Wanyan Xiyin

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Wanyan Xiyin
Personal details
Gushen (穀神)
Wushi (兀室/悟室)
Hushe (胡舍)

Military service
AllegianceJin dynasty (1115–1234)
Wanyan Xiyin
Traditional Chinese完顏希尹
Simplified Chinese完颜希尹
Gushen (Jurchen name)
Traditional Chinese穀神
Simplified Chinese谷神
Wushi (Jurchen name)
Hushe (Jurchen name)

Gushen (died 1140), also known as Wushi or Hushe, and better known by his sinicised name Wanyan Xiyin, was a Jurchen noble and civil minister who lived in the founding and early years of the Jurchen-led Jin dynasty (1115–1234), which ruled northern China between the 12th and 13th centuries. He was a chief adviser to Aguda (Emperor Taizu), the founder and 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 Han 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 "Gushen", "Wushi" or "Hushe". He was from the Wanyan tribe, the ruling clan of the Jin dynasty, but was not in the direct imperial family line.[2] His father was Huandu (歡都), a cousin of Aguda (Emperor Taizu), the founder of the Jin dynasty. Along with Nianhan (Wanyan Zonghan), Wanyan Xiyin was one of the chief advisers to Aguda. He helped Aguda in unifying the various Jurchen tribes under the Wanyan tribe's leadership, and overthrowing the Khitan-led Liao dynasty.[3] After Aguda's death, Wanyan Xiyin continued to serve as a civil minister in the imperial court of Wuqimai (Emperor Taizong), Aguda's younger brother and successor. However, he fell into disgrace during the reign of Emperor Xizong, Emperor Taizong's successor, and was eventually forced to commit suicide in 1140.[2]

According to contemporary Chinese sources, Wanyan Xiyin "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; 國). The people of the state called him shan-man (珊蠻); shan-man in Jurchen refers to a shaman. 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 term shaman (珊蠻) is attested; it corresponds to the Manchu saman ("shaman, sorcerer").[4]

Wanyan Xiyin was fascinated by Chinese classics, and collected a large library when Jurchens seized and looted the capital of the Northern Song dynasty, Bianjing (present-day Kaifeng), in the Jin–Song Wars. He invited several Han Chinese scholars, led by Yuwen Xuzhong (宇文虛中; a Song envoy detained by the Jurchens), to advise him and to teach his sons and grandsons. Hong Hao (洪皓) – another Song envoy similarly detained by the Jurchens – though that it was under Yuwen Xuzhong's influence that a variety of Han Chinese cultural practices entered the Jin dynasty, such as the forms of government organisations, 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 Xuzhong and other Han Chinese scholars must have been successful, as Wanyan Xiyin's sons were able to write Chinese poems for Hong Hao. The degree of their sinicisation was high enough for one of them to become one of the first Jurchens to have a Han Chinese wife.[5]

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

Jurchen script[edit]

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 Khitan script.

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) (in Chinese)
  • 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.