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Southern and Northern Dynasties

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At the end of the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420), many opposing regimes appeared simultaneously all over the country. During that time, China separated into south and north factions. It was in this era when China's society witnessed the rise and fall of several different dynasties.

In the south, there were four successive regimes, the Song, the Qi, the Liang and the Chen over a 170-year period. All these regimes established their capital in Jiankang (present Nanjing City); so, together they are known as the Southern Dynasties (420-589).

By the end of the turmoil of the Sixteen States period, the Xianbei, a nomadic tribe coming from the north, had grown in strength. In 386, the chief of the Xianbei tribe founded the Beiwei regime now referred to as the Northern Wei Kingdom. In 439, the Beiwei Kingdom unified the area north of the Yellow River and established its capital in Pingcheng (the present Datong in Shanxi Province) opposing the Southern Dynasties.

Later the Beiwei Kingdom transferred the capital to the present Luoyang. The emperor Xiaowen then actively promoted the Han culture and encouraged intermarriage between the Xianbei and Han peoples resulting in an amalgamation of the different nationalities.

Unfortunately, the Xianbei aristocrats objected to the adoption of the Han culture. Subsequent conflicts between the Xianbei ruling class and the Han aristocrats intensified upon the death of Emperor Xiaowen. Soon, the Beiwei regime divided to become the Dongwei (the Eastern Wei Kingdom), the Xiwei (the Western Wei Kingdom), the Beiqi (the Northern Qi Kingdom) and the Beizhou (the Northern Zhou Kingdom). Together with the former Beiwei regime, the five regimes formed the Northern Dynasties (439-581).

This situation lasted until 581 when the heir to the throne was ousted by his grandfather General Yang Jian. Yang founded the Sui Dynasty (581-618) and ruled as Emperor Wendi (581-604) following unification of the whole country. 

During the period of the Southern and Northern Dynasties, the confrontation between different regimes impeded social development. This was to change upon the amalgamation of different nationalities. The Beiwei Kingdom economy made great progress under Emperor Xiaowen's reform. He initiated the Equally Divided Field System. This enhanced agricultural productivity while facilitating the levying of taxes. It laid a foundation to the further economic development in the area of South China. 

Literature saw a rapid development during the Southern and Northern Dynasties. Parallel prose is the representative literature form of the Southern Dynasty, which concentrated on rhythm and diction and often broke away from real life. The literature works of the Northern Dynasty were likely to close to real life.

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