Jin, a State with Unparalleled Power

The Jin (晋) State was an important feudal state of the Spring-Autumn Period in modern-day Shanxi Province. This state developed from a small country to a large and powerful one by unceasing reforms and constant expansion. In the early days of the Warring-States Period, this great country divided into three separate countries, and each of these were strong states at that time.

The tomb of Xiefu, the first monarch of the Jin State

(The tomb of Xiefu, the first monarch of the Jin State. The picture was taken by Yike Jiang on October 27, 2017 in the Museum of the Jin State, which is located in Quwo, Shanxi Province.)

In the 11th Century BC, Zhou Cheng-King (周成王), the second king of the Western Zhou Dynasty, enfeoffed his younger brother Shuyu (叔虞) to the Tang (唐) State. Later, Xiefu (燮父), the son of Shuyu, was enfeoffed to the Jin State. In 745 BC, the state sank into turmoil. The young monarch Jin Zhao-Hou (晋昭侯) had to enfeoff his uncle Huanshu (桓叔) to Quwo (曲沃), which was the location of the ancestral temple of Jin’s ruling house. In 739 BC, Panfu (潘父), who got friendly with Huanshu, killed Zhao-Hou and wanted to admit Huanshu. But the people of Yi (翼, where was the capital of the Jin State) killed Panfu and supported Xiao-Hou (孝侯) to be a monarch. Later, there were a lot of armed conflicts between Quwo and Yi, and Yi was always at a disadvantage. Several monarchs of Yi were killed or expelled. In 679 BC, Jin-Hou Min (晋侯湣), the last monarch of Yi, who had reigned for twenty-eight years, finally lost all of his land. In 678 BC, Quwo Wu-Gong (曲沃武公), who was in the thirty-eighth year of his reign, now was acknowledged by Zhou Hui-King (周惠王) to become the monarch of the Jin State, so Quwo Wu-Gong was called Jin Wu-Gong (晋武公). At that time, the military strength of the Jin State was restricted to only one army by the king of Zhou. According to the system of the Zhou Dynasty, the Son of Heaven, who was the king of Zhou, could have six armies; the large states could have three armies; the medium states could have two armies; and the small states could only have one army.

Jade ornaments of the Jin State

(Jade ornaments of the Jin State. The picture was taken by Yike Jiang on October 27, 2017 in the Museum of the Jin State, which is located in Quwo, Shanxi Province.)

Wine containers of the Jin State

(Wine containers of the Jin State. The picture was taken by Yike Jiang on October 27, 2017 in the Museum of the Jin State, which is located in Quwo, Shanxi Province.)

A wine shaker of the Jin State

(A wine shaker of the Jin State. The picture was taken by Yike Jiang on October 27, 2017 in the Museum of the Jin State, which is located in Quwo, Shanxi Province.)

Chariot bells of the Jin State

(Chariot bells of the Jin State. The picture was taken by Yike Jiang on October 27, 2017 in the Museum of the Jin State, which is located in Quwo, Shanxi Province.)

