Northern Qi

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Northern Qi

Asia in 565 AD, showing the Northern Qi Dynasty and its neighbors
Capital Yecheng
Government Monarchy
 -  550-559 Emperor Wenxuan of Northern Qi
 -  559-560 Emperor Fei of Northern Qi
 -  560-561 Emperor Xiaozhao of Northern Qi
 -  561-565 Emperor Wucheng of Northern Qi
 -  565-577 Gao Wei
 -  577 Gao Heng
 -  Established 9 June 550[1] 550
 -  Gao Wei and Gao Heng's capture by Northern Zhou, usually viewed as disestablishment 28 February 577[2] 577
 -  Gao Shaoyi's capture by Northern Zhou 27 July 580[3]

The Northern Qi (simplified Chinese: 北齐; traditional Chinese: 北齊; pinyin: Běi Qí) was one of the Northern dynasties of Chinese history and ruled northern China from 550 to 577.


The Chinese state of Northern Qi was the successor state of the Chinese/Xianbei state of Eastern Wei and was founded by Emperor Wenxuan. Emperor Wenxuan had a Han Chinese father Gao Yang, and a Xianbei mother, Empress Dowager Lou Zhaojun.[4] As Eastern Wei's paramount general Gao Huan was succeeded by his sons Gao Cheng and Gao Yang, who took the throne from Emperor Xiaojing of Eastern Wei in 550 and established Northern Qi as its Emperor Wenxuan. Although Northern Qi was plagued by violence and/or incompetent emperors (Emperor Wenxuan, Emperor Wucheng, and Gao Wei), corrupt officials, and deteriorating armies for most of its existence, it was the strongest state of the three main Chinese states (along with Northern Zhou state and Chen Dynasty) when it was established. Like most imperial dynasties, it gradually declined and was destroyed by Northern Zhou in 577. Emperor Wenxuan's son Gao Shaoyi, the Prince of Fanyang, under protection by Tujue, later declared himself the emperor of Northern Qi in exile, but was turned over by Tujue to Northern Zhou in 580 and exiled to modern Sichuan. It is a matter of controversy whether Gao Shaoyi should properly be considered a Northern Qi emperor, but in any case the year 577 is generally considered by historians as the ending date for Northern Qi.


Posthumous Names ( Shi Hao 諡號) Born Names Period of Reigns Era Names (Nian Hao 年號) and their according range of years
Northern Qi Dynasty 550-577
Convention: Northern Qi + posthumous name
Wen Xuan Di (文宣帝 wén xuān dì) Gao Yang (高洋 gāo yáng) 550-559 Tianbao (天保 tiān bǎo) 550-559
Fei Di (廢帝 fèi dì) Gao Yin (高殷 gāo yīn) 559-560 Qianming (乾明 qián míng) 560
Xiao Zhao Di (孝昭帝 xiào zhāo dì) Gao Yan (高演 gāo yǎn) 560-561 Huangjian (皇建 huáng jiàn) 560-561
Wu Cheng Di (武成帝 wǔ chéng dì) Gao Dan (高湛 gāo dān) 561-565 Taining (太寧 tài níng) 561-562
Heqing (河清 hé qīng) 562-565
Hou Zhu (後主 hòu zhǔ) Gao Wei (高緯 gāo wěi) 565-577[5] Tiantong (天統 tiān tǒng) 565-569
Wuping (武平 wǔ píng) 570-576
Longhua (隆化 lóng huà) 576
You Zhu (幼主 yòu zhǔ) Gao Heng (高恆 gāo héng) 577[6][7] Chengguang (承光 chéng guāng) 577

Northern Qi arts[edit]

Northern Qi Bodhisattva, Changzi-xian, Shanxi, dated 552.
Left image: Northern Qi jar with Central Asian dancer and musicians, 550-577.[8]
Middle image: Earthenware jar with Central Asian face, Northern Qi 550-577.
Right image: Northern Qi earthenware with multicultural (Egyptian, Greek, Eurasian) motifs, 550-577.[9]

Northern Qi ceramics mark a revival of Chinese ceramic art, following the disastrous invasions and the social chaos of the 4th century.[8] Northern Qi tombs have revealed some beautiful artifacts, such as porcellaneous ware with splashed green designs, previously thought to have been developed under the Tang dynasty.[8]

Markedly unique from earlier depictions of the Buddha, Northern Qi statues tend to be smaller, around three feet tall, and columnar in shape.[10]

A jar has been found in a Northern Qi tomb, which was closed in 576 CE, and is considered as a precussor of the Tang Sancai style of ceramics.[11]

