General Introduction to Jin Dynasty

Jin DynastyThe Jin Dynasty was founded by the ethnic minority known as the Nuzhen who originated from the Heilongjiang River and Songhua River regions and the Changpai Mountain area. In 1115, one of the Nuzhen tribal leaders, by the name of Wanyan Aguda, unified the whole Nuzhen group and established the Jin Dynasty in Acheng City (currently in Heilongjiang Province). Later, the capital city was moved to Yanjing (currently Beijing and finally settled in Bianjing (currently Kaifeng).

 

Before and after the founding of the Jin Dynasty, there were constant battles between Liao (916 - 1125), Jin and Northern Song (960 - 1127). Initially, Jin launched a series of attacks on Liao. This resulted in the five major cities of Liao being captured by the Jin army one after another. In 1125, the Liao Dynasty was completely defeated by the Jin Dynasty. After that, the Jin court focused all its military forces on fighting with the Northern Song. Due to the incompetence of the late Song's rulers, the Jin army easily conquered Northern Song's capital city, Kaifeng, in 1127. Thus the Jin Dynasty ended the Northern Song. After that, the Jin Dynasty gradually unified the vast areas in the north along the Yellow River. After the founding of the Southern Song, the Jin court fell into further confrontation with them. During the reign of Emperor Shizong and Emperor Zhangzong, the national strength of the Jin Dynasty was at its zenith, with the Xixia (a regime founded by another ethnic minority called the Dangxiang) made into a subordinate country and the weak Southern Song forced to make peace by paying tribute.

 

The migration south

After taking over Northern China, the Jin Dynasty became increasingly Sinicized. About three million people, half of them Jurchens, migrated south into northern China over two decades, and this minority governed about thirty million people. The Jurchens were given land grants and organized society into 1,000 households and 100 households). Many married Hans, although the ban on Jurchen nobles marrying Hans was not lifted until 1191. After Jin Emperor Tàizōng died in 1135, the next three Jin emperors were grandsons of Wányán Āgǔdǎ by three different princes. Young Jin Emperor Xīzōng (r. 1135-1149) studied the classics and wrote Chinese poetry. He adopted Han cultural traditions, but the Jurchen nobles had the top positions.

 

Rebellions in the north

Having usurped the throne, Wanyan Liang embarked on the program of legitimizing his rule as an emperor of China. In 1153, he moved the empire's main capital from Huining Fu in northern Manchuria (south of present-day Harbin) to the former Liao capital, Yanjing (now Beijing). Four years later, in 1157, to emphasize the permanence of the move, he razed the nobles’ residences in Huining. Hǎilíng also reconstructed the former Song capital, Bianjing (now Kaifeng), which had been sacked in 1127, making it the Jin's southern capital.

 

The Jin military

Contemporary Chinese writers ascribed Jurchen success in overwhelming the Liao and Northern Song mainly to their cavalry. Already during Aguda's rebellion against the Liao, all Jurchen fighters were mounted. It was said that the Jurchen cavalry tactics were a carryover from their hunting skills. Jurchen horsemen were provided with heavy armor; on occasions, they would use a team of horses attached to each other with chains.

 

Rise of the Manchus

After thirty years of struggle, the Jurchen chief Nurhaci combined the three Jurchen tribes and founded the Later Jin Dynasty (1616–1636). Nurhaci's eighth son and heir, Huáng Tàijí, later changed the name of his people from Jurchen to Manchu in 1635. The next year, he changed the name of the Later Jin to Qing in 1636.

Decline of Jin Dynasty

Starting from the early 13th century the Jin Dynasty began to feel the pressure of Mongols from the north. Genghis Khan first led the Mongols into Western Xia territory in 1205 and ravaged them four years later. In 1211 about 50,000 Mongols on horses invaded the Jin Empire and began absorbing Khitan and Jurchen rebels. The Jin army had a half million men with 150,000 cavalry but abandoned the “western capital” Datong (see also Badger's Mount Campaign). The next year the Mongols went north and looted the Jin “eastern capital”, and in 1213 they besieged the “central capital”. In 1214 the Jin made a humiliating treaty but retained the capital. That summer, Jin Emperor Xuānzōng abandoned the central capital and moved the government to the “southern capital” of Kaifeng, making it the official seat of Jin Dynasty power.