The order of the king didn’t restrict the great ambition of Jin’s monarchs. In 661 BC, Jin Xian-Gong (晋献公), the son of Jin Wu-Gong, built two armies. He led the upper army (上军) and let his son lead the lower army (下军) (“upper” and “lower” showed locations, not ranks). They led the two armies to annex three states Geng (耿), Huo (霍), Wei (魏). In 655 BC, the Jin State annexed the Guo (虢) State and the Yu (虞) State. In 633 BC, Jin Wen-Gong (晋文公) built three armies. Xi Gu (郤縠) led the middle army (中军, “middle army” was the main force and the commander of this army also could command the other two armies), and Xi Qin (郤溱) assisted him; Hu Mao (狐毛) led the upper army, and Hu Yan (狐偃) assisted him; Luan Zhi (栾枝) led the lower army, and Xian Zhen (先轸) assisted him. In 632 BC, the Jin State allied with the Song (宋) State, the Qi (齐) State and the Qin (秦) State. At the same time, the Chu (楚) State allied the Chen (陈) State and the Cai (蔡) State. There was a fierce battle between the two alliances in the area called Pu (濮). Chu State was defeated, and the commander Ziyu (子玉) who was the prime minister of Chu State killed himself. During the winter, Jin Wen-Gong convened a meeting of states in the city Wen (温). He dispatched messengers to request Zhou King to come to this city for the audience of monarchs. This didn’t accord with proprieties, but Jin Wen-Gong was admitted to be the leader of feudal states. In 629 BC, Jin Wen-Gong built five armies for resisting the Di (狄) Nation. In 588 BC, Jin Jing-Gong (晋景公) built six armies. The six armies included the middle army, the upper army, the lower army, the new middle army, the new upper army and the new lower army. In 560 BC, the new middle army was merged into the lower army, because the suitable commander of the new middle army wasn’t found. In 541 BC, in the battle of Taiyuan (大原) against the Di Nation, Jin’s armies abandoned using chariots and used infantries. They defeated the allied armies of Di’s tribes utterly.

A sacrificial pit of chariots and horses of the Jin State

(A sacrificial pit of chariots and horses of the Jin State. The picture was taken by Yike Jiang on October 27, 2017 in the Museum of the Jin State, which is located in Quwo, Shanxi Province.)

Various kinds of chariots of the Jin State

(Various kinds of chariots of the Jin State. The picture was taken by Yike Jiang on October 27, 2017 in the Museum of the Jin State, which is located in Quwo, Shanxi Province.)

Various kinds of chariots of the Jin State

(Various kinds of chariots of the Jin State. The picture was taken by Yike Jiang on October 27, 2017 in the Museum of the Jin State, which is located in Quwo, Shanxi Province.)

The Jin State defeated the Chu Sate, the Qin State and the Qi State by several battles and became the strongest country. In the later stage of the Spring-Autumn Period, the troops of the Jin State were equipped with four thousand chariots.

Since the reign of Jin Xian-Gong, in order to stabilize the power, the monarchs of Jin had always weakened the members of their clan and deserted their sons except the only heir. They preferred to give privileges to important ministers. The families of some ministers got stronger and stronger, and the conflicts between them and monarchs were inescapable. Jin Li-Gong (晋厉公) tried to strengthen his power, and his followers killed three ministers of the Xi (郤) family. Luan Shu (栾书) and Zhonghang Yan (中行偃), who were the leaders of two strong families, were also captured, but the monarch became soft-hearted and released them. Soon he was killed by the two men. When Jin Dao-Gong (晋悼公) who was the brother of Li-Gong ruled Jin State, ministers obeyed him because of his good qualities of leadership. However, his descendants became more and more marginal. In the last days of the Spring-Autumn Period, Zhi Yao (知瑶) held the power of the Jin State. Because of his greed, he was killed and his family was eliminated by three families Zhao (赵), Han (韩) and Wei (魏). The three families divided the Jin State into three parts, and each of them controlled a part. They only left two cities Jiang (绛) and Quwo to their nominal monarch. In 403 BC, the heads of the three families were acknowledged to be the monarchs of three states by Zhou Weilie-King (周威烈王). In 376 BC, the three states Zhao, Han and Wei deposed the last monarch of the Jin State, and the Jin State eventually ceased to exist.

Statues in the Museum of the Jin State

(Statues in the Museum of the Jin State. The picture was taken by Yike Jiang on October 27, 2017 in the Museum of the Jin State, which is located in Quwo, Shanxi Province.)

The legacies of the Jin State were so rich that Zhao, Han and Wei all were strong countries in the early days of the Warring-States Period. The Wei State was once the strongest country, because what it got from the Jin State was most plentiful. The monarchs of Wei regarded themselves as the successors of the Jin State, so they called their state Jin. And a monarch said, “Jin, a state with unparalleled power!”

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