The Wei, Jin, Southern and Northern Dynasties were an era of great division in China. A total of 400 years elapsed from Yellow Turban Rebellion to unification of Sui Dynasty. During these 400 years, dozens of regimes, large and small, arose in north and south of China and in Yellow River region, and common time was only 10 years at beginning of Western Jin Dynasty. The world is in chaos, there are wars everywhere, and people in a desperate situation are characteristics of this era. The so-called time creates heroes, and in times of great chaos, countless heroes will appear who will either separate from one side or strive for a great unification. This article presents 10 most prominent emperors that have emerged in these 400 years.1, Sui Wendy Yang Jian
Yang Jian, Emperor Wen of Sui Dynasty, was one of most prominent emperors in Chinese history. He succeeded Northern Zhou Dynasty in 581 and then completed unification on basis of Northern Zhou Dynasty, ending confrontation between Northern and Southern Dynasties. Yang Jian's policy towards Turks also changed from seeking peace to being tough, successfully repelling Turks' invasion of south and hastening division of Turks. In terms of domestic affairs, Yang Jian reformed bureaucratic system and promoted maturity of ancient Chinese official system. Economically, Yang Jian cut taxes many times and created Kaihuang Shenshi.2. Tuoba Tao, Emperor Taiwu of Northern Wei Dynasty.
Tuoba Tao, Emperor Taiwu of Northern Wei Dynasty, was third emperor of Northern Wei Dynasty and belonged to Xianbei tribe. He knew how to fight, but was not a militarist: during his reign, he attacked Huxia, Beiyan and Beiliang, conquered Shanhu, conquered Shanshan, Kucha and Sogdia, expelled Tuyuhun and united north. And north to pursue Zhujan, driving enemy thousands of miles away. Attack Liu Song in south and drink horses in Yangtze River. Thereafter, he rested and recuperated, suppressed martial arts and culture, purged officials, followed Confucianism and respected Han, promoted elimination of Buddhism, and popularized conventional writing, laying a solid foundation for economic and cultural recovery in north. With this, Tuoba Tao is enough to become a generational hero.3. Yu Wenyong, Emperor Wu of Northern Zhou Dynasty.
Yu Wenyong, a Xianbei, was longest-reigning emperor in Northern Zhou Dynasty. In 572, he finally killed Yu Wenhu, prime minister, and has risen to power ever since. Yu Wenyong expanded Guanlong group, making Northern Zhou Dynasty number one military power at time. In 575, Yu Wenyong destroyed Northern Qi Dynasty and unified north, occupying two-thirds of world, beginning unification of Sui Dynasty. It is a pity that he passed away before he could fulfill his desire "to go north to Turks and conquer south of Yangtze River in Nanping." Yu Wenyong also made significant contributions to domestic affairs. During his reign, he practiced austerity, had a clean government, and a stable economy. His policy of eradicating Buddhism allowed 2 million monks and nuns to return to secular life, which greatly contributed to strength of the country.4. Cao Cao, Emperor of Wu Wei
Cao Cao is de facto founder of state of Wei, known as "a traitor in times of trouble". He gathered troops with his family trilogy, attacked Dong Zhuo, attacked Yellow Turban, and finally became a vassal. Then he went to Lü Bu, broke Yuan Shao and Ding Guanzhong, effectively uniting northern region. It is a pity that he made a strategic mistake in process of organizing south, which led to inability to realize great work of uniting world. Cao Cao achieved great success in politics and economics and is a great statesman of his generation. Cao Cao laid foundation for state of Wei and also laid groundwork for unification of Three Kingdoms.5. Liu Yu, Emperor Wu of Song Dynasty
Emperor Wu of Song Liu Yu was founder of Liu Song and first hero of southern dynasties. Born into a poor family, and with capital of Beifu soldiers, he defeated Hengxuan, quelled Sun Enlu Xun's rebellion, eliminated Liu Yi, Sima Xiu, and other political enemies, and united disintegrated south. After that, they moved north to Central Plains and captured Henan and Guanzhong. In domestic affairs, by restraining strong and powerful, introducing land censorship, correcting administration of officials, focusing on poor, revitalizing education, ignoring corvée and sacrificing tax, established political structure of southern dynasties "the poor hold key" and laid foundation for "prosperity of Yuanjia".6. Yu Wentai, King Wen of Northern Zhou Dynasty
