Eastern Wei

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Northern and Southern Dynasties 3.png
Eastern Wei and neighbors
Capital Luoyang (534)
Yecheng (534–550)
Emperor Xiaojing of Eastern Wei
8 November [1] 534
7 June [2] 550
550 [3] 1,000,000 km2 (390,000 sq mi)
Currency Chinese coin,
Chinese cash
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Blank.png Northern Wei
Northern Qi Blank.png
Today part of China

The Eastern Wei ( /w/ ; [4] simplified Chinese :东魏; traditional Chinese :東魏; pinyin :Dōng Wèi) followed the disintegration of the Northern Wei, and ruled northern China from 534 to 550. As with Northern Wei, the ruling family of Eastern Wei were members of the Tuoba clan of the Xianbei.


Gao Huan was the potentate of the eastern half of what was Northern Wei territory. In 534 , following the disintegration of the Northern Wei dynasty, he installed Yuan Shanjian as ruler of Eastern Wei. Yuan Shanjian was a descendant of the Northern Wei. Yuan Shanjian was a puppet ruler, as the real power lay in the hands of Gao Huan. Several military campaigns were launched against the neighboring Western Wei in an attempt to reunify the territory once held by the Northern Wei, however these campaigns were not successful. In 547 Gao Huan died. His sons Gao Cheng and Gao Yang were able to pursue his policy of controlling the emperor, but in 550 Gao Yang deposed Yuan Shanjian and founded his own dynasty, the Northern Qi.


Buddha triad, Eastern Wei (534-550), China. EasternWeiBuddha.JPG
Buddha triad, Eastern Wei (534–550), China.
Standing Buddha Triad, China - Limestone, Eastern Wei dynasty, 6th century, China. Standing Buddha Triad, China - Limestone, Eastern Wei dynasty, 6th century.tiff
Standing Buddha Triad, China – Limestone, Eastern Wei dynasty, 6th century, China.

The Buddhist art of the Eastern Wei displays a combination of Greco-Buddhist influences from Gandhara and Central Asia (representations of flying figures holding wreaths, Greek-style folds of the drapery), together with Chinese artistic influences.

Eastern Wei Buddhist stele Eastern Wei stele.jpg
Eastern Wei Buddhist stele

Related Research Articles

Northern Wei

The Northern Wei, also known as the Tuoba Wei (拓跋魏), Later Wei (後魏), was a dynasty founded by the Tuoba (Tabgach) clan of the Xianbei, which ruled northern China from 386 to 534 AD, during the period of the Northern and Southern Dynasties. Described as "part of an era of political turbulence and intense social and cultural change", the Northern Wei Dynasty is particularly noted for unifying northern China in 439: this was also a period of introduced foreign ideas, such as Buddhism, which became firmly established. The Northern Wei were referred to as "Plaited Barbarians" by writers of the Southern dynasties, who considered themselves the true upholders of Chinese culture.

Cao Wei

Wei (220–266), also known as Cao Wei or Former Wei, was one of the three major states that competed for supremacy over China in the Three Kingdoms period (220–280). With its capital initially located at Xuchang, and thereafter Luoyang, the state was established by Cao Pi in 220, based upon the foundations laid by his father, Cao Cao, towards the end of the Eastern Han dynasty. The name "Wei" first became associated with Cao Cao when he was named the Duke of Wei by the Eastern Han government in 213, and became the name of the state when Cao Pi proclaimed himself emperor in 220. Historians often add the prefix "Cao" to distinguish it from other Chinese states known as "Wei", such as Wei of the Warring States period and Northern Wei of the Northern and Southern dynasties. The authority of the ruling Cao family dramatically weakened in the aftermath of the deposal and execution of Cao Shuang and his siblings, the former being one of the regents for the third Wei emperor, Cao Fang, with state authority gradually falling into the hands of Sima Yi, another Wei regent, and his family, from 249 onwards. The last Wei emperors would remain largely as puppet rulers under the control of the Simas until Sima Yi's grandson, Sima Yan, forced the last Wei ruler, Cao Huan, to abdicate the throne and established the Jin dynasty.

Southern Qi

The Southern Qi (479–502) also known as Xiao Qi(simplified Chinese: 萧齐; traditional Chinese: 萧齊; pinyin: Xiāo Qí) was the second of the Southern dynasties in China, followed by the Liang Dynasty.

Northern Qi

The Northern Qi, also called Later Qi and Gao Qi, was one of the Northern dynasties of imperial China history and ruled northeastern China from 550 to 577. The dynasty was founded by Emperor Wenxuan, and it was ended following attacks from Northern Zhou.

