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A History of China by Wolfram Eberhard

A former follower of Liu Yuean


the Hun Liu Yuean had no intention of restoring the old empire of Mao Tun, the empire of the nomads; he intended to become emperor of China, emperor of a country of farmers. In this lay the fundamental difference between the earlier Hun empire and this new one. The question whether the Huns should join in the struggle for the Chinese imperial throne was therefore decided among the Huns themselves in 304 in the affirmative, by the founding of the "Hun Han dynasty". All that remained was the practical question of how to hold out with their small army of 50,000 men if serious opposition should be offered to the "barbarians".

Meanwhile Liu Yuean provided himself with court ceremonial on the Chinese model, in a capital which, after several changes, was established at P'ing-ch'eng in southern Shansi. He attracted more and more of the Chinese gentry, who were glad to come to this still rather barbaric but well-organized court. In 309 the first attack was made on the Chinese capital, Loyang. Liu Yuean died in the following year, and in 311, under his successor Liu Ts'ung (310-318), the attack was renewed and Loyang fell. The Chin emperor, Huai Ti, was captured and kept a prisoner in P'ing-ch'eng until in 313 a conspiracy in his favour was brought to light in the Hun empire, and he and all his supporters were killed. Meanwhile the Chinese clique of the Chin dynasty had hastened to make a prince emperor in the second capital, Ch'ang-an (Min Ti, 313-316)

while the princes' struggles for the throne continued. Nobody troubled about the fate of the unfortunate emperor in his capital. He received no reinforcements, so that he was helpless in face of the next attack of the Huns, and in 316 he was compelled to surrender like his predecessor. Now the Hun Han dynasty held both capitals, which meant virtually the whole of the western part of North China, and the so-called "Western Chin dynasty" thus came to its end. Its princes and generals and many of its gentry became landless and homeless and had to flee into the south.

(C) The alien empires in North China, down to the Toba (A.D. 317-385)

1 _The Later Chao dynasty in eastern North China (Hun_; 329-352)

At this time the eastern part of North China was entirely in the hands of Shih Lo, a former follower of Liu Yuean. Shih Lo had escaped from slavery in China and had risen to be a military leader among detribalized Huns. In 310 he had not only undertaken a great campaign right across China to the south, but had slaughtered more than 100,000 Chinese, including forty-eight princes of the Chin dynasty, who had formed a vast burial procession for a prince. This achievement added considerably to Shih Lo's power, and his relations with Liu Ts'ung, already tense, became still more so. Liu Yuean had tried to organize the Hun state on the Chinese model, intending in this way to gain efficient control of China; Shih Lo rejected Chinese methods, and held to the old warrior-nomad tradition, making raids with the aid of nomad fighters. He did not contemplate holding the territories of central and southern China which he had conquered; he withdrew, and in the two years 314-315 he contented himself with bringing considerable expanses in north-eastern China, especially territories of the Hsien-pi, under his direct rule, as a base for further raids. Many Huns in Liu Ts'ung's dominion found Shih Lo's method of rule more to their taste than living in a state ruled by officials, and they went over to Shih Lo and joined him in breaking entirely with Liu Ts'ung. There was a further motive for this: in states founded by nomads, with a federation of tribes as their basis, the personal qualities of the ruler played an important part. The chiefs of the various tribes would not give unqualified allegiance to the son of a dead ruler unless the son was a strong personality or gave promise of becoming one. Failing that, there would be independence movements. Liu Ts'ung did not possess the indisputable charisma of his predecessor Liu Yuean; and the Huns looked with contempt on his court splendour, which could only have been justified if he had conquered all China. Liu Ts'ung had no such ambition; nor had his successor Liu Yao (319-329), who gave the Hun Han dynasty retroactively, from its start with Liu Yuean, the new name of "Earlier Chao dynasty" (304-329). Many tribes then went over to Shih Lo, and the remainder of Liu Yao's empire was reduced to a precarious existence. In 329 the whole of it was annexed by Shih Lo.

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