Foundation of the Jin Dynasty Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Aguda, from the Wanyan clan of the Jurchen peoples of Manchuria, led the Jurchen armies into battle in northern China against the Liao Dynasty. He established the Jin Dynasty, placing much of northern China under non-Chinese rule.

Summary of Event

The non-Chinese Jurchen did not emerge as a separate entity in written historical records until the mid-tenth century. They originated to the north of China in present-day eastern Manchuria. Originally, the Jurchen were hunters in the forested areas of Manchuria. They became expert horsemen, a skill shared by members of other northern conquest dynasties such as the Khitan Liao (907-1125) and the later Mongolian-Yuan (1279-1368) and Manchu-Qing (Ch’ing; 1644-1911) Dynasties. The Jurchen could best be described as seminomadic, and although hunting and horsemanship were central to their culture, they also practiced agriculture, some living in small, walled towns. [kw]Foundation of the Jin Dynasty (1115) [kw]Jin Dynasty, Foundation of the (1115) Jin Dynasty Jurchens China;1115: Foundation of the Jin Dynasty[1820] Expansion and land acquisition;1115: Foundation of the Jin Dynasty[1820] Government and politics;1115: Foundation of the Jin Dynasty[1820] Aguda Tianzuodi Huizong Taizong (1050-1135)

The tenth and eleventh centuries had been a confusing period in Chinese history. One of China’s most glorious dynasties, the Tang (T’ang), fell in 907, ushering in the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (China) period (907-960). Unity was restored under the Song Dynasty Song Dynasty (Sung; 960-1279), but during those decades, much of northern China had come under the rule of the non-Chinese Khitans, who established the Khitan Liao Dynasty Khitan Liao Dynasty shortly after the fall of the Tang. The Song were unable to dislodge the Liao from the region around modern-day Beijing, and it was not until the early eleventh century that the Song and the Liao agreed to a truce, with the Song paying annual tribute to the Liao, much of it in the form of silk. The Liao rulers were not native Chinese, but like many other of the non-Chinese conquest dynasties, the Liao adopted some of the culture and institutions of imperial China, a process known as sinicization. However, the Liao, who maintained their traditional religion of shamanism and human sacrifice, were less drawn by Chinese culture than the Jin and Qing Dynasties that followed.

The Jurchen clans were under the rule of the Liao Dynasty, whose origins were also in Manchuria. During the tenth century, the Jurchen were forced to pay tribute both to the Liao and to the Southern Song (1127-1279) Dynasties. The tribute was often paid in horses, a reflection of their mastery of horses, which, in the early twelfth century, they used in warfare along with iron weapons.

After a struggle for supremacy between the clans (a not unusual occurrence among seminomadic people), the Wanyan clan achieved dominance over their fellow Jurchens in the early 1100’. Aguda Aguda became head of the clan and was known as Wanyan Min (Wan-yen Min). Given the Jurchens’s skill in horsemanship and their expertise in weapons, raiding and warfare were central to their culture. When united under the leadership of a strong and charismatic leader and when aided by political and military weakness among potential opponents, the northern nomads frequently emerged as formidable foes. That convergence occurred in the early twelfth century, with the rise of Aguda to Jurchen leadership and a corresponding weaknesses in both the Liao and Song Dynasties.

Among the earliest of Jurchen opponents was the Koryŏ Koryŏ Dynasty[Koryo Dynasty] , the dynasty that gave its name to the land of Korea, but the Liao Dynasty of northern China proved to be the primary early victim of Jurchen unity. The Jurchen had been tributaries of the Liao, but in 1112, the balance between the two peoples shifted significantly. In that year, the Liao emperor, Tianzuodi Tianzuodi (Khitan Liao emperor) , visited Manchuria, and during a banquet given by the Liao emperor, Aguda refused to perform a Jurchen tribal dance for the Liao contingent. Whether it was a sudden decision on the part of the Jurchen leader or part of a calculated ploy to unite the Jurchen against the ruling Liao is unknown. In any event, the subordinate relationship that the Jurchen had long experienced under the Liao came to a quick end.

