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Chinese History - Former Zhao Dynasty 前趙 (304-329)

Periods of Chinese History
The Former Zhao dynasty Qianzhao 前趙 (304-329) 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 Liu Yao 劉曜 who belonged to the people of the Xiongnu 匈奴. The empire covered the southern part of the modern provinces of Shaanxi and Shanxi as well as parts of Henan and Gansu. The capital was Chang'an 長安 (modern Xi'an 西安, Shaanxi). Because the founding family of the Zhao empire had adopted the surname of the rulers of the Han dynasty 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE), Liu 劉, they saw themselves also as successors of the great Han. Their empire is therefore also known as that of the Northern Han Beihan 北漢 (in contrast to the Cheng-Han empire 成漢, 304-347, in Sichuan).
Liu Yuan 劉淵, a chieftain of the Xiongnu, was appointed Commander of the Northern Tribes (beibu duwei 北部都尉). During the turbulent time of Emperor Hui 晉惠帝 (r. 290-306) of the Jin dynasty 晉 (265-420) Liu Yuan gradually rose in importance and was allowed to bear the title of Great Khan (da chanyu 大單于). He also acted as advisor to Sima Ying 司馬穎, Prince of Chengdu 成都. In 300 he adopted the title of King of Han 漢 in remembrance of the great Han dynasty. Emperor Hui immediately sent out an army to punish him, so that Liu Yuan had to move his seat from Zuoguocheng 左國城 (modern Lishi 離石, Shanxi), to Puzi 蒲子 (modern Xixian 隰縣, Shanxi). In 308 he proclaimed himself Emperor of the Han dynasty (Emperor Guangwen 前趙光文帝, r. 304-309). He was succeeded by his son Liu He 劉和 who was soon killed by Liu Yuan's fourth son Liu Cong 劉聰. Liu Cong sent out Wang Mi 王彌 and Liu Yao 劉曜 to capture the emperors Huai 晉懷帝 (r. 306-312) and Min 晉愍帝 (r. 313-316) of the Jin dynasty. Historians decribe Liu Cong as cruel and frivolous. In 318 he died and was succeeded by his son Liu Can 劉粲. The latter was after a short time killed by the Xiongnu noble Jin Zhun 靳準. Liu Yao, military governor of Chang'an, sent out a punishing expedition against Jin Zhun and proclaimed himself emperor in 317. At that point of time, the Xiongnu chieftain Shi Le 石勒, founder of the Later Zhao dynasty 後趙 (319-351), sent out an army with the pretext to punish Jin Zhun and conquered Pingyang 平陽, the seat of the Han dynasty. Liu Yao could not but withdraw to the west. He set up his capital in Chang'an 長安 (modern Xi'an 西安, Shaanxi) and gave his empire the name of Zhao 趙. The war between Liu Yao and Shi Le continued, and the former was heavily defeated in a battle near Luoyang 洛陽 (modern Luoyang, Henan) in 328. Shi Le advanced to the west and conquered the region around Chang'an. Liu Yao's son Liu Xi 劉熙 fled to Shanggui 上邽 (modern Tianshui 天水, Gansu), where he was soon captured and executed.
Liu Yao modeled his administrative system according to that of Liu Yuan and separated the administration of the Chinese from that of the Non-Chinese. His brother Liu Ying served as Minister of War (dasima 大司馬) and Great Khan. His seat was the Office of the Khan (chanyutai 單于臺) in Weicheng 渭城 (near modern Xianyang 咸陽, Shaanxi). His left and right counsellors (xianwang 賢王) and the lower staff consisted of Xiongnu exclusively. The Chinese in the Zhao empire were administerd by state officials that were educated in government schools (xuexiao 學校) and were ranked according to the system of the nine ranks (jiupin 九品). The members of the officialdom mainly came from the local gentry. Liu Yao moved a great part of the population of the areas he had under his control into the metropolitan region around Chang'an. This saved a lot of administrative work and at the same time ensured the economical supplies for the capital and the armies.

Rulers of the Former Zhao Dynasty 前趙 (304-329)
Capitals: Zuoguocheng 左國城 (modern Lishi 離石, Shanxi), Puzi 蒲子 (modern Xixian 隰縣, Shanxi), Pingyang 平陽 (modern Linfen 臨汾, Shanxi), Chang'an 長安 (modern Xi'an 西安, Shaanxi)
Ethnicity: Xiongnu 匈奴
dynastic title {temple name}
-----reign periods
personal name
Qianzhao Guangwendi 前趙光文帝 {Gaozong 高宗} r. 304-309
-----Yuanxi 元熙 304-307
-----Yongfeng 永鳳 308, Emperor of Han 漢
-----Herui 河瑞 309
Liu Yuan 劉淵
r. 309 Liu He 劉和
Qianzhao Zhaowudi 前趙昭武帝 {烈宗} r. 309-317
-----Guangxing 光興 310
-----Jiaping 嘉平 311-314
-----Jianyuan 建元 315
-----Linjia 麟嘉 316-317
Liu Cong 劉聰
Qianzhao Yindi 前趙隱帝, The Minor Ruler (Shaozhu) 前趙少主 r. 317
-----Hanchang 漢昌 317
Liu Can 劉粲
The Prince of Qin 秦王 r. 318-329
-----Guangchu 光初 (Zuochu 佐初) 318-329
Dynasty called Zhao 趙 329, capital shifted to Chang'an.
Liu Yao 劉曜
r. 329 Liu Xi 劉熙
329 Former Zhao conquered by Later Zhao 後趙.

Sources: Lu Caiquan 魯才全 (1992), "Qianzhao 前趙", 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. 2, pp. 772-773. ● 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. 3317-3318.

October 30, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail

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