Northern Zhou territories in light blue
Administrative divisions as of 572
|Emperor Xiaomin of Northern Zhou|
|Emperor Ming of Northern Zhou|
|Emperor Wu of Northern Zhou|
|Emperor Xuan of Northern Zhou|
|Emperor Jing of Northern Zhou|
|15 February 557|
|4 March 581|
|577||1,500,000 km2 (580,000 sq mi)|
|Currency|| Chinese coin,|
|Today part of|| China |
The Northern Zhou ( // ; Chinese :北周; pinyin :Bĕi Zhōu) 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.
The Northern Zhou's basis of power was established by Yuwen Tai, who was paramount general of Western Wei, following the split of Northern Wei into Western Wei and Eastern Wei in 535. After Yuwen Tai's death in 556, Yuwen Tai's nephew Yuwen Hu forced Emperor Gong of Western Wei to yield the throne to Yuwen Tai's son Yuwen Jue (Emperor Xiaomin), establishing Northern Zhou. The reigns of the first three emperors (Yuwen Tai's sons) – Emperor Xiaomin, Emperor Ming, and Emperor Wu were dominated by Yuwen Hu, until Emperor Wu ambushed and killed Yuwen Hu in 572 and assumed power personally. With Emperor Wu as a capable ruler, Northern Zhou destroyed rival Northern Qi in 577, taking over Northern Qi's territory. However, Emperor Wu's death in 578 doomed the state, as his son Emperor Xuan was an arbitrary and violent ruler whose unorthodox behavior greatly weakened the state. After his death in 580, when he was already nominally retired ( Taishang Huang ), Xuan's father-in-law Yang Jian took power, and in 581 seized the throne from Emperor Xuan's son Emperor Jing, establishing Sui. The young Emperor Jing and the imperial Yuwen clan, were subsequently slaughtered by Yang Jian.
The area was known as Guannei 關內. The Northern Zhou drew upon the Zhou dynasty for inspiration.The Northern Zhou military included Han Chinese.
|Posthumous name||Personal name||Period of Reigns||Era name|
|Ming, Xiaoming||Yuwen Yu||557-560||Wucheng (武成) 559-560|
|Wu||Yuwen Yong||561-578||Baoding (保定) 560-565|
Tianhe (天和) 566-572
Jiande (建德) 572-578
Xuanzheng (宣政) 578
|Xuan||Yuwen Yun||578-579||Dacheng (大成) 579|
|Jing||Yuwen Chan||579-581||Daxiang (大象) 579-581|
Dading (大定) 581
|Northern Zhou emperors family tree|
Emperor Wen of Sui, personal name Yang Jian (楊堅), Xianbei name Puliuru Jian (普六茹堅), alias Narayana deriving from Buddhist terms, was the founder and first emperor of China's Sui dynasty. He was a hard-working administrator and a micromanager. The Sui Shu records him as having withdrawn his favour from the Confucians, giving it to "the group advocating Xing-Ming and authoritarian government." As a Buddhist, he encouraged the spread of Buddhism through the state. He is regarded as one of the most important emperors in ancient China history, reunifying China in 589 after centuries of division since the fall of the Western Jin dynasty in 316. During his reign, the construction of the Grand Canal began.
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.
Emperor Xiaomin of Northern Zhou ( 周孝閔帝) (542–557), personal name Yuwen Jue (宇文覺), nickname Dharani (陀羅尼), was an emperor of the Xianbei dynasty Northern Zhou (although he used the alternative title "Heavenly Prince". He was the heir of Western Wei's paramount general Yuwen Tai, and after Yuwen Tai's death in 556, his cousin Yuwen Hu, serving as his guardian, forced Emperor Gong of Western Wei to yield the throne to Yuwen Jue in spring 557, establishing Northern Zhou. Later in 557, however, Yuwen Jue, wanting to assume power personally, plotted to kill Yuwen Hu, who in turn deposed him and replaced him with his brother Yuwen Yu. Later that year, Yuwen Hu had Yuwen Jue executed.
Yuan Humo was an empress of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Zhou.
Yuwen Hu (宇文護) (513–572), courtesy name Sabao, formally Duke Dang of Jin (晉蕩公), was a regent of the Xianbei dynasty Northern Zhou in China. He first came into prominence as the nephew of Western Wei's paramount general Yuwen Tai, and after Yuwen Tai's death in 556, he became the guardian to Yuwen Tai's son Yuwen Jue. In 557, he forced Emperor Gong of Western Wei to yield the throne to Yuwen Jue, establishing Northern Zhou. However, Yuwen Hu dominated the political scene, and after Emperor Xiaomin tried to seize power later that year, he killed Emperor Xiaomin and replaced him with another son of Yuwen Tai, Emperor Ming. In 560, he poisoned Emperor Ming, who was succeeded by another son of Yuwen Tai, Emperor Wu. In 572, Emperor Wu ambushed Yuwen Hu and killed him, personally taking power.
Emperor Ming of Northern Zhou ( 周明帝) (534–560), personal name Yuwen Yu (宇文毓), Xianbei name Tongwantu (統萬突), was an emperor of the Xianbei dynasty Northern Zhou, although at the start of his reign he used the alternative title "Heavenly Prince". He was made emperor after his younger brother Emperor Xiaomin was deposed and killed by the regent Yuwen Hu. Emperor Ming himself assumed some, but not all, powers from Yuwen Hu, and was generally considered able. Because of this, Yuwen Hu became apprehensive, and in 560, he poisoned Emperor Ming to death. While near death, however, Emperor Ming appointed his brother Yuwen Yong as his successor, believing Yuwen Yong to be intelligent and capable, and in 572, Yuwen Yong was finally able to kill Yuwen Hu and assume full imperial powers.
