt of the Prefect Tu T'ao. The troops of Shih Le and Wang Mi took advantage of the vacuum to roam about, spreading devastation thoughout the lands north and south of the Yellow River and everywhere it was like the flames of a prairie fire that was out of control. When Shih Le plundered the funeral of King Lun of Chao a great army of several hundred thousands was broken and destroyed in a single instance. The military power of the Chin central adminsitration had already been completely destroyed and the capital of Lo-yang had been transformed into a ghost town. It was at just this time that Liu Ts'ung especially sent his general Hu Yen-yen in command of 27,000 crack troops straight to Lo-yang to seize it. The Chin troops were defeated in twelve engagements and then Liu Yao, Shih Le and Wang Mi led their forces to come and join with him and together they attacked and took Lo-yang. Emperor Huai-ti was taken prisoner and then moved to P'ing-yang. The Hsiung-nu allowed their troops to engage in mass plunder and they killed the Heir Apparent, all of the other kings, officials of all ranks and descriptions and the dead numbered over 30,000 while the corpses were piled up to the north of the Lo River so thay could be seen from the capital. They also dug up the Imperial Tombs and alsmot all of the imperial temples, offices and residences were consumed in the flames. This was a human tragedy that could happen only once in history and since the year was Yung-chia 5 it is therefore called the "Disaster of the Yung-chia Year." The pitiful Emperor Chin Huai-ti was made a prisoner in P'ing-yang and there enfeoffed as the Imperial Duke of Hui-chi (Hui-chi chün kung). At a banquet he wore his everyday clothes to serve wine to the guests and was insulted in every way imaginable and off to the side there was one who had served as a great minister of the House of Chin in the old days who could not help by cry loudly. Liu Ts'ung detested this and so had Huai-ti killed after two years of captivity.

After Lo-yang had been lost to the enemy, Liu Yao and Liu Ts'an (the son of Liu Ts'ung) led their troops into the west and attacked and took Ch'ang-an. Liu Ts'ung then made Liu Yao the Yung-chou Magistrate. Shih Le then made a clean sweep of the east, exterminating several Chin armies and at the same time engaging in an intramutal fight with Wang Mi to take possession of Hsiang-kuo. He made use of the man of Han, Chang Pin, as his chief planner and advanced his army northward to surprise and kill Wang Chün to take control of the lands of Yu-chou and gradually formed for himself an independent position.

At this time in Kuan-chung the Feng-i Prefect Suo Lin, the An-i Hu-chün Ch'u-yun and the An-ting Prefect Chia P'i planned together to restore the house of Chin and initiated a coutner-attack in the direction of Ch'ang-an. After over one hudnred separate engagements both large and small they finally managed to expel Liu Yao and recover Ch'ang-an. In 312 (Yung-chia 6) they welcomed King Yeh of Ch'in (the grandson of Ssu-ma T'an and son of King Yen of Wu) into the western capital. In the next year the news of Huai-ti's death arrived and so tghe King of Ch'in became the new emperor, with the reign title changed to Chien-hsing (building prosperity) and with the name Chin Min-ti. Although Min-ti had come to the throne in Kuan-chung, the north western region had already been devastated by the upheavals and there was little that could be retrieved from it. Then in 316 (Chien-hsing 4) Liu Yao once again attacked and took Ch'ang-an and Chin Min-ti along with Chu-yun and Suo Lin were taken captive and sent to P'ing-yang. Suo Lin was killed, Ch'u-yun committed suicide and the fate of Min-ti was the same as that of Huai-ti. When Liu Ts'ung would go out hunting he would command Min-ti to hold the hunting lance and act as a guide, a group of peasants saw this and all of the respectable old people shed tears. Liu Ts'ung saw by this that he still had the people's hearts and they they remembered the House of Chin with longing so he then killed Min-ti in order to prevent future problems; it was the third year after the loss of Ch'ang-an to the enemy - 317 A.D.

After the loss of the two capitals to the enemy, Ssu-ma Jui the King of Lang-yeh then came to the throne on the left bank of the Yangtze in Chien-yeh and by this act signalled the end of the Western Chin and the beginning of the Eastern Chin. At this time a large number of the aristocrats and peasants of the Central Plain in confused masses wandered into the area east of the Yangtze (Chiang-tung: modern Chiang-su) to form a one-time mass migration that history calls "The Gentry Cross the River South." At this time there were famous scholars from the area north of the Yangtze (northern Chiang-su) Chou I, Huan I and others fleeing the anarchy in the north to come to Chien-yeh, who one day along with the King of Lang-yeh's chief planner, Ssu-ma Wang-tao, together climbed into the New Pavillion (Hsin-t'ing) for an outing and Chou I sighed saying: The scenery is nothing special, raise your eyes and there is the strangeness of rivers and streams and without realizing it they looked at each other and cried. Wang Tao turned pale and changing his expression said: We should join forces with the Royal House and recover the Sacred Precinct (the Imperial Capital), how is it that we cry to one another like the prisoners of Ch'u? (NOTE: Prisoner of Ch'u was an expression used to describe someone who faced a hopeless situation they could not change.)

Map of China after the Yung-chia Disaster