Rise of Jin and the War of the Eight Princes DOCUMENTARY
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Rise of Jin and the War of the Eight Princes DOCUMENTARY

August 12, 2019

China’s chaotic era between the fall of
the Han Dynasty in the early 200s and the rise of the Sui and Tang is widely known for
the Three Kingdoms period. However, it wasn’t the only period of strife during those deadly
centuries of division. A generation after the exploits of Cao Cao, Liu Bei and Sun Ce,
politics in the Wei Empire set events into motion which would eventually lead to another
series of devastating wars – the so-called ‘War of the Eight Princes’.
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on Steam by clicking the link in the description! After their establishment and solidification
in the early third century with such battles as Guandu and Red Cliffs, the three kingdoms
of Shu, Wu and Wei gradually began an inexorable decline. The kingdoms fought against each
other and external foes, but the most damaging was the internal strife and political corruption.
The labyrinthine intrigues and maneuverings were occurring in the Wei Kingdom, which was
the most powerful of China’s three kingdoms in the early 200s. By the third decade of
the third century, tension was beginning to mount between the Imperial Cao clan and the
aristocratic Sima clan, which had been one of the great land-owning noble families of
the old Han Empire. In 249, Sima Yi – one of Wei’s leading generals, statesmen and
regent to the emperor, launched a coup against his co-regent and gained control over the
Wei. Sima influence continued to increase over the puppet Cao emperors for a decade,
with Yi passing away in 251 to be replaced as regent by his eldest son Sima Shi. When
he then suddenly died in 255, a younger brother known as Sima Zhao took the position. In 260
the Wei emperor Cao Mao launched a counter-coup, but this attempt was crushed and he was killed. While another puppet emperor was installed
in the aftermath, Zhao’s generals Deng Ai and Zhong Hui conquered the Shu kingdom and,
in 264 Zhao was granted the title ‘King of Jin’. The regent passed away on September
6th 265 and was succeeded by his own eldest son Sima Yan, who unceremoniously took the
final steps to replace the Wei Dynasty with his own, just as the Wei had essentially replaced
the Han. The final Emperor of Wei – Cao Huan, was forced to abdicate the throne in 266,
to was succeeded by Yan himself, who was crowned as Emperor of Jin, but would be best known
as his posthumous title of Emperor Wu. Compared to his predecessors in this turbulent age,
the almost quarter-century long reign of Wu was a stable and much needed one. However,
it was a reign which seeded problems which would in time topple his new Jin Dynasty.
We need to go into differences in how the different dynasties managed their imperial
family members, and how this impacted the future events. Han and Wei Emperors had mostly
kept their relatives away from power, giving them empty title and sending them away. This
stopped the impudent relatives from challenging authority, but also isolated emperors from
their natural allies. This meant that if the ruler was a child or was otherwise incapable
of ruling, a power vacuum would open for an outsider to fill. During Wei, this system
had caused the vacuum which had allowed the Sima to seize power and so Wu decided to extensively
involve his family in running the empire. 27 of his male family members were given the
title of ‘prince’ and appointed to rule over provincial territories as nominal vassals
and now they had actual authority over their new lands. Wu gave them some say in appointments
to their fiefs, the right to have a guard, and permission to collect taxes and stay in
the capital of Luoyang if they wanted. The princes being in the capital and having influence
there gave them influence over the imperial throne, and therefore potentially immense
political power over the state. The emperor began to grant his princely relatives important
commissions at court and even appointed them to command armies in the field. Wu believed
this policy of empowering his family members would provide stability for his domain. There
was also the succession to consider. Emperor Wu had nine sons which survived to adulthood,
the two most important were Sima Zhong – born in 259 and Sima Jian in 262 to Empress Yang
Yan. However, the empress died in 274 and was replaced as the emperor’s consort by
Yang Zhi – a daughter of an influential advisor Yang Jun. In order to stick with tradition Emperor Wu
chose his eldest son – Sima Zhong, who was probably developmentally disabled, a fact
which was to have destructive consequences. Imperial advisors worriedly counseled the
emperor against this action, but Wu initially ignored this advice, and prepared his son
for the imperial throne by arranging his son’s marriage to Jia Nanfeng, a member of a family
which had played a key role in bringing the Sima clan to power. Her reputation as a scheming,
petty and ruthless woman is probably propaganda and it’s more probable that Nanfeng was
simply a formidable woman from an incredibly important family, and because of this she
managed to get away with murder. Nevertheless, the emperor eventually began to express concern
about Sima Zhong’s disabilities, and often wrote to his son in order to test his responses.
It was actually Nanfeng who responded in place of her husband, impersonating the handicapped
heir and impressing the emperor, who was now reassured. As Emperor Wu declined in health by 289, he
began to consider who ought to act as regent to his heir after he died, and eventually
selected two men to act as co-regents. These men were the aforementioned Yang Jun and one
of the Sima princes Liang – the Prince of Runan. However, this joint appointment only
served to force each man to start plotting. The Prince of Runan was due to leave the capital
in order to take up his appointment as military governor in Xuchang when the Emperor made
his decision, and the ailing emperor sent orders for him not to leave. Unfortunately,
these orders never reached the prince, as they were intercepted by Yang Ju, and he departed
the city. Because of this, Sima Liang never realised that he was to become the co-regent,
and Yang Jun also tampered with the late Emperor’s will to exclude him. The founder of the Jin Dynasty died in 290