Emperor Wu of Northern Zhou ( 周武帝) (543–578), personal name Yuwen Yong (宇文邕), Xianbei name Miluotu (禰羅突), was an emperor of the Xianbei dynasty Northern Zhou. As was the case of the reigns of his brothers Emperor Xiaomin and Emperor Ming, the early part of his reign was dominated by his cousin Yuwen Hu, but in 572 he ambushed Yuwen Hu and seized power personally. He thereafter ruled ably and built up the power of his military, destroying rival Northern Qi in 577 and annexing its territory. His death the next year, however, ended his ambitions of uniting China, and under the reign of his erratic son Emperor Xuan, Northern Zhou itself soon deteriorated and was usurped by Yang Jian in 581.
Empress Ashina (551–582) was an empress of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Zhou. She was the daughter of Göktürk's Muqan Qaghan, and her husband was Emperor Wu.
Empress Dowager Chinu, formally Empress Xuan, was an empress dowager of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Zhou. She was the mother of Emperor Wu.
Wei Xiaokuan (韋孝寬) (509–580), formal personal name Wei Shuyu (韋叔裕), known by the Xianbei name Yuwen Xiaokuan (宇文孝寬) during late Western Wei and Northern Zhou, formally Duke Xiang of Xun (勛襄公), was a general of the Chinese/Xianbei states Western Wei and Northern Zhou. He first became a prominent general during Western Wei as he defended the fortress of Yubi against a vastly larger army commanded by rival Eastern Wei's paramount general Gao Huan, and he eventually contributed greatly to the destruction of Eastern Wei's successor state Northern Qi by Northern Zhou. His final campaign, in 580, saw him siding with the regent Yang Jian against the general Yuchi Jiong in Northern Zhou's civil war, allowing Yang to defeat Yuchi and take over the throne as Sui Dynasty's Emperor Wen.
Yuwen Xian (宇文憲), Xianbei name Pihetu (毗賀突), formally Prince Yang of Qi (齊煬王), was an imperial prince of the state Northern Zhou. He was a key official and general during the reign of his brother Emperor Wu, but after Emperor Wu's death was feared on account of his ability by his nephew Emperor Xuan, who therefore falsely accused him of plotting treason and strangled him.
Yuchi Jiong (尉遲迥), courtesy name Bojuluo (薄居羅), was a general of the Chinese/Xianbei states Western Wei and Northern Zhou. He first came to prominence while his uncle Yuwen Tai served as the paramount general of Western Wei, and subsequently served Northern Zhou after the Yuwen clan established the state after Yuwen Tai's death. In 580, believing that the regent Yang Jian had designs on the throne, Yuchi rose against Yang but was soon defeated. He committed suicide.
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.
Emperor Xuan of Northern Zhou ( 周宣帝) (559–580), personal name Yuwen Yun (宇文贇), courtesy name Qianbo (乾伯), was an emperor of the Xianbei dynasty Northern Zhou. He was known in history as an erratic and wasteful ruler, whose actions greatly weakened the Northern Zhou regime. As part of that erratic behavior, he passed the throne to his son Emperor Jing in 579, less than a year after taking the throne, and subsequently entitled not only his wife Yang Lihua empress, but four additional concubines as empresses. After his death in 580, the government was taken over by his father-in-law Yang Jian, who soon deposed his son Emperor Jing, ending Northern Zhou and establishing Sui Dynasty.
Li Ezi, later Buddhist nun name Changbei (常悲), was an empress dowager of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Zhou. She was the mother of Emperor Xuan.
Yuchi Chifan or Yuchi Fanchi (566–595), later Buddhist nun name Huashou (華首), was a concubine of Emperor Xuan of Northern Zhou, an emperor of the Chinese/Xianbei dynasty Northern Zhou.
Emperor Jing of Northern Zhou ( 周靜帝) (573–581), personally name né Yuwen Yan (宇文衍), later Yuwen Chan (宇文闡), was the last emperor of the Xianbei dynasty Northern Zhou. He became emperor at the age of six, after his father Emperor Xuan formally passed the throne to him, but Emperor Xuan retained the imperial powers. After Emperor Xuan's death in 580, the official Yang Jian, the father of Emperor Xuan's wife Yang Lihua, seized power as regent. Yang soon defeated the general Yuchi Jiong, who tried to resist him, and in 581 had the young Emperor Jing yield the throne to him, ending Northern Zhou and establishing Sui Dynasty. Yang soon had the young emperor, as well as other members of Northern Zhou's imperial Yuwen clan, put to death.
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.
Yuwen Shu, courtesy name Botong (伯通), formally Duke Gong of Xu (許恭公), was an official and general of the Sui Dynasty of China. He was a confidant of Emperor Yang and was instrumental in Yang Guang's displacement of his brother Yang Yong as crown prince; therefore, after Yang Guang became emperor, Yuwen Shu became exceedingly powerful and was one of two generals who spearheaded Yangdi's efforts in the Goguryeo-Sui Wars. His son Yuwen Huaji later led a coup against Emperor Yang in 618 and, after killing Emperor Yang, briefly claimed imperial title in 619, but was soon captured and killed. Another son of Yuwen Shu, Yuwen Shiji, however, was a friend of Tang Dynasty's founder Li Yuan, and after Li Yuan established Tang remained an influential official.
Queen Dugu is a 2019 Chinese web series starring Joe Chen and Chen Xiao. It is based on the life of Dugu Jialuo and her husband Yang Jian, the founders of the Sui dynasty. It started airing online via iQiyi, Youku and Tencent on February 11, 2019.