Gongjin's Campaign Memorials
Gongjin's Campaign Memorials

Jin (Jìn 晉), or the Jin dynasty (Jìn cháo 晉朝), was a Chinese dynasty, which existed from 265 and 420 A.D. It succeeded the Three Kingdoms period, and preceeded the Southern and Northern dynasties.

The Jin dynasty is, like the Han dynasty, separated in two: a Western Jin dynasty 西晉朝 and an Eastern Jin dynasty 東晉朝. The Western Jin dynasty was founded by Sima Yan 司馬炎 in 265 and ended in 316. In 317 Sima Rui 司馬睿 founded the Eastern Jin dynasty which lasted until 420.

Note: as this wiki is about the Three Kingdoms, it's rise from the Han dynasty and the fall of Wu against Western Jin, it will not go beyond Western Jin. The same applies to this very article, which is only about Western Jin.

Brief history[]

Jin was founded by the Sima clan, who originally served the Cao family of the Wei. The clan was influential and their power grew steadily. In 239 when the Emperor of Wei Cao Rui 曹叡 died, he named Cao Shuang 曹爽 and Sima Yi 司馬懿 as regents so they could assist the new Emperor Cao Fang 曹芳. Ten years later Sima Yi had Cao Shuang killed in a coup d'etat and the power of the Sima clan grew greatly.

In 263 Sima Zhao 司馬昭 captured the lands of Shu-Han and their emperor Liu Shan 劉禪. In 264 Sima Zhao put down a rebellion by Zhong Hui 鍾會 and Jiang Wei 姜維, and he subsequently took the title King of Jin. He died a year later, and his titles were inherited by his son Sima Yan, who subsequently destroyed Wei and founded Jin.

In 280 Jin conquered Wu and the lands of China were finally united. Internal conflicts, corruption, and political turmoil quickly weakened the dynasty and in ended in 316.

Why the name Jin?[]

How the character was drawn at the time of the Three Kingdoms.

During the later years of the Zhou dynasty 周朝 (c. 1046–256 BC), at the time of the Warring States period (475 - 221 BC), there was a state 國 called Jin 晉. However, during the Spring and Autumn period (c. 771 - c. 476 BC) and before it was the division of Jin between three rival clans to form Han 韓, Zhao and Wei that is regarded as the beginning of the Warring States period.

During the Han or Three Kingdoms there was however, unlike Wei and Wu, no commandery unit named Jin 晉. In comparison, there was a commandery called Wu, and Sun Quan eventually held the title King of Wu. There was also a commandery called Wei, and Cao Cao and Cao Pi both held the title King of Wei. King was the last step before becoming Emperor. In 264 Sima Zhao was also enfeoffed as a King. The fief 'King of Jin' was created for him. Unlike Cao Cao, for example, who created the fief 'King of Wei' himself. Sima Zhao had thus not chosen the name Jin 晉. After Sima Zhao passed away the title King of Jin was passed down to Sima Yan, who replaced Wei with his own dynasty, called Jin.

On the character jin[]

Definitions and other usages:

  1. The name of a Chinese dynasty.
  2. The name for one of the Warring States during the Zhou dynasty.
  3. Definition: advance, increase
  4. Definition: promote
  • Traditional Chinese: 晉
  • Simplified Chinese: 晋
  • Pinyin with tonemarks: jìn (jin4)
  • Wade-Giles: chin4

The reign colour of Jin[]

Main article: Five Powers

Since the final years of the Former Han dynasty the reign colours of Chinese dynasties were usually in accordance with the theories and cycles of the Five Powers (Wǔxíng 五行). The Five Powers could succeed each other through conquest or natural succession. At the time of the Three Kingdoms the latter was the accepted way of succession. So when a dynasty reigned Red through the Power of Fire, its successor would reign Yellow through the Power of Earth (ashes). Such was the case with the Later Han dynasty (Red and Fire) and the succeeding Wei dynasty (Yellow and Earth).

The natural successor of Earth was Metal. Evidence of this is Gongsun Shu 公孫述, who picked Metal for his Chengjia dynasty 成家 as he claimed succession from Wang Mang's Xin dynasty 新, which reigned Yellow through Earth.

The same scenario applies to the Jin dynasty. As Wei reigned Yellow through the Power of Earth, Jin, claiming succession from Wei, would naturally reign White through the Power of Metal. It may be though, that at the time of Jin less attention was given to reign colours and powers and that Jin may not have ruled through a certain power at all, or that it gradually lessened throughout the time of the Jin dynasty. For example: Wei and Wu, both reigning Yellow, used the word huang 黃, which means yellow, in some of their reign titles. However, the word bo 白, which means white, is never used in any reign title of Jin.

Furthermore, the History of Song (Sòng shū 宋書) chapter 14 contains the following quote from Sun Sheng 孫盛:

Sun Sheng says: ... Jin is of the Metal agent, but its clothing colour is set at Red. According to the Way of Heaven, this is an extreme violation.

This confirms Jin ruled through the Power of Metal, but may not have adopted its corresponding colour of White, but instead may have (partially?) used the colour Red.

List of sovereigns of Western Jin[]

Posthumous name Temple name Name Reign Reign title(s) Notes
Emperor Xuan of Jin
Jìn Xuāndì 晉宣帝
Gaozu 高祖
"Noble Founder"
Sima Yi 司馬懿 n/a n/a [note 1]
Emperor Jing of Jin
Jìn Jǐngdì 晉景帝
Shizong 世宗
"Epochal Exemplar"
Sima Shi 司馬懿 n/a n/a [note 2]
Emperor Wen of Jin
Jìn Wén huángdì 晉文帝
Taizu 太祖
"Great Ancestor"
Sima Zhao 司馬昭 n/a n/a [note 3]
[note 4]
Emperor Wu of Jin
Jìn Wǔdì 晉武帝
Shizu 世祖
"Epochal Founder"
Sima Yan 司馬炎 265-289
  • Taishi 泰始
  • Xianning 咸寧
  • Taikang 太康
  • Taixi 太熙
[note 5]
Emperor Hui of Jin
Jìn Huìdì 晉惠帝
n/a Sima Zhong 司馬衷 290-306
  • Yongxi 永熙
  • Yongping 永平
  • Yuankang 元康
  • Yongkang 永康
  • Yongning 永寧
  • Taian 太安
  • Yongan 永安
  • Jianwu 建武
  • Yongan (continued)
  • Yongxing 永興
  • Guangxi 光熙
Emperor Huai of Jin
Jìn Huáidì 晉懷帝
n/a Sima Chi 司馬熾 306-312
  • Yongjia 永嘉
Emperor Min of Jin
Jìn Mǐndì 晉愍帝
n/a Sima Ye 司馬鄴 313-316
  • Jianxing 建興

See also[]


  1. Sima Yi never ruled Jin, but was posthumously honoured as Emperor Xuan by Sima Yan.
  2. Sima Shi never ruled Jin, but was posthumously honoured as Emperor Jing by Sima Yan.
  3. Sima Zhao never ruled Jin, but was posthumously honoured as Emperor Wen by Sima Yan.
  4. The temple name Taizu was also given to Cao Cao and Sun Quan.
  5. The temple name Shizu was also given to Emperor Guangwu, founder of Later Han.

Fact vs. Fiction[]



  • Fang, Achilles. The Chronicle of the Three Kingdoms. Vol. II. Harvard University Press, 1965. 2 vols.
  • Sima Guang 司馬光 (1019–1086). Zizhi tongjian 資治通鑒 “Comprehensive Mirror for Aid in Government”.