at the age of 55 and was succeeded by crown prince Sima Zhong, who ascended to the dragon
throne as Hui of Jin. However, tensions between the two rivals still hadn’t abated, and
Liang therefore refused to attend the mourning ceremonies in fear of Yang Jun. Eventually,
fearing for his life, the Prince of Runan fled to Xuchang, leaving the control to Yang
Jun. The regent and his daughter – the empress dowager, now had a great influence on Emperor
Hui and governed in a severe manner, alienating the court. Naturally, Empress Jia wasn’t
enthusiastic about her relatively powerless state either and she began to conspire with
others against Jun. The plotters first went to Xuchang in order to ask Liang for assistance,
but he was still too afraid and refused. After this, they went to seek help from powerful
Prince of Chun – Sima Wei. He was the fifth son of Emperor Wu, viewed as a brave warrior.
On April 5th 291, Wei was entered the capital with his army. The empress had her disabled husband firmly
under control and she had him issue an edict accusing Yang Jun of treason and ordered Sima
Wei crushed regent’s forces with ease, Jun was killed and his clan massacred, with the
death toll reaching several thousand. Empress was now the real rule and Sima Liang was summoned
to Luoyang in order to serve as joint regent, owing to his keen understanding of governance.
This could’ve been the end of it, but the Prince of Ruan began to alienate his fellow
nobles by distributing overly extravagant rewards for Yang Jun’s execution and even
began to monopolise the power. He was warned against this course of action, but ignored
the counsel. Liang finally overstepped his bounds when he tried to remove the Prince
of Chu’s military authority, citing Wei’s violent character. Wei subsequently allied
with Empress Jia, who forged an imperial edict accusing Liang of treason and soon Sima Jiang
was execution. It was now Sima Wei’s turn to become a target
of the empress, who was worried that the prince would use his power to usurp the throne. She
commanded that a message be sent out to the various armies nominally under Wei’s command,
accusing him of forging the edict which had led to Sima Liang’s execution, and warning
them that they should no longer obey his orders. The soldiers all immediately cast down their
weapons and deserted the Prince of Chu. Wei was captured, handed over and finally executed
on July 26th 291. Jia’s manipulations had worked wonders so far and the path to complete
control was almost open, but there was a further obstacle – Sima Yu, who was the son of Emperor
Hui and a concubine. This would have been bad enough, but Yu was also the heir of the
empire due to the fact that Empress Jia had been unable to bear a son. In order to get Yu out of the way, Jia summoned
him to the palace and then refused to see him, instead having a servant girl bring the
crown prince three liters of wine to drink. Yu naturally declined this offer and stated
that it would be impossible to drink all of the given wine. The servant then revealed
that this wine was a gift from Emperor Hui, saying that refusing such a gift would be
a breach of Confucian principles. With little other choice, Yu forced himself to drink all
of the wine, and predictably became incredibly drunk as a result. The heir was then coerced
into copying a treasonous letter in his own words, essentially insinuating that he was
about to overthrow his father and the court. Because of his paralytic state, Yu did not
realise what it was he was writing. In a somewhat amusing revelation, it seems that he was so
drunk that many of the letters were incomplete, and empress Jia had to complete them herself
before showing Emperor Hui the document. The additions by Jia had made it rather obvious
the letter was a forgery, but nobody dared to speak out against. However, Emperor Hui
refused to kill his son and instead had him demoted to the status of commoner. Another of the Eight Princes emerge at this
point – Sima Lun, or the ‘Prince of Zhao’, who had formerly been one of the empress’
close confidants and was also General of the Right Army. The deposition of Crown Prince
Yu engendered a significant amount of anger at court and yet another conspiracy began
to emerge around Sima Lun, who was advised that the crown prince might despise him even
if Lun assisted his return to imperial status. So he suggested to the empress that Yu still
posed a threat to her authority and might even expose her if left alone. On his advice,
the empress killed her stepson by sending assassins after him. However, she was then
finally betrayed in turn by the Prince of Zhao, who accused her of treason and murder
for the act. When agents were sent to arrest the empress, she asked who was responsible.
She was told, and responded that “When binding a dog, you must bind it by the neck. If you
bind it by the tail, what else could happen but this?” She was eventually forced to
kill herself. The Empress’ family and supporters were all killed and the Emperor was even placed
under house arrest. In 301, Sima Lun declared himself the emperor, leading to an intermittent
civil war among the remaining princes. Because the Jin princes were busy ripping
their own empire to pieces, they needed soldiers to fight their wars, and turned to the many
nomadic peoples of the eastern steppe to provide the manpower in order to do so. According
to the Chines sources, they were apparently treated ‘like slaves’ by the Jin Dynasty
and, because of this treatment, in addition to the ever-decreasing Chinese strength due
to civil war, the various nomadic peoples began to revolt in the northern regions and
form their own states, essentially splitting the Jin’s northern territory away by 311.
In the same year, the people known as the Wu Hu managed to sack the Jin capital of Luoyang,
kill the Jin crown price, a score of valuable officials and around 30,000 civilians. This
moment is seen as the final nail in the coffin of the Greater Western Jin Dynasty, and the
beginning of the Eastern Jin. In a wider sense, the chaos in northern China led to mass migrations
of Han Chinese south of the Huai River and an era of fragmentation which lasted for almost
another century. We are planning more videos on Chinese history,
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on the next one.