Also, brown glazed wares designed with Sasanian-style figures have been found in these tombs.[8] These works suggest a strong cosmopolitanism and intense exchanges with Western Asia, which are also visible in metalworks and relief sculptures across China during this period.[8] Cosmopolitanism was therefore already current during the Northern Qi period in the 6th century, even before the advent of the notoriously cosmopolitan Tang dynasty, and was often associated with Buddhism.[8][12]


A Chinese scholar translated the Buddhist text Nirvana Sutra text into a Turkic language during this era. Some Zoroastrianism influences that went into previous states continued onto the state of Northern Qi court, such as the love for Persian dogs (sacred in Zoroastrianism) as they were taken as pets by nobles and eunuchs. The Chinese utilized a number of Persian artifacts and products.[13]


  1. ^ Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 163.
  2. ^ Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 173.
  3. ^ Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 174.
  4. ^ Lily Xiao Hong Lee, A. D. Stefanowska, Sue Wiles (2007). Lily Xiao Hong Lee, A. D. Stefanowska, Sue Wiles, ed. Biographical dictionary of Chinese women: antiquity through Sui, 1600 B.C.E.-618 C.E.. Volume 3 of Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women, Lily Xiao Hong Lee Volume 21 of Publications, University Libraries (Hong Kong. M.E. Sharpe. p. 314. ISBN 0-7656-1750-1. Retrieved 2012 February ninth. "Lou Zhaojun, 501-562, was the principal wife of Gao Huan, 496-547; their son Emperor Wenxuan (Gao Yang, 529-559; r. 550-559) was the founding emperor of Northern Qi. While neither was appointed emperor or empress during their lifetime, as the de facto founder of the Northern Qi dynasty Gao Huan was posthumously titled Emperor Shenwu of Northern Qi and Lou Zhaojun was posthumously title Empress Ming of Northern Qi.. . . Lou Zhaojun was from a wealthy Xianbei family that had served as officials under the Former Yan dynasty (located in the area of present-day Chaoyang in Liaoning Province). Her clan had Sinicized its name to Lou toward the end of the fifth century. Gao Huan, on the other hand, was from a Han-Chinese family from Bohai (present-day Hebei Province); they had lived for several generations in the area that is now Inner Mongolia and had consequently adopted a largely Xianbei way of life. Despite Gao Huan's lack of means and low social status, Lou Zhaojun is said to have set her heart on him almost from the moment she saw him. She dispatched a maid to tell him of her interest and to give him some money; then she married him, against the wishes of her parents." 
  5. ^ Gao Wei's cousin Gao Yanzong the Prince of Ande (Gao Cheng's son) briefly declared himself emperor around the new year 577 after the soldiers guarding the city of Jinyang (晉陽, in modern Taiyuan, Shanxi) demanded that he claim the title when Gao Wei abandoned Jinyang. Gao Yanzong, however, was almost immediately defeated and captured by Northern Zhou troops, and therefore is generally not considered a true Northern Qi emperor.
  6. ^ In 577, Gao Wei, then with the title Taishang Huang (retired emperor), tried to issue an edict on his son's behalf yielding the throne to his uncle (Gao Huan's son) Gao Jie (高湝) the Prince of Rencheng, but the officials he sent to deliver the edict to Gao Jie surrendered to Northern Zhou rather than delivering the edict to Gao Jie, who was subsequently also captured by Northern Zhou troops. It is questionable whether Gao Jie was even aware of the edict, and in any case, Gao Jie never used imperial title.
  7. ^ As noted above, Emperor Wenxuan's son Gao Shaoyi tried to establish a Northern Qi court in exile on Tujue's territory, but was not successful in his efforts in recapturing formerly Northern Qi territory, and was eventually turned over by Tujue to Northern Zhou. Most historians do not consider him a true Northern Qi emperor, although the matter remains in controversy.
  8. ^ a b c d e f The arts of China by Michael Sullivan p.120
  9. ^ Notice of the Metropolitan Museum of Art permanent exhibition.
  10. ^ Birmingham Museum of Art (2010). Birmingham Museum of Art : guide to the collection. [Birmingham, Ala]: Birmingham Museum of Art. p. 23. ISBN 978-1-904832-77-5. 
  11. ^ Chinese glazes: their origins, chemistry, and recreation by Nigel Wood p.200
  12. ^ China between empires: the northern and southern dynasties by Mark Edward Lewis p.168
  13. ^ Cunren Liu (1976). Angela Schottenhammer, ed. Selected papers from the Hall of harmonious wind. Brill Archive. p. 14. ISBN 90-04-04492-2. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 


See also[edit]