Heqin (Chinese: 和親; pinyin: Héqīn; Wade–Giles: Ho-ch'in; literally: "peace marriage"), or marriage alliance, refers to the historical practice of Chinese emperors marrying princesses (usually members of minor branches of the royal family) to rulers of neighbouring states. It was often adopted as an appeasement strategy with an enemy state which was too powerful to defeat on the battlefield. The policy was not always effective, and it implied an equal diplomatic status between the Chinese emperor and the foreign ruler. As a result, it was controversial and had many critics.
Lou Jing (Chinese: 娄敬, later granted the royal surname Liu), the architect of the policy, proposed granting the eldest daughter of Emperor Gaozu of Han to the Modun Chanyu of the Xiongnu Empire. His proposal was adopted and implemented with a treaty in 198 BC. Wang Zhaojun of the Han dynasty and Princess Wencheng of the Tang dynasty are among the most famous heqin princesses. Heqin was never again practiced by any Han Chinese dynasty after the Tang.
20th-century scholar Wang Tonglin praised heqin for facilitating the "melting of races" in China.
- 200 B.C.: Emperor Gaozu of Han marries a Han "princess" to Xiongnu chieftain Modu Chanyu. This is the first recorded incidence of heqin marriage in Chinese history.
- 192 B.C.: Emperor Hui of Han marries another Han "princess" to Xiongnu chieftain Modu Chanyu.
- 176 B.C.: Emperor Wen of Han marries a third Han "princess" to Xiongnu chieftain Modu Chanyu.
- 174 B.C.: Emperor Wen of Han marries a Han "princess" to Xiongnu chieftain Laoshang Chanyu. She brings a Yan eunuch named Zhonghang Yue with her to be her tutor.
- 162 B.C.: Emperor Wen of Han marries another Han "princess" to Xiongnu chieftain Laoshang Chanyu.
- 160 B.C.: Emperor Wen of Han marries a Han "princess" to Xiongnu chieftain Gunchen Chanyu.
- 156 B.C.: Emperor Jing of Han marries another Han "princess" to Xiongnu chieftain Gunchen Chanyu.
- 155 B.C.: Emperor Jing of Han marries a third Han "princess" to Xiongnu chieftain Gunchen Chanyu.
- 152 B.C.: Emperor Jing of Han marries a fourth Han "princess" to Xiongnu chieftain Gunchen Chanyu.
- 140 B.C.: Emperor Wu of Han marries a Han "princess" to Xiongnu chieftain Gunchen Chanyu.
- 108 B.C.: Emperor Wu of Han marries Princess Liu Xijun (劉細君公主), daughter of Liu Jian, Prince of Jiangdu (江都王劉建), to Liejiaomi, King of Wusun.
- 103 B.C.: Emperor Wu of Han marries Princess Liu Jieyou (劉解憂公主), daughter of Liu Wu, Prince of Chu (楚王劉戊), to King Junxumi of Wusun (Liejiaomi's grandson). After Junxumi's death in 93 B.C., Princess Jieyou, in accordance with Wusun tradition, married his successor (and younger brother), King Wengguimi. After Wengguimi's death in 60 BC, Princess Jieyou again remarried his successor King Nimi (son of Junximi and a Xiongnu princess).
- 33 B.C.: Emperor Yuan of Han marries Wang Zhaojun, a lady of the imperial harem, to Xiongnu chieftain Huhanye. After Huhanye's death in 31 B.C., she remarried Huhanye's successor (his son by his first wife and thus her stepson) Fuzhuleiruodi Chanyu.
Sixteen Kingdoms Period
During the Sixteen Kingdoms period, there were a total of six recorded instances of heqin marriage. Heqin marriage alliances during the Sixteen Kingdoms period differed from those practiced during the Han Dynasty in two main ways. First, they involved "real" princesses (i.e. daughters of emperors or rulers). Second, unlike during the Han Dynasty, when most heqin marriages were aimed at establishing peace with foreign nations, heqin marriages during the Sixteen Kingdoms period were made primarily to settle rivalries and maintain a balance of power between the various states in China at the time.
- Fú Jiān, Emperor Xuanzhao of Former Qin, married one of his daughters to Yang Ding, ruler of the state of Chouchi.