Yu Wentai, Xianbei, ruler of Western Wei Dynasty, founder of Northern Zhou Dynasty. He used He Baiyue's remaining soldiers as his capital to destroy Hou Mo Chenyue and Cao Ni Zhiqian, unite Guanlong Province, and fight powerful Gao Huan. Later, taking advantage of Hou Jing's rebellion, he sent troops to Bashu and Jingxiang, occupying half world, laying foundation for hegemony of Northern Zhou dynasty. In terms of internal affairs, Yuwentai established Eight Pillars Kingdom, created Fubin system, and formed Guanlong Group, which united Xianbei and Han people. This group has influenced political structure for hundreds of years. He also changed official system, corrected administration of officials, convinced farmers to teach agriculture and mulberry, emphasized Confucianism and promoted learning, and finally took power and established hegemony, turning weak into strong.7. Former Emperor Qin Fu Jian
Fu Jian of Di clan was third king of former Qin Empire. During his reign, he made great efforts to govern, rewarded agriculture, lowered and exempted taxes, and reused Han scholars, which made country strong. This is known in history as "Guanlong Qingyan, people are prosperous." Then they cut off heroes in north, captured Bashu, Xiangyang and other places, conquered countries in western regions and completely united north. However, he was defeated at Battle of Feishui, which not only led to failure of great cause of reunification, but also led to collapse of former Qin Empire. But overall, he's still a rare hero.8. Sima Yang, Emperor Wu of Jin Dynasty
Sima Yang was third emperor of Western Jin Dynasty. During his reign on basis of Sima Zhao, he liquidated Suzhou and completed unification of entire country. In early days of his reign, he innovated in politics, revitalized economy, practiced frugality, and promoted rule of law, which made society stable and "Taikang rule" emerged. However, after reunion, they were arrogant, extravagant and promiscuous, lazy in political affairs and unreasonably enfeffile, which is fraught with hidden dangers for "Rebellion of Eight Kings". Based on his historical achievements and personality charm, he is second only to Fu Jian.9. Tuoba Hong, Emperor Xiaowen of Northern Wei Dynasty.
Tuoba Hong, Xianbei, was seventh emperor of Northern Wei Dynasty. In early days of her reign, Empress Dowager Feng wielded power and introduced a series of reforms such as land leveling system, bureaucratic system, and three-headed system. After pro-government Emperor Xiaowen moved capital to Luoyang and implemented a comprehensive sinification reform that brought society and economy of Northern Wei Dynasty into a new era known in history as "Taihe Reform". It is a pity that Emperor Xiaowen died young and did not fulfill his dream of unifying country. Emperor Xiaowen's reforms led northern Xianbei, Xiongnu and other nomadic peoples to merge into Han people, which finally stabilized north. After that, Western Wei Dynasty and Northern Zhou Dynasty continued to pursue their policies, which finally laid foundation for unification of the Sui and Tang dynasties.10. Chen Baxian, Emperor Wu of Chen
Emperor Chen Baxian, founder of Chen Dynasty, was also preeminent emperor of Southern Dynasty after Liu Yu. He rose from chaos at end of Liang Dynasty. With help of Lingnan army, he crushed Hou Jing's rebellion, destroyed Wang Senbian, defeated northern army, and preserved remaining mountains and rivers of Southern Dynasty, allowing Southern Dynasty to survive for decades. It is a pity that he died shortly after his accession to throne, and his political and military talents could not be fully manifested. Bian Xiaoxuan said that Chen Baxian was number one hero in southern dynasties, and his reputation was not too high.
Summarizing, among 10 most prominent emperors of Wei, Jin, Southern and Northern Dynasties, 5 were Han, 4 were Xianbei, and 1 was Di. They played a very important historical role. They have made great contributions to reunification of China, and have also made great contributions to national integration and economic recovery. However, Eastern Jin dynasty lasted more than 100 years, but due to conflict between Jing and Yang and joint control of clan, exercise of national power was limited, and monarch was emptied, so that no one was on list.Recommended reading
Top 10 emperors of China who are good at fighting: Tang Taizong ranks first and there is a lot of sweat on list
The 10 most talented emperors in Chinese history, why do subjugated kings occupy half of country?