Northern Wei

Northern Wei

Asia in 500 AD, showing Northern Wei territories and their neighbors
Asia in 500 AD, showing Northern Wei territories and their neighbors
Northern Wei administrative divisions as of 464 AD
Northern Wei administrative divisions as of 464 AD
CapitalShengle (386–398, capital of former Dai, near modern Huhhot)
Pingcheng (398–493)
Luoyang (493–534)
Chang'an (534-535)
• 386–409
Emperor Daowu
• 424–452
Emperor Taiwu
• 452-465
Emperor Wencheng
• 471–499
Emperor Xiaowen
• 499–515
Emperor Xuanwu
• 528–530
Emperor Xiaozhuang
• 532–535
Emperor Xiaowu
• Established
20 February[1] 386
• Emperor Daowu's claim of imperial title
24 January 399[2]
• Unification of northern China
• Movement of capital to Luoyang
25 October 493[3]
• Erzhu Rong's massacre of ruling class
17 May 528[4]
• Establishment of Eastern Wei, marking division
8 November[5] 535
• Emperor Xiaowu's death
3 February 535[5]
450[6]2,000,000 km2 (770,000 sq mi)
CurrencyChinese coin,
Chinese cash
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Former Qin
Later Yan
Xia (Sixteen Kingdoms)
Northern Yan
Northern Liang
Eastern Wei
Western Wei
Today part ofChina
Northern Wei
Literal meaningNorthern Wei
History of China
History of China
Neolithic c. 8500 – c. 2070 BC
Xia c. 2070 – c. 1600 BC
Shang c. 1600 – c. 1046 BC
Zhou c. 1046 – 256 BC
 Western Zhou
 Eastern Zhou
   Spring and Autumn
   Warring States
Qin 221–206 BC
Han 202 BC – 220 AD
  Western Han
  Eastern Han
Three Kingdoms 220–280
  Wei, Shu and Wu
Jin 265–420
  Western Jin
  Eastern JinSixteen Kingdoms
Northern and Southern dynasties
Sui 581–618
Tang 618–907
  (Wu Zhou 690–705)
Five Dynasties and
Ten Kingdoms

Liao 916–1125
Song 960–1279
  Northern SongWestern Xia
  Southern SongJin
Yuan 1271–1368
Ming 1368–1644
Qing 1636–1912
Republic of China 1912–1949
People's Republic of China 1949–present
Northern Wei Buddha Maitreya, 443 AD.
Northern Wei Buddhist statue. Dated 489 AD. Tokyo National Museum.
Model of a Silk Road camel driver, Northern Wei period.

The Northern Wei or the Northern Wei Empire (/),[7] also known as the Tuoba Wei (拓跋魏), Later Wei (後魏), or Yuan Wei (元魏), was a dynasty founded by the Tuoba (Tabgach) clan of the Xianbei, which ruled northern China from 386 to 534 AD[8] (de jure until 535), during the period of the Southern and Northern Dynasties. Described as "part of an era of political turbulence and intense social and cultural change",[9] 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.

During the Taihe period (477–499) of Emperor Xiaowen, court advisers instituted sweeping reforms and introduced changes that eventually led to the dynasty moving its capital from Datong to Luoyang, in 494. The Tuoba renamed themselves the Han people surname Yuan (元) as a part of systematic Sinicization. Towards the end of the dynasty there was significant internal dissension resulting in a split into Eastern Wei and Western Wei.

Many antiques and art works, both Taoist art and Buddhist art, from this period have survived. It was the time of the construction of the Yungang Grottoes near Datong during the mid-to-late 5th century, and towards the latter part of the dynasty, the Longmen Caves outside the later capital city of Luoyang, in which more than 30,000 Buddhist images from the time of this dynasty have been found.

Rise of the Tuoba Xianbei

The Jin Dynasty had developed an alliance with the Tuoba against the Xiongnu state Han Zhao. In 315 the Tuoba chief was granted the title of the Prince of Dai. After the death of its founding prince, Tuoba Yilu, however, the Dai state stagnated and largely remained a partial ally and a partial tributary state to Later Zhao and Former Yan, finally falling to Former Qin in 376.

After Former Qin's emperor Fu Jiān was defeated by Jin forces at the Battle of Fei River in his failed bid to unify China, the Former Qin state began to break apart. By 386, Tuoba Gui, the son (or grandson) of Tuoba Shiyijian (the last Prince of Dai), reasserted Tuoba independence initially as the Prince of Dai. Later he changed his title to the Prince of Wei, and his state was therefore known as Northern Wei. In 391, Tuoba Gui defeated the Rouran tribes and killed their chief, Heduohan, forcing the Rouran to flee west.

Initially Northern Wei was a vassal of Later Yan, but by 395 had rebelled and defeated the Yan at the Battle of Canhebei. By 398 the Wei had conquered most of Later Yan territory north of the Yellow River. In 399, Tuoba Gui declared himself Emperor Daowu, and that title was used by Northern Wei's rulers for the rest of the empire's history. That same year he defeated the Tiele tribes near the Gobi desert.