Emperor An of Jin

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Emperor An of Jin : biography

382 – 419

Emperor An of Jin (Simplified Chinese character: 晋安帝, Traditional Chinese character: 晉安帝, Pinyin Jìn Āndì, Wade-Giles Chin An-ti) (382–419), personal name Sima Dezong (司馬德宗), was an emperor of the Eastern Jin Dynasty (265-420) in China. He was described as so developmentally disabled that he was unable to speak, clothe himself, or be able to express whether he was hungry or full. He was created crown prince in 387 and ascended the throne in 397. Because of his disability, the actual power was controlled by his uncle, Sima Daozi the Prince of Kuaiji. During his reign, regents and warlords dominated the Jin regime. Revolts by various governors also ravaged the land. From 398 to 403, there were constant revolts and civil war campaigns. In 403, the Jin regime was usurped by the warlord Huan Xuan, and while Emperor An was restored in 404, the Jin Dynasty was nearing its end. With the warlord Liu Yu as the actual power, Jin destroyed Southern Yan and Later Qin, greatly expanding its territory. However, with Liu Yu up in the north, the renegade governor of Guang Province (廣州, modern Guangdong and Guangxi), Lu Xun, rebelled and threatened the capital city Jiankang, before Liu Yu returned and crushed the revolt. In 419, Emperor An was strangled under the order of Liu Yu and replaced with his brother Emperor Gong, who would be the last emperor of the dynasty, before Liu Yu would take the throne and establish the Liu Song Dynasty.

Under Sima Daozi’s regency

Sima Daozi, as regent, was constantly drunk and greatly trusted Wang Guobao (王國寶) and Wang Xu (王緒) because of their flattery, and his regency quickly developed a reputation for being corrupt and incompetent. The provincial governor Wang Gong (王恭), whom Emperor Xiaowu entrusted with the armies of the northeastern part of the empire, considered starting a rebellion to overthrow Wang Guobao and Wang Xu. In 397, Wang Guobao and Wang Xu suggested to Sima Daozi that the armies that Wang Gong and another provincial governor, Yin Zhongkan (殷仲堪), were in charge of be reduced; Wang Gong and Yin, who was in command of the western provinces, in response, mobilized their forces and declared that Wang Guobao and Wang Xu should be executed. Sima Daozi, in fear, forced Wang Guobao to commit suicide and executed Wang Xu. Wang Gong and Yin then retreated. From this point on, Sima Daozi trusted no one but his teenage heir apparent, Sima Yuanxian, and entrusted the capital guards to Sima Yuanxian. He also gave military commands to his distant relatives Sima Shangzhi (司馬尚之) the Prince of Qiao and Sima Shangzhi’s brother Sima Xiuzhi, as well as Wang Yu (王愉), in 398.

The giving of a military command to Wang Yu oddly drew a reaction from Wang Gong and Yin—as Wang Yu’s command included four commanderies originally under the command of Yu Kai (庾楷), who became angry and managed to persuade Wang Gong and Yin that Sima Daozi’s intention was to act against them as well. They therefore rose again, but Sima Daozi was able to persuade Wang Gong’s general Liu Laozhi (劉牢之), who was in command of the elite Beifu Forces (北府兵), to suddenly turn against Wang Gong, capturing and executing him. Yin, hearing of Wang Gong’s death, was in fear but considered proceeding anyway—and Sima Daozi, under suggestion by Huan Xuan’s cousin Huan Xiu (桓脩), managed to cause dissension between Yin and his generals Huan Xuan and Yang Quanqi (楊佺期) by offering Huan and Yang key posts; although Huan and Yang nominally remained Yin’s allies, Yin was forced to withdraw his troops, and from that point on no longer posed a major threat, as his domain had now been divided into three, with Huan and Yang each given a third.

In late 398, the magician Sun Tai (孫泰), a friend of Sima Yuanxian’s, who had gathered great following due to his magic, was exposed as planning a plot to take over the central government, and Sima Daozi ordered Sima Yuanxian to trap Sun Tai and execute him. Sun Tai’s nephew Sun En fled to Zhoushan Island and planned revenge.

In summer 399, Sima Yuanxian, wanting even greater power, took an opportunity when his father was very drunk to have Emperor An issue an edict transferring Sima Daozi’s authorities to Sima Yuanxian. When Sima Daozi awoke from his stupor, he was enraged, but after that point his power became extremely limited, even though he nominally remained regent.