- Fu Deng, Emperor Gao of Former Qin, married his younger sister, Princess Dongping (東平公主) to Qifu Gangui, Prince of Western Qi.
- 441 A.D.: Feng Ba, Emperor Wencheng of Northern Yan married his daughter, Princess Lelang (樂浪公主), to Yujiulü Hulü, Khan Aidougai of Rouran.
- 415 A.D.: Yao Xing, Emperor Wenhuan of Later Qin married his daughter, Princess Xiping (西平公主), to Emperor Mingyuan of Northern Wei. Because she was unable to forge a golden statue with her own hands, she was never formally created empress, but was nevertheless recognized and respected as Emperor Mingyuan's wife.
- Qifu Chipan, Prince Wenzhao of Western Qin, marries his daughter, Princess Xingping (興平公主), to Juqu Mengxun, Prince of Northern Liang's son Juqu Xingguo.
- 433 A.D.: Juqu Mengxun, Prince of Northern Liang marries his daughter, Princess Xingping (興平公主), to Emperor Taiwu of Northern Wei. She became Emperor Taiwu's concubine.
Southern and Northern Dynasties
During the Southern and Northern Dynasties, China was also divided into many rival states. A complicated system of rivalries and vassalage existed. Heqin marriage was employed as a method to maintain a balance of power or to solidify alliances between states.
During the Southern and Northern Dynasties, there were five instances of Heqin marriage.
- 428 A.D.: Emperor Mingyuan of Northern Wei marries his daughter, Princess Shiping (始平公主), to Helian Chang, Emperor of Xia.
- 437 A.D.: Emperor Mingyuan of Northern Wei marries his daughter, Princess Wuwei (武威公主), to Juqu Mujian, Prince Ai of Hexi, last ruler of the state of Northern Liang.
- Princess Lanling (蘭陵公主), a "princess" of the imperial family of Northern Wei, married the Khagan of the Rouran, Yujiulü Anagui.
- Princess Qianjin (千金公主), daughter of Yuwen Zhao, Prince of Zhao (趙王宇文招) and a member of the imperial family of Northern Zhou, married Ishbara Qaghan, Khagan of the Eastern Turkic Khaganate.
- 582 A.D.: Emperor Ming of Western Liang marries his daughter, Princess Xiao of Western Liang, to Yang Guang, Prince of Jin, the second son and eventual successor of Emperor Ming's overlord Emperor Wen of Sui.
With the establishment of the Sui Dynasty in 581 A.D., China was once again unified under one dynasty. Heqin marriage during the Sui Dynasty therefore returned to its original purpose of trying to appease barbarian tribes on China's borders.
There were a total of seven instances of Heqin marriage during the Sui Dynasty.
- 597 A.D.: Emperor Wen of Sui marries Princess Anyi (安義公主), a Sui "princess", to Yami Qaghan, Khagan of the Eastern Turkic Khaganate. She was assassinated by Yung Yu-lu in 599 A.D.
- 599 A.D.: Emperor Wen of Sui marries another Sui princess, Princess Yicheng (義成公主), the daughter of a Sui imperial clansman, to Yami Qaghan, Khagan of the Eastern Turkic Khaganate. After his death in 609 A.D., Princess Yicheng, in accordance with the Göktürk custom of levirate marriage, remarried to Yami Qaghan's successor and son (by another wife), Shibi Qaghan. After Shibi Qaghan's death in 619 A.D., Princess Yicheng again remarried to Shibi Qaghan's successor and younger brother, Chuluo Qaghan. After Chuluo Qaghan's death in 621 A.D., Princess Yicheng remarried for the fourth and final time to Chuluo Qaghan's successor and younger brother, Illig Qaghan, who revolted against the Tang Dynasty and was captured and killed in 630 A.D.
- Emperor Yang of Sui married Princess Xinyi (信義公主), a Sui "princess", to Heshana Khan, Khagan of the Western Turkish Khaganate.
- Emperor Yang of Sui married his youngest daughter, Princess Huainan (淮南公主), to Shibi Qaghan's eldest son Tuli Qaghan (突利可汗).
