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Chinese History - Western Liang Dynasty 西涼 (400-421)

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The Western Liang dynasty Xiliang 西涼 (400-421) 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 Li Gao 李暠 and was that actually not a "barbarian" state. The empire covered the western part of the modern province of Gansu as well as parts of Xinjiang. The capital was Dunhuang 敦煌 (modern Dunhuang, Gansu), later Jiuquan 酒泉 (modern Jiuquan, Gansu).
Li Gao belonged to the local gentry of the province of Xizhou 西州 and was a decendant of a local governor of the Jin dynasty. In 397 Duan Ye 段業 declared his independance from Lü Guang 呂光, ruler of the Later Liang empire 後涼 (386-403). Li Gao was made magistrate (ling 令) of Xiaogu 效谷, later governor (taishou 太守) of the commandery of Dunhuang. In 400 he adopted the title of area commander-in-chief (da dudu 大都督), General-in-chief 大將軍 and Duke of Liang. He established his own bureaucracy and launched military campaigns to conquer the territory west of Dunhuang. In 401 Juqu Mengxun 沮渠蒙遜 (r. 400-432) killed Duan Ye and proclaimed himself ruler of the Northern Liang empire 北涼 (398-439). Western and Northern Liang often waged war against each other before a peace was concluded. The capital was transferred to Jiuquan in 405, an undertaking for which many thousand inhabitants were resettled. Li Gao also established two commanderies for exilants from the south, namely Guiji 會稽 and Guangxia 廣夏. A new attack by Northern Liang ended a short phase of peace. Li Gao died in 417 (known was Emperor Zhaowu 西涼昭武王, r. 400-417) and was followed by his son Li Xin 李歆. In 420 Li Xin used Juqu Mengxun's absence from his capital and attacked his capital Zhangyi 張掖 (modern Zhangyi, Gansu), but he was defeated and killed in battle. Juqu Mengxun occupied Jiuquan and a year later Dunhuang, where Li Xin's brother Li Xun 李恂 had assembled the last forces of the Western Liang. Li Xun committed suicide and ended the dynasty.
The economical base of the Western Liang territory was very scarce so that Li Gao had to follow a consequent economic politics in order to support his military campaigns. He did not adopt the title of emperor but accepted the suzerainty of the Eastern Jin 東晉 (317-420). He set up government schools for the education of his state officials that mainly came from the influential families of the region.

Rulers of the Western Liang Dynasty 西涼 (400-421)
Capitals: Dunhuang 敦煌, Gansu, Jiuquan 酒泉, Gansu
dynastic title {temple name}
-----reign mottos
personal name
Xiliang Zhaowuwang 西涼昭武王 (Wuzhaowang 武昭王) {Taizu 太祖} r. 400-416
-----Jianchu 建初 405-416
Li Gao 李暠
The Last Ruler (Houzhu) 西涼後主, Duke of Liang 涼公 r. 416-419
-----Jiaxing 嘉興 417-419
Li Xin 李歆
The Marquis of Guanjun 冠軍侯 r. 419-421
-----Yongjian 永建 420-421
Li Xun 李恂
421 Western Liang conquered by Northern Liang 北涼.

Sources: Lu Caiquan 魯才全 (1992), "Xiliang 西涼", 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. 3, p. 1268. ● 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, 3322-3323.

October 30, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail

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