Restricted to southern China, the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317 - 420) was established by Sima Rui, a descendant of the royal family in the Western Jin Dynasty (265 AD – 316 AD). Eastern Jin governed for 103 years under 11 different emperors. It was so-named because it succeeded Western Jin and the capital city, Jiankang (Nanjing of Jiangsu Province today) lay to the east of Western Jin's capital Luoyang (Henan Province today).
The governing body of Eastern Jin comprised aristocratic family members from China's Central Plains together with the local gens of Southern China. The southerners had different customs and cultures from the gentry and this led to tensions, sometimes resulting in revolt. In the end, the cruel exploitation of the common people by the rulers became intolerable and the leaders were soon overthrown by their subjects.
After the perdition of Western Jin, Sixteen Kingdoms of the Five Barbarian Peoples (Wuhu Shiliuguo) contiguously appeared along the Yellow River and collectively these came to the rule over northern China. The names of the five semi-nomadic Wuhu tribes were Hun, Jie, Xianbei, Di and Qiang. And the kingdoms they established were Qianliang, Houliang, Nanliang, Xiliang, Beiliang, Qianzhao, Houzhao, Qianqin, Houqin, Xiqin, Qianyan, Houyan, Nanyan, Beiyan, Xia and Chenghan.
During the reign of Eastern Jin, most of its emperors tried to reoccupy northern China. For example, in 383 AD, General Xie An of Eastern Jin defeated Fu Jian (emperor of Qianqin) and reoccupied some territories in the north, securing the first northern victory by Eastern Jin. Because of the decadence of Eastern Jin's feudal ruling class and because northern China was at war and in chaos for about 50 years, China did not enjoy unification. However, northern China was once momentarily unified by Shi Le (founder of the Later Zhao) and Fu Jian, until the subsequent establishment of the Northern Wei in the Northern and Southern Dynasties (386 AD – 589 AD).
In Eastern Jin's time, northern Chinese continuously moved to the south to escape the wars happening among the Sixteen Kingdoms of the Five Barbarian Peoples. In so doing, they provided much needed labor for the depleted southern resources and they were also able to introduce advanced tools and technology to aid production. The adoption of northern skills by the southern Chinese enabled agricultural production to improve in southern China and, consequently, the center of the Chinese economy shifted from the north to the south.
Despite the wars and chaos, some outstanding poets were borne, such as idealist Tao Yuanming and Xie Lingyun, a landscape poet. These two were instrumental in reforming classical poetry and laid the groundwork for the subsequent prosperity of poetry under the Sui and Tang Dynasties (581 AD – 907 AD) later.
Emperors of Eastern Jin and time of their Reigns:
|Emperor Yuan||318 - 322|
|Emperor Ming||322 - 325|
|Emperor Cheng||325 - 342|
|Emperor Kang||343 - 344|
|Emperor Mu||344 - 361|
|Emperor Ai||361 - 365|
|Emperor Fei||365 - 371|
|Emperor Jianwen||371 - 372|
|Emperor Xiaowu||372 - 396|
|Emperor An||397 - 418|
|Emperor Gong||419 - 420|