- 596 A.D.: Emperor Wen of Sui marries Princess Guanghua (光化公主), a Sui "princess", to Murong Shifu, Khan of Tuyuhun. After Murong Shifu's assassination in 597 A.D., Princess Guanghua remarried to Murong Shifu's successor and younger brother, Murong Fuyun.
- Emperor Yang of Sui married a Sui "princess" to Qu Boya, ruler of the oasis city of Gaochang in the Taklamakan Desert.
During the Tang Dynasty, heqin marriage alliances were aimed primarily at five major states that bordered the Tang Empire: The Tuyuhun Kingdom, Tibet, the Khitans, Orkhon Uyghur, and the Kingdom of Nanzhao.
There were a total of twenty-one instances of heqin marriage alliances during the Tang Dynasty:
- 640 A.D.: Emperor Taizong of Tang marries Princess Honghua (弘化公主) to Murong Nuohebo, Khan of Tuyuhun.
- 641 A.D.: Emperor Taizong of Tang marries Princess Wencheng to Songtsän Gampo, King of Tibet.
- 642 A.D.: Emperor Taizong of Tang marries his fifteenth daughter, Princess Xinxing (新興公主), to Zhenzhu Khan, Khan of Xueyantuo. Marriage was call off, she later married Zhangsun Xi. (Proposed but never occurred)
- 664 A.D.: Emperor Gaozong of Tang marries Lady Jincheng (金城縣主), the third daughter of Li Dao'en, Prince of Guiji (會稽郡王李道恩), to Prince Sudumomo of Tuyuhun (吐谷渾王子蘇度摸末).
- 664 A.D.: Emperor Gaozong of Tang marries Lady Jinming (金明縣主), the daughter of a Tang imperial clansman, to Prince Talumomo of Tuyuhun (吐谷渾王子闥盧摸末).
- 698 A.D.: A daughter of Qapaghan Qaghan, Khagan of the Second Eastern Turkic Khaganate marries Empress Wu Zetian's great-nephew Wu Chengsi, Prince of Huaiyang (淮陽王武延秀).
- 703: A daughter of Qapaghan Qaghan, Khagan of the Second Eastern Turkic Khaganate marries Li Dan, Crown Prince's eldest son Li Chengqi, Prince of Song.
- 709 A.D.: Empress Wu Zetian marries her great-granddaughter Princess Jincheng (金城公主), the daughter of her grandson Li Shouli, Prince of Bin, to Me Agtsom, Emperor of Tibet.
- 712 A.D.: Emperor Ruizong of Tang marries his granddaughter, Princess Jinshan (金山公主), the daughter of his son Li Chengqi, to Qapaghan Qaghan, Khagan of the Second Eastern Turkic Khaganate.
- 715 A.D.:
- 717 A.D.: Emperor Xuanzong of Tang marries Princess Yongle (永樂公主), the daughter of Yang Yuansi (楊元嗣) and a daughter of Li Xu, Prince of Dongping (東平王李續) (son of Li Shen, Prince of Ji, the seventeenth son of Emperor Taizong of Tang), to Li Shihuo (李失活), leader of the Khitans.
- 717 A.D.: Princess Jianghe (交河公主), the daughter of Ashina Nahuaidao, 10th Khagan of the Western Turkic Khaganate marries Sulu Khan, Khagan of Turgesh.
- 722 A.D.: Emperor Xuanzong of Tang marries Princess Yanjun (燕郡公主) (surname Murong (慕容)), a Tang "princess", to Khitan prince Li Yuyu (李郁於).
- 726 A.D.: Emperor Xuanzong of Tang marries his niece, Princess Donghua (東華公主) (surname Chen (陳)), to Khitan prince Li Shaogu (李邵固).
- 726 A.D.: Emperor Xuanzong of Tang marries Princess Dongguang (東光公主), the daughter of Emperor Xuanzong's first cousin Li Jijiang, Princess Cheng'an (成安公主李季姜) (eighth daughter of Emperor Zhongzong of Tang) and Wei Jie (韋捷), to Li Lusu (李魯甦), ruler of Kumo Xi.
- 744 A.D.: Emperor Xuanzong of Tang marries Princess Heyi (和義公主), a daughter of Li Can, Magistrate of Gaocheng (告城縣令李參), to Axilan Dagan (阿悉爛達干), King of Ningyuan (寧遠國王) in the Fergana Valley.
