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Xin dynasty


Xin dynasty
Xin dynasty
• 9–23
Wang Mang
• Wang Mang usurpation
10 January 9
• Chang'an captured
5 October 23
CurrencyChinese coin, gold, silver, tortoise shell, seashell
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Western Han dynasty
Eastern Han dynasty
Today part ofChina
North Korea

The Xin dynasty (/ʃɪn/; Chinese: 新朝; pinyin: Xīncháo; Wade–Giles: Hsin¹-chʻao²; literally: 'New dynasty') was a Chinese dynasty (termed so despite having only one monarch) which lasted from 9 to 23 CE. It is often considered an interregnum period of the Han dynasty, dividing it into the Western Han and the Eastern Han.


After the death of Emperor Wu of Han, the ruling family of the Han Empire was increasingly beset by factional struggles. As result, the power of the imperial clan declined.[1] In contrast, the Wang family grew powerful during the rule of Emperor Cheng of Han, and its leading member Wang Mang used his influence to act as regent for several young puppet emperors.[2][3] Rebellions against his de facto rule over the empire were crushed in 6 and 7.[4] Wang usurped the throne and officially proclaimed a new dynasty, the Xin, in 9 AD.[2][3] Though he enjoyed no great support among the empire's political class, Wang's ascension was generally tolerated because the Han had lost most of their prestige.[4] Regardless, much of the old bureaucracy and nobility was still loyal to the Han dynasty,[5] but these loyalists did not openly oppose the establishment of the Xin regime.[4]

In contrast, relations with the nomadic Xiongnu confederation quickly deteriorated, and the latter intended to intervene in China around 10/11. Wang responded by mobilizing 300,0000 soldiers along the northern border and prevented the Xiongu from invading China.[3] The continued disputes with the northern confederation resulted in Wang setting up a rival Xiongnu government in 19, while maintaining the great army at the border. This drained the Xin dynasty's resources, weakening its grip on the rest of the empire.[4] The new emperor also initiated several radical social and political reforms.[3] In order to limit the power of the noble families, and solve the empire's economic crisis, he redistributed land from the rich to those who owned nothing, introduced new taxes on slave owning, and replaced the gold currency with a bronze currency. The latter policy allowed the nearly-broke government to regain much-needed funds. Furthermore, Wang patronized education based on Confucianism, taking the Duke of Zhou as his model for a good ruler.[6] His policies were often not implemented by the old bureaucracy that resented his radical reforms.[5]

Rebellions during Wang Mang's reign

Wang's regime was also destabilized by several natural disasters, as the Yellow River changed course, resulting in massive floods. Plagues of locusts further worsened the situation, and widespread famines broke out.[4][3] The Xin dynasty's economic policies failed to solve the ensuing crisis,[7] and the desperate peasants in the eastern parts of the empire soon turned to banditry. The bandit groups grew in strength, and numbered tens of thousands of members by the 20s.[4] The most powerful factions along the Yellow River reorganized into rebel armies, known as the Red Eyebrows.[4][3] The insurgents allied with discontent nobles and descendants of the former imperial clan, resulting in a large-scale civil war by 19. Wang was forced to shift troops from other areas to deal with the Red Eyebrows, whereupon the Protectorate of the Western Regions was overrun by the Xiongnu.[3] Smaller rebellions broke out in other parts of China: The "Troops from the Lower Yangtze" operated along this river,[4] while two insurgent bands in Hubei were recruited by Han loyalists. Led by Liu Bosheng, they became known as the Lulin.[4][3]

As civil war engulfed the entire Xin Empire, Wang's loyalist armies fought hard to keep the rebels at bay. The Xin armies scored several victories, but were completely defeated by Han restorationist armies during the Battle of Kunyang in June–July 23.[4][3] Upon hearing of this event, the irregular militias of Zhuang Ben and Zhuang Chun captured Chang'an in October 23, plundering the capital and killing Wang Mang.[8] The various rebel armies subsequently fought each other to gain full control over the empire.[9] In 25, Liu Xu was crowned emperor in Luoyang.[4] The Red Eyebrows were defeated by Liu Xu's forces in 27,[10] and he also destroyed other rival claimants as well as separatist regimes such as Wang Lang's Zhao state, Gongsun Shu's Chengjia empire, and warlord Wei Ao in the northwest. By 37, the Han dynasty was fully restored.[11]

Even though the Xin dynasty was short-lived, its attempted reforms served as inspiration for later emperors.[7]


Personal name Portrait Period of reign Era names and dates
Wang Mang 9–23 AD

Shijianguo (始建國; Shǐ Jìan Guó; 'Start to establish a nation') 9–13 AD
Tianfeng (天鳳; Tīan Fèng; 'Heavenly Feng') 14–19 AD
Dihuang (地皇; Dì Huáng; 'Earthly Emperor') 20–23 AD


  1. ^ Perkins (1999), p. 568.
  2. ^ a b Perkins (1999), pp. 549, 568.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Peers (2006), p. 66.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k de Crespigny (2006), p. xvi.
  5. ^ a b Perkins (1999), pp. 549–550.
  6. ^ Perkins (1999), p. 549.
  7. ^ a b Perkins (1999), p. 550.
  8. ^ de Crespigny (2006), p. 1171.
  9. ^ Peers (2006), pp. 66–67.
  10. ^ Peers (2006), p. 67.
  11. ^ de Crespigny (2006), pp. xvi–xvii.

Works cited

  • Peers, C.J. (2006). Soldiers of the Dragon. Oxford: Osprey Publishing. ISBN 978-1-84603-098-7.
  • Perkins, Dorothy (1999). Encyclopedia of China: History and Culture. London; New York City: Routledge. ISBN 9781135935627.
  • de Crespigny, Rafe (2006). A Biographical Dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms (23–220 AD). BRILL. ISBN 978-90-474-1184-0.

Further reading