Western Wei

The Western Wei followed the disintegration of the Northern Wei, and ruled northern China from 535 to 557. As with the Northern Wei state that preceded it, the ruling family of Western Wei were members of the Tuoba clan of the Xianbei.

Northern Zhou

The Northern Zhou followed the Western Wei, and ruled northern China from 557 to 581 AD. The last of the Northern Dynasties of China's Northern and Southern dynasties period, it was eventually overthrown by the Sui Dynasty. Like the preceding Western and Northern Wei dynasties, the Northern Zhou emperors were of Xianbei descent.

Emperor Xiaowu of Northern Wei ( 魏孝武帝), personal name Yuan Xiu, courtesy name Xiaoze (孝則), at times known as Emperor Chu, was an emperor of the Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei. After the general Gao Huan rebelled against and defeated the clan of the deceased paramount general Erzhu Rong in 532, he made Emperor Xiaowu emperor. Despite Gao's making him emperor, however, Emperor Xiaowu tried strenuously to free himself from Gao's control, and in 534, he, aligning with the general Yuwen Tai, formally broke with Gao. When Gao advanced south to try to again take control of the imperial government, Emperor Xiaowu fled to Yuwen's territory, leading to Northern Wei's division into two. Emperor Xiaowu's relationship with Yuwen, however, soon deteriorated over Yuwen's refusal to condone his incestuous relationships with his cousins, and around the new year 535, Yuwen poisoned him to death. Emperor Xiaowu's successor Emperor Wen of Western Wei is typically regarded, then, as the first emperor of Western Wei, formalizing the division of the empire.

Empress Gao was an empress of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Wei. Her husband was Emperor Xiaowu.

Emperor Xiaojing of Eastern Wei ( 魏孝靜帝) (524–552), personal name Yuan Shanjian (元善見), was the only emperor of the Eastern Wei – a branch successor state to Northern Wei. In 524 Emperor Xiaowu had fled the capital Luoyang to reestablish the imperial government at Chang'an. Northern Wei's paramount general Gao Huan made Emperor Xiaojing emperor as Emperor Xiaowu's replacement. Gao Huan moved the capital from Luoyang to Yecheng, thus dividing Northern Wei into two. Emperor Xiaojing's state became known as Eastern Wei. Although Gao Huan treated him with respect, real power was in the hands of Gao Huan, and then Gao Huan's sons Gao Cheng and Gao Yang. In 550, Gao Yang forced Emperor Xiaojing to yield the throne to him, ending Eastern Wei and establishing Northern Qi. Around the new year 552, the former Emperor Xiaojing was poisoned to death on the orders of the new emperor.

Emperor Wen of Western Wei ( 魏文帝) (507–551), personal name Yuan Baoju (元寶炬), was an emperor of Western Wei—a branch successor state to Northern Wei. In 534, Yuan Baoju, then the Prince of Nanyang, followed his cousin Emperor Xiaowu in fleeing from the capital Luoyang to Chang'an, after a fallout between Emperor Xiaowu and the paramount general Gao Huan. However, Emperor Xiaowu's relationship to the general that he then depended on, Yuwen Tai, soon deteriorated as well, and around the new year 535, Yuwen Tai poisoned Emperor Xiaowu to death, making Yuan Baoju emperor. As Gao Huan had, late in 534, made Yuan Shanjian the son of Emperor Wen's cousin Yuan Dan (元亶) the Prince of Qinghe emperor, thus establishing Eastern Wei, Emperor Wen was known as Western Wei's first emperor, formalizing the division. Emperor Wen's relationship with Yuwen appeared cordial, but he was unable to exercise much real power.

Empress Gao was an empress of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Eastern Wei — a branch successor state to Northern Wei. Her husband was Emperor Xiaojing, Eastern Wei's only emperor.

Emperor Wenxuan of (Northern) Qi ( 齊文宣帝) (526–559), personal name Gao Yang, courtesy name Zijin (子進), Xianbei name Hounigan (侯尼干), was the first emperor of the Northern Qi. He was the second son of Eastern Wei's paramount general Gao Huan. Following the death of his brother and Gao Huan's designated successor Gao Cheng in 549, Gao Yang became the regent of Eastern Wei. In 550, he forced Emperor Xiaojing of Eastern Wei to yield the throne to him, ending Eastern Wei and starting Northern Qi.