War was declared against the Liao in 1114, and after Jurchen victories at Ningliang and Chuhedian, Aguda proclaimed himself emperor of the great Jin Dynasty in 1115. Previous dynasties had often taken the name of their place of origin; the Liao had taken their name from the Liao River in Manchuria. Liao also means “iron”; therefore, Aguda chose to name his dynasty jin, which means “gold,” to demonstrate the superiority of his dynasty to that of the Khitans. Chinese emperors traditionally chose a reign name, and Aguda, whose Jin Dynasty (Chin; 1115-1234) would be greatly influenced by Chinese models, took the reign name of Taizu (T’ai-tsu).





In 1120, to further their military campaign against the Liao, the Jin allied with the Song. The Liao, already weakened by dynastic divisions and suffering economic collapse, fell to the Jin-Song alliance in 1125, shortly after Aguda’s death in 1123. The surviving Liao retreated to the west, where they formed a new dynasty usually referred to as the Western Liao Western Liao Dynasty , and which survived in reduced circumstances until overwhelmed by the Mongols in 1218.

Although the Song and Jin had united against the Liao, when the Song emperor Huizong Huizong (Song emperor) attempted to recover additional Liao territory, the new Jin emperor Taizong Taizong (Jin emperor) (Wanyan Sheng) invaded the Song in 1125. With their heavily armored cavalry and their increasing mastery of siege machines, the Jin proved to be an almost irresistible force, even against walled cities. The Jin occupied the Song capital, Kaifeng, in 1126, and the Song emperor, Huizong, who had abdicated in 1125, and his son and successor, Qinzong Qinzong (Song emperor) (Ch’in-tsung; r. 1125-1126), were taken as hostages back to Manchuria, where they died in captivity, Huizong in 1135 and Qinzong in 1156. The Jin pressed their advantage, and the surviving Song retreated to China’s south, establishing a new capital at Hangzhou. Only in 1142 did the Southern Song and the Jin agree to a peace treaty, leaving the Jin in control of most of China north of the Yangtze River. In becoming a vassal state to the Jin, the Southern Song Southern Song Dynasty agreed to pay silver and silk tribute to the Jin emperors, ushering in an era of uneasy coexistence that lasted until the invasion of another nomadic non-Chinese people, the Mongols, in the early thirteenth century.


Aguda’s proclaiming of the Jin Dynasty in 1115 and his and his successors’s military victories over first the Liao and then the Song created a large Jurchen-Jin state that controlled much of northern China. However, as other non-Chinese conquest dynasties had discovered, it proved easier to conquer the Chinese than to permanently rule them. The leadership abilities of Aguda and the military superiority of the Jin cavalry were not automatically conducive to peacetime rule.

The Jin Dynasty adopted many aspects of traditional Chinese culture. The use of Chinese script was widespread; the Jin encouraged Chinese calligraphy, and some of the Jin emperors collected Chinese manuscripts. However, ultimately, the Jin were not Chinese, and although many Chinese accepted the Jin Dynasty, some did not, raising issues of Jin legitimacy. These were challenges faced by all non-Chinese conquest dynasties. More significant, the Jin faced an increasing threat from the nomadic Mongols Mongols , led by Genghis Khan Genghis Khan and his son Ogatai Ogatai . When attacked by the Mongols, instead of uniting with the Southern Song against the Mongols (perhaps an impossibility given the conflicts of the past), the Jin attempted, unsuccessfully, to seize Song territory in the south. Ogatai captured the last Jin capital, Caihou, in 1234, bringing an end to the Jin Dynasty after little more than a century of existence.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Chan, Hok-lam. Legitimation in Imperial China: Discussions Under the Jurchen-Chin Dynasty. Seattle: University of Washington, 1984. A study of the Jin Dynasty during the twelfth century.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Tao, Jing-shen. The Jurchen in Twelfth-Century China: A Study of Sinicization. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1976. A readable work on the Jin adoption of and adaption to China’s dominant culture.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Tillman, Hoyt Cleveland, and Stephen H. West, eds. China Under Jurchen Rule: Essays on Chin Intellectual and Cultural History. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1995. A series of essays on aspects on the era of the Jin Dynasty.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Twitchett, Denis, and Herbert Franke, eds. Alien Regimes and Border States, 907-1368. Vol. 6 in The Cambridge History of China. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994. Contains an extensive discussion of the Jin Dynasty.

Categories: History