The Sixteen Kingdoms was a violent era during the third and early fourth centuries CE when five tribes alternated with each other in establishing brief kingdoms in northern China.
The Sixteen Kingdoms was the time (304–439 CE) when non-Han Chinese tribes, including some of nomadic origin, alternated with each other in founding short-lived kingdoms in northern China. (See table 1.) Historians list the kingdoms as the sixteen nations of the five “barbarian” tribes. The time is often referred to as “Wuhu Shiliu Guo” (Period of Five Barbarian Tribes and Sixteen Nations). The five tribes were the Xianbei, Di, Hun, Jiehu, and Qiang, originating from Tibetan, Tangut, Mongol, Proto-Turkic, and Tungus tribes. Eventually the Xianbei tribe reunified northern China in 440.
The entire Huang (Yellow) River valley during this period became a battlefield for tribal kingdoms and some remnant military chieftains. As the nations fought among themselves, blood flowed freely. Although the period is often considered China’s “Dark Age” because of the chaos and foreign occupation of its territories, the period was also a time of great change as China was transformed by the Indian religion of Buddhism.
|NAME||PERIOD||LOCATION IN PRESENT-DAY CHINA (PROVINCE)||ETHNICITY|
|2||Han (Anterior Zhao)||304–329||Shanxi and Shaanxi||Hun|
|4||Posterior Zhao||319–351||Shandong, Hebei, Shanxi, and Shaanxi||Jiehu|
|5||Anterior Qin||351–394||Liaoning, Shandong, Hebei, Shanxi, Gansu, Sichuan, and Shaanxi||Di|
|6||Anterior Yan||337–370||Liaoning, Shandong, Hebei, and Shanxi||Xianbei|
|7||Posterior Yan||384–409||Liaoning, Shandong, Hebei, and Shanxi||Xianbei|
Fairbank, J. K., & Goldman, M. (1998). China: A new history. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.
Fairbank, J. K., Reischauer, E. O., & Craig, A. M. (1989). East Asia: Tradition and transformation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Source: Suganuma, Unryu. (2009). Sixteen Kingdoms. In Linsun Cheng, et al. (Eds.), Berkshire Encyclopedia of China, pp. 1996–1997. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing.
Sixteen Kingdoms (Shíliù Guó ???)|Shíliù Guó ??? (Sixteen Kingdoms)