Yuwen Tai (507–556), nickname Heita (黑獺), formally Duke Wen of Anding (安定文公), later further posthumously honored by Northern Zhou initially as Prince Wen (文王) then as Emperor Wen (文皇帝) with the temple name Taizu (太祖), was the paramount general of the Chinese/Xianbei state Western Wei, a branch successor state of Northern Wei. In 534, Emperor Xiaowu of Northern Wei, seeking to assert power independent of the paramount general Gao Huan, fled to Yuwen's domain, and when Gao subsequently proclaimed Emperor Xiaojing of Eastern Wei emperor, a split of Northern Wei was effected, and when Yuwen subsequently poisoned Emperor Xiaowu to death around the new year 535 and declared his cousin Yuan Baoju emperor, the split was formalized, with the part under Gao's and Emperor Xiaojing's control known as Eastern Wei and the part under Yuwen's and Emperor Wen's control known as Western Wei. For the rest of his life, Yuwen endeavored to make Western Wei, then much weaker than its eastern counterpart, a strong state, and after his death, his son Yuwen Jue seized the throne from Emperor Gong of Western Wei, establishing Northern Zhou.

Princess Pingyi (馮翊公主), later honored as Empress Wenxiang (文襄皇后), formally posthumously honored as Empress Jing by Northern Qi, was a princess of the Chinese dynasty Northern Wei and its branch successor state Eastern Wei. She was the sister of Emperor Xiaojing of Eastern Wei, and the wife of Eastern Wei's paramount official Gao Cheng, son of Gao Huan.

Yujiulü Anagui (?-552) was ruler of the Rouran (520-552) with the title of Chiliantoubingdoufa Khagan (敕連頭兵豆伐可汗).

Lou Zhaojun, formally Empress Ming, was an empress dowager of the Chinese dynasty Northern Qi. She was the wife of Gao Huan, the paramount general of Northern Wei and its branch successor state Eastern Wei, and during Gao Huan's lifetime was already influential on the political scene. After Gao Huan's death, she continued to exert influence through the regency of her son Gao Cheng, and then as empress dowager after another son Gao Yang seized the throne from Emperor Xiaojing of Eastern Wei and established Northern Qi. She continued to serve as grand empress dowager through the reigns of Gao Yang's son Emperor Fei, and then again as empress dowager during the reigns of two more of her own sons, Emperor Xiaozhao and Emperor Wucheng.

Emperor Fei of Western Wei ( 魏廢帝), personal name Yuan Qin (元欽), was an emperor of the Xianbei state Western Wei—a branch successor state of Northern Wei. He, even more so than his father Emperor Wen, held little actual power in the face of overwhelming control of power by the paramount general Yuwen Tai. In 554, he tried to plot to have Yuwen killed, but his plot was discovered, and Yuwen deposed him, and soon had him killed.

Gao Anagong (高阿那肱) was a Xianbei official of the Chinese dynasty Northern Qi. He was a close associate of the emperor Gao Wei, and late in Gao Wei's reign dominated the political scene along with Mu Tipo and Han Zhangluan. While probably not as corrupt as Mu and Mu's mother and Gao Wei's wet nurse Lu Lingxuan, he was known for incompetence. In 577, with Northern Qi under major attack by rival Northern Zhou, after Gao Wei fled the capital Yecheng, Gao Anagong betrayed him and gave him false information, allowing Northern Zhou forces to capture him. In 580, with Northern Zhou in civil war between the regent Yang Jian and the general Yuchi Jiong, Gao Anagong was on Yuchi's side and, after Yuchi's defeat, was executed.

Su Wei, courtesy name Wuwei (無畏), was a high-level official of the Chinese dynasty Sui Dynasty. He first became an important official during the reign of Sui's founder Emperor Wen, and after Emperor Wen's death continued to serve Emperor Wen's son Emperor Yang. He was often praised for his abilities and integrity but criticized for pettiness. After Emperor Yang was assassinated in 618, he was nominally an official under Emperor Yang's nephew Yang Hao, and then under the warlords Yuwen Huaji, Li Mi, and Wang Shichong. After Wang Shichong's state of Zheng was destroyed by Tang Dynasty in 621, neither the Tang general Li Shimin nor Li Shimin's father Emperor Gaozu of Tang was interested in retaining Su as an official, and Su Wei died soon thereafter.

The daughter of Emperor Xiaoming of Northern Wei, whose given name is unknown, was briefly the emperor of Northern Wei (386–534), a Xianbei dynasty that ruled Northern China from the late fourth to the early sixth century AD. She bore the surname Yuan, originally Tuoba. Yuan was the only child of Emperor Xiaoming, born to his concubine Consort Pan. Soon after her birth, her grandmother the Empress Dowager Hu, who was also Xiaoming's regent, falsely declared that she was a boy and ordered a general pardon. Emperor Xiaoming died soon afterwards. On 1 April 528, Empress Dowager Hu installed the infant on the throne for a matter of hours before replacing her with Yuan Zhao the next day. Xiaoming's daughter was not recognised as an emperor (huangdi) by later generations. No further information about her is available.



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