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  1. Hey guys, Three Kingdoms was a success for a good reason – it is damn good. If you are planning to buy Eight Princes, please do it via our link: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1102310/Total_War_THREE_KINGDOMS__Eight_Princes/?utm_source=KingsandGenerals&utm_medium=Influencer&utm_campaign=Youtube

  2. Holy f*ck, 8 shishos fighting against one another? No wonder it all became a rat race. Rat raaaaace. Black and white banners must flow.

  3. 13:33 lol… Why don't you pronunce their proper name ?
    Name of "nomadic people of eastern steppes" was and still is called Turks ! They were not slaves but mercenaries. But chinese chronic arrogance led emperor candidates to think and to treat them as if they were slaves and that was a big mistake of them which caused them to collapse ruins by once they-treated-as-slaves.
    Turks had involved immensely to eastern history before they migrated to west … For your information …

  4. Salam Aleykoum venez regardez la Web-Série sur l'Age d'Or du Maroc Islamique, je vais retracer la vie de personnages remarquable comme Abbas Ibn Firnas, Ibn Al Banna, Ibn Rochd, Fatima Al Fihriya, Al Bitruji, Ibn Al Baytar, Cadi Ayyad, Yusuf Ibn Tashfin, Ibn Zohr, Ibn Battuta, Zaynab Al Nefzaouiya, Ibn Tufayl, Al Idrissi et tellement d'autres…! https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1&v=-mtUI7PfukM

  5. This is some Game of Thrones bull shit I am watching, the amount of conspiracy and killing all because of one ambitious woman

  6. Remember, Emperor Wu is NOT the The Kingdom of Wu, they are NOT the same Chinese character. Wu in Emperor Wu(武) means Skill of having war while Wu in the Kingdom of Wu(吴) is just an ancient place in south-east China.

  7. So when the northern tribes pillaged the north and killed the emperor, did they kill sima lun or was it a different emperor?

