Wanyan Xiyin

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Wanyan Xiyin (Chinese: 完颜希尹; ?-1140) was a trusted advisor of the Jurchen chieftain, Wanyan Aguda (later the Emperor Taizu, the first emperor of the Jin Dynasty). Described by modern writers as the "Chief Shaman" of the pre-Jin Jurchen state,[1] he became deeply interested in Chinese culture, and is particularly known as the creator of the first writing system for the Jurchen language.

Wanyan Xiyin's original Jurchen name is transcribed in Chinese sources as Wushi (Chinese: 兀室 or 悟室; Wade-Giles, Wu-shih). He belonged to the Jurchen Wanyan tribe, but not to the actual imperial Wanyan family.[2] Along with Wanyan Nianhan (1080-1137) and Gushe (骨括, or Hushe, 胡舍), Wushi was one of the three chief advisors of Aguda at the time of his rebellion against the Liao.[3] He continued to be a trusted advisor of Aguda as he became the first Emperor Taizu of the Jin Dynasty, and of and his successor Taizong (r. 1123-1134). However, Wushi (Xiyin) fell into disgrace under Taizong's successor Xizong (r. 1135-1149) and had to commit suicide in 1140.[2]

According to the contemporary Chinese sources, "Wushi was crafted and talented. It was he who personally devised laws and the script for the Jurchen, and thus shaped them into one state (guo, 国). The people of the state called him shan-man (珊蛮); shan-man in Jurchen means a shamaness. This is because he understood changing conditions like a good. From Nianhan down, nobody was able to be his equal."[4]

As the translator of this text, Herbert Franke, notes, this may be the earliest known Chinese document in which the word 珊蛮 (shanman) is attested; it corresponds to the Manchu saman ("shaman, sorcerer").[4]

Wushi was fascinated by Chinese classics, and collected a large library when Jurchens seized and looted the capital of the Northern Song Dynasty, Pianjing (now Kaifeng), in the Jin–Song wars. He invited several Chinese scholars, led by Yuwen Xuzhong (宇文虚中; he was captured by the Jurchen while an envoy to the Jin), to advise him and to teach his sons and grandsons. Hong Hao (洪皓) - another Song envoy similarly detained by the Jurchen - though that it was under Yuwen's influence that a variety of Chinese cultural practices entered the Jin Empire, such as the forms of government organizations, the scale of official ranks, salaries, and hereditary privileges, as well as the rules for assigning posthumous names to emperors and the taboo against using characters that appear in emperors' names.[5]

The instruction offered by Yuwen and other Chinese scholars must have been successful, as Wushi's sons were able to write Chinese poems for Hong Hao. The degree of their sinicization was high enough for one of them to become one of the first Jurchen to have a Chinese wife.[5]

The tombs of Wanyan Xiyin and his family members are said to be located near the city of Shulan in Jilin Province. Since 1961, they have been listed on the provincial register of the protected historical sites.[6]

Jurchen script[edit]

Main article: Jurchen script

On Aguda's orders, in 1119 or 1120, Wanyan Xiyin created the Jurchen script, known as the "large-character script", for use in the administration of the new Jurchen (Jin) Empire. He based it on Chinese characters and the Liao script.


  • Herbert Franke, 1997 (I): "Chinese Texts on the Jurchen (I): a Translation of the Jurchen in the San ch'ao pei-meng hui-pien. Originally published in Zantralasiatische Studien 9. Wiesbaden, 1975. Reprinted in: Herbert Franke and Hok-lam Chan, "Studies on the Jurchens and the Chin Dynasty", Variorum Collected Series Studies: CS591, Ashgate, 1997. ISBN 0-86078-645-5. (The work whose name is transcribed in Wade-Giles as San ch'ao pei-meng hui-pien is Xu Mengxin's "Collected Accounts of the Treaties with the North under Three Reigns", or San chao beimeng huibian in Pinyin. Franke translates and comments on its Chapter 3, which deals with the history and customs of the Jurchen people).
  • Jing-shen Tao, "The Jurchen in Twelfth-Century China". University of Washington Press, 1976, ISBN 0-295-95514-7.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tao (1976), Page 95.
  2. ^ a b Franke 1997(I), pp. 150-151.
  3. ^ Franke 1997(I), p. 154
  4. ^ a b Franke 1997(I), pp. 155-156.
  5. ^ a b Tao (1976), pages 31, 40.
  6. ^ 完颜希尹家族墓地 (Wanyan Xiyin Family Tombs Site) (Chinese)