- 745 A.D.: Emperor Xuanzong of Tang marries his granddaughter, Princess Jingle (靜樂公主) (the daughter of his fifteenth daughter Princess Xincheng (信成公主) and Dugu Ming (獨孤明)), to Khitan prince Li Huaixiu (李懷秀).
- 745 A.D.: Emperor Xuanzong of Tang marries Princess Yifang (宜芳公主), daughter of Princess Changning (長寧公主) (daughter of Emperor Zhongzong of Tang) and Yang Shenjiao (楊慎交), to Khitan prince Li Yanchong (李延寵)
- 756 A.D.: Princess Pijia (毗伽公主), daughter of Bayanchur Khan, Khagan of the Uyghur Khaganate, marries Li Chengcai, Prince of Dunhuang (敦煌王李承採), son of Li Shouli, Prince of Bin.
There were a total of seventeen instances of heqin marriage alliances during the Tang Dynasty.
- 640—690: 5 instances, to Tuyuhun, and 1 instance to Tibet.
- 710—745: 4 instances, to Khitan, 3 instances, to Xi, and 1 instance, to Tibet.
- 758—821: 7 instances, to Orkhon Uyghur (including two daughters of the Chinese Emperor, i.e. real princesses, and 3 of Tiele descent).
- 883: 1 occurrence, to Nanzhao (second daughter of Emperor Yizong of Tang).
Non-Han dynasties and states
The Xiongnu practiced marriage alliances with Han dynasty officers and officials who defected to their side. The older sister of the Chanyu (the Xiongnu ruler) was married to the Xiongnu General Zhao Xin, the Marquis of Xi who was serving the Han dynasty. The daughter of the Chanyu was married to the Han Chinese General Li Ling after he surrendered and defected. The Yenisei Kirghiz Khagans claimed descent from Li Ling. Another Han Chinese General who defected to the Xiongnu was Li Guangli who also married a daughter of the Chanyu.
The Xianbei Tuoba royal family of Northern Wei started to arrange for Han Chinese elites to marry daughters of the royal family in the 480s. Some Han Chinese exiled royalty fled from southern China and defected to the Xianbei. Several daughters of the Xianbei Emperor Xiaowen of Northern Wei were married to Han Chinese elites, like Princess Lanling 蘭陵公主 to Liu Hui 刘辉, who was a descendant of Liu Song royalty who fled north to the Xianbei in exile, Princess Huayang 華陽公主 to Sima Fei 司馬朏, a descendant of Jin dynasty (265–420) royalty, Princess Jinan 濟南公主 to Lu Daoqian 盧道虔, Princess Nanyang 南阳长公主 to Xiao Baoyin 萧宝夤, a member of Southern Qi royalty.
The Kingdom of Gaochang was made out of Han Chinese colonists and ruled by the Han Chinese Qu family which originated from Gansu. The Qu family was linked by marriage allianes to the Turks, with the King Qu Boya's grandmother being a Turk.
The Khitan Liao dynasty arranged for women from the Khitan royal consort clan to marry members of the Han Chinese Han 韓 clan, which originated in Jizhou 冀州 before being abducted by the Khitan and becoming part of the Han Chinese elite of the Liao.
The Manchu Imperial Aisin Gioro clan practiced marriage alliances with Han Chinese Ming Generals and Mongol princes. Aisin Gioro women were married to Han Chinese Generals who defected to the Manchu side during the Manchu conquest of China. The Manchu leader Nurhaci married one of his granddaughters to the Ming General Li Yongfang after he surrendered Fushun in Liaoning to the Manchu in 1618. Aisin Gioro women were married to the sons of the Han Chinese Generals Sun Sike (Sun Ssu-k'o), Geng Jimao (Keng Chi-mao), Shang Kexi (Shang K'o-hsi), and Wu Sangui (Wu San-kuei).
Geng Zhongming, a Han bannerman, was awarded the title of Prince Jingnan, and his son Geng Jingmao managed to have both his sons Geng Jingzhong and Geng Zhaozhong become court attendants under Shunzhi and get married to Aisin Gioro women, with Haoge's (a son of Hong Taiji) daughter marrying Geng Jingzhong and Prince Abatai's granddaughter marrying Geng Zhaozhong.
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