  8. East Xiongnu destroyed North China with other 4 barbarian people (Di, Qiang, Xianbei and Jie) in 4th century while Huns(West Xiongnu) destroyed Western Rome with other 4 barbarian people (Goths, Burgundy, Vandal and Franks) in 5th century.

  9. Another great history video. If you could do me a favor and get me Cassidy Banks phone number that would be amazing!!

  10. Sorry but watching the second time I can hardly figure out who is who and what’s the story about. Perhaps it’s because I have very little if any knowledge of Cinese history or perhaps there is too much zipped info in a short video, all in all, I can’t say this is one of the most successful videos by KG. By the way why the Sumerian and Achamenid Persian series don’t continue? They were amazing!

  11. This was all Sima Yi's nemesis. The man stole the throne and in turn years later his family would tear each other apart for that same throne.

  12. Best Animation selection
    Couldn't grab…who beat who….,"as yin yang,wu sim,ting,ling"…..names acted as Chinese puzzle in my mind
    —–In short
    Script was Fast
    Understanding was Slow 🧐😁

  13. 14:05 People know as "Wu Hu"? No, they are just 5 group of people/ethnicities. They are not seen as Han people at that time, however, genetically, they are part of Han people nowadays, and we no longer see those five ethnic groups.

  14. A little tip on pronouncing Sima: don’t pronounce the i, just say sssssss ma (of course not that many s, you get the point)

  15. I can't thank you and the channel enough for your content. I remember growing up when the history and military channels actually covered history and had incredible documentaries. With that being long gone, having these channels (which are better quality than the old history channel imo) is incredible. I literally smiled as I saw the notification saying you posted a new video. Considering joining for the $4.99/month.

  16. Hun and Xianbei conquer northChina at the end of the War. They together become majority of Chinese today. Most of Haka, Canton and Fujianese are originally escaped from northern China during Jin dynasty. Their language call Hun=Hun, pronounce(hun) instead of (Xiongnu) in Mandarin.

  17. I must admit 3 Kingdoms and then the West-East Jin era were perfect for wargaming (not for the civilians at that time of course), just wonder how can people follow on all those names when even a Chinese myself find them confusing. I suppose nothing is impossible as long as the game is interesting, so you learn a dark piece of Chinese history through wargaming…

  18. it would be very nice if all of your video have a hardsub english subtitle in it, because we have bit dificult to undestand since your explaination rather fast

  19. Holy plagiarism Batman! Talk about some scummy, scummy stuff.
    Respect the translators and give them the credit they deserve: https://bookofjin.tumblr.com/ and https://fuyonggu.tumblr.com/

  20. Disliking because parts of this video are word for word lifted from the Book of Jin translation page on tumblr.

    Seriously guys, I thought better of you.

  21. Speaking of Western Jin dynasty, any chance you'll cover the Song – Liao conflict in the near future?

  22. Well made documentary as usual and I love this art style. But this video only covers 1/3 of the whole story. Will there be some sequels?

  23. If only Cao Cao didn’t die from a head disease, he wouldn’t allow such a coup happen with in his own kingdom. All hail the Hero of Chaos, the true emperor of China!!!

  24. The northern nomads were the five barbarian tribes recorded to have sacked northern parts of Jin territory. Jie tribe is the one that slaughtered, cannibalized and raped the common people when the Jin army left the cities. One of the worst political disasters after the three kingdoms.

  25. Nice to see this kings and general making videos about the history of the East. It is an interesting new perspective on how the west views the history of China. The incident of this whole video has been taught in school but how Kings and Generals expressed the situation is refreshing and new.

  26. Interesting intrigues, would like to see more of the events unfolding after the usurpation by Sima Lun with the Princes!

  27. Total War is such a based franchise for sponsoring all these videos on Ancient China. So badass.

    Also, this video has such a cool artstyle. Props to the designer/animator

  28. China has had every kind of political turmoil caused by every species of political animal you can possibly think of. That's why they can smell political bullshit from a mile away.

  29. I have been utterly and totally confused about the politics during the time of the War of Eight Princes for years. This video is doing a much better job explaining the political dynamic than the most of Chinese history book on this period.

  30. false advertisement, all the princes play the same. They just get different bonuses. Also all the armies are the same. You are welcome viewers of this channel making false advertisement

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