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Chinese History - Northern Yan Dynasty 北燕

Periods of Chinese History
The Northern Yan dynasty Beiyan 北燕 (409-436) ruled over one of the so-called Sixteen Barbarian States 五胡十六國 (300~430) that dominated northern China during the early Southern and Northern Dynasties period 南北朝 (300~600). It was founded by the Chinese Feng Ba 馮跋 and is thus actually not a "barbarian" dynasty. From the capital Longcheng 龍城 (modern Chaoyang 朝陽, Liaoning), the rulers of the Northern Yan controlled the region of what is today western Liaoning and northern Hebei.
Feng Ba (died 430), courtesy name Feng Wenqi 馮文起, came from Changle 長樂 (modern Jixian 冀縣, Hebei). His father Feng An 馮安 had been a general of Emperor Murong Yong 慕容永 (r. 386-394) of the Western Yan empire 西燕 (384-394). When that empire was devoured by another branch of the Murong family, Feng Ba moved to the east, where he was appointed commander of the palace guard (jinwei jiangling 禁衛將領) of the Later Yan dynasty 後燕 (384-409). In 407 Feng Ba killed Murong Xi 慕容熙 (r. 401-407), ruler of the Later Yan, and enthroned Murong Yun 莫容雲 (i. e. Gao Yun 高雲), an adoptive son of Murong Bao 慕容寳 (r. 396-397). Gao Yun made Feng Ba commissionary with extraordinary powers (shichijie 使持節), a position in which he was chief commander of all imperial troops and concurrently chief secretary, in other words, he was the really powerful man of the empire.
In 209 Gao Yun was assassinated by Li Ban 離班. Feng Ba took this occasion, executed Li Ban and proclaimed himself ruler of the Yan (Emperor Wencheng 北燕文成帝, r. 409-430). He died in 430 on the sickbed. His younger brother Feng Hong 馮宏 killed all sons of Feng Ba and mounted the throne as Emperor Zhaocheng 北燕昭成帝 (r. 430-436). Under his reign, the empire of Northern Yan suffered under the permanent attacks of the Northern Wei 北魏 (386-534) armies. Feng Hong asked the ruler of Koguryŏ 高句麗 for support, which was also granted. He could, nonetheless, not defend his capital and had to flee to Koguryŏ in 436.
The reign of Feng Ba is generally seen as a positive one compared with that of the Later Yan. Feng Ba reduced the tax and corvée labour burden for his population and rewarded the opening of new tracts of land as well as the cultivation of mulberry for silk production. He also fought against embezzlement by state officials. He also established a National University (taixue 太學) for the eduation of candidate state officials. His son Feng Yong 馮永 was given the title of Great Khan (da shanyu 大單于) and took over the regency over the non-Chinese among the population. Both rulers also dispatched envoys to the court of the Liu-Song dynasty 劉宋 (420-479) in the south. The latter called the empire of Yan euphemistically "country of the Yellow Dragon" 黃龍國, meaning that they called themselves emperor yet without being acknowledged by the emperor of the Song empire.

Rulers of the Northern Yan Dynasty 北燕 (409-436)
Capital: Longcheng 龍城 (modern Chaoyang 朝陽, Liaoning)
dynastic title {temple name}
-----reign periods
personal name
r. 407-409
-----Zhengshi 正始 407-409
Gao Yun 高雲
Beiyan Wenchengdi 北燕文成帝 {Taizu 太祖} r. 409-430
-----Taiping 太平 409-430
Feng Ba 馮跋
Beiyan Zhaochengdi 北燕昭成帝 r. 430-436
-----Taixing太興 431-436
Feng Hong 馮宏 (or 馮弘)
436 Northern Yan conquered by Northern Wei 北魏.

Sources: Lu Caiquan 魯才全 (1992), "Beiyan 北燕", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 1, p. 40. ● Zhongguo lishi da cidian bianzuan weiyuanhui 中國歷史大辭典編纂委員會 (ed. 2000), Zhongguo lishi da cidian 中國歷史大辭典 (Shanghai: Shanghai cishu chubanshe), Vol. 2, pp. 3320, 3323.

October 30, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail

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