Jin dynasty (265–420)
The Jin dynasty or the Jin Empire (. It was founded by Sima Yan, son of Sima Zhao, who himself was made the King of Jin and posthumously declared one of the founders of the dynasty, along with his older brother, Sima Shi, father, Sima Yi, it followed the Three Kingdoms period, which ended with the conquest of Eastern Wu by Jin, culminating in the reunification of China. There are two main divisions in the history of the dynasty; the Western Jin was established as a successor state to Cao Wei after Sima Yan usurped the throne, had its capital at Luoyang and Chang'an. The rebels and invaders began to establish new self-proclaimed states along the Yellow River valley in 304, inaugurating the "Sixteen Kingdoms" era; these states began fighting each other and the Jin Empire, leading to the second division of the dynasty, the Eastern Jin, when Sima Rui moved the capital to Jiankang. The Eastern Jin dynasty was overthrown by Liu Yu and replaced with the Liu Song in 420. Under the Wei, who dominated the northern parts of China during the Three Kingdoms period, the Sima clan—with its most accomplished individual being Sima Yi—rose to prominence after the 249 coup d'état.
After Sima Yi's death, his eldest son, Sima Shi, kept a tight grip on the political scene, after his own death, his younger brother, Sima Zhao, assisted his clans' interests by further suppressing rebellions and dissent, as well as recovering all of Shu and capturing Liu Shan in 263. His ambitions for the throne remain proverbial in Chinese, but he died in 265 before he could rise higher than a King of Jin, a title named for the Zhou-era marchland and duchy around Shaanxi's Jin River; the Jin dynasty was founded in AD 266 by Sima Yan, posthumously known as Emperor Wu. He forced Cao Huan's abdication but permitted him to live in honor as the Prince of Chenliu and buried him with imperial ceremony; the Jin dynasty united the country. The period of unity was short-lived as the state was soon weakened by corruption, political turmoil, internal conflicts. Sima Yan's son Zhong, posthumously known as Emperor Hui, was developmentally disabled. Conflict over his succession in 290 expanded into the devastating War of the Eight Princes.
The weakened dynasty was engulfed by the Uprising of the Five Barbarians and lost control of northern China. Large numbers of Chinese fled south from the Central Plains; the Jin capital Luoyang was captured by Xiongnu King Liu Cong in 311. Sima Chi, posthumously known as Emperor Huai, was captured and executed, his successor Sima Ye, posthumously known as Emperor Min, was captured at Chang'an in 316 and later executed. The remnants of the Jin court fled to the south-east, reestablishing their government at Jiankang within present-day Nanjing, Jiangsu. Sima Rui, the prince of Langya, was enthroned in 318; the rival northern states, who denied the legitimacy of his succession, sometimes referred to his state as "Langya". At first, the southerners were resistant to the new ruler from the north; the circumstances obliged the Emperors of Eastern Jin to depend on both local and refugee gentry clans, the latter convinced the former of the emperor enjoying high prestige by showing superficial respect to Rui, the pinnacle of menfa politics, Several immigrated gentry clans were active and they grasped the national affairs: Wang clans from Langya and Taiyuan, Xie clan from Chenliu, Huan clan from Qiao Commandery, Yu clan from Yingchuan.
The Emperors of Eastern Jin had limited power. There was a prevalent remark that "王與（司）馬，共天下" among the people, it is said that when Emperor Yuan was holding court, he invited Dao to sit by himself accepting jointly the congratulations from ministers, but Dao declined it. The local gentry clans were at odds with the immigrants; as such, tensions increased. Two of the biggest local clans: Zhou clan from Yixing and Shen clan from Wuxing's ruin was a bitter blow from which they never quite recovered. Moreover, there was a conflict among the immigrated clans' interests. Although there was a stated goal of recovering the "lost northern lands", paranoia within the royal family and a constant string of disruptions to the throne caused the loss of support among many officials. Military crises—including the rebellions of the generals Wang Dun and Su Jun, but lesser fangzhen revolts—plagued the Eastern Jin throughout its 104 years of existence. Special "commanderies of immigrants" and "white registers" were created for the massive amounts of Han Chinese from the north who moved to the south during the Eastern Jin dynasty.
The southern Chinese aristocrac
The Sui dynasty was a short-lived imperial dynasty of China of pivotal significance. The Sui unified the Northern and Southern dynasties and reinstalled the rule of ethnic Chinese in the entirety of China proper, along with sinicization of former nomadic ethnic minorities within its territory, it was succeeded by the Tang dynasty, which inherited its foundation. Founded by Emperor Wen of Sui, the Sui dynasty capital was Chang'an and Luoyang. Emperors Wen and Yang undertook various centralized reforms, most notably the equal-field system, intended to reduce economic inequality and improve agricultural productivity, they spread and encouraged Buddhism throughout the empire. By the middle of the dynasty, the newly unified empire entered a golden age of prosperity with vast agricultural surplus that supported rapid population growth. A lasting legacy of the Sui dynasty was the Grand Canal. With the eastern capital Luoyang at the center of the network, it linked the west-lying capital Chang'an to the economic and agricultural centers of the east towards Hangzhou, to the northern border near modern Beijing.
While the pressing initial motives were for shipment of grains to the capital, for transporting troops and military logistics, the reliable inland shipment links would facilitate domestic trades, flow of people and cultural exchange for centuries. Along with the extension of the Great Wall, the construction of the eastern capital city of Luoyang, these mega projects, led by an efficient centralized bureaucracy, would amass millions of conscripted workers from the large population base, at heavy cost of human lives. After a series of costly and disastrous military campaigns against Goguryeo, one of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, ended in defeat by 614, the dynasty disintegrated under a series of popular revolts culminating in the assassination of Emperor Yang by his ministers in 618; the dynasty, which lasted only thirty-seven years, was undermined by ambitious wars and construction projects, which overstretched its resources. Under Emperor Yang, heavy taxation and compulsory labor duties would induce widespread revolts and brief civil war following the fall of the dynasty.
The dynasty is compared to the earlier Qin dynasty for unifying China after prolonged division. Wide-ranging reforms and construction projects were undertaken to consolidate the newly unified state, with long-lasting influences beyond their short dynastic reigns. Towards the late Northern and Southern dynasties, the Northern Zhou conquered the Northern Qi in 577 and reunified northern China, The century trend of gradual conquest of the southern dynasties of the Han Chinese by the northern dynasties, which were ruled by ethnic minority Xianbei, would become inevitable. By this time, the founder of the Sui dynasty, Yang Jian, an ethnic Han Chinese, became the regent to the Northern Zhou court, his daughter was the Empress Dowager, her stepson, Emperor Jing of Northern Zhou, was a child. After crushing an army in the eastern provinces, Yang Jian usurped the throne to become Emperor Wen of Sui. While the Duke of Sui when serving at the Zhou court, where the character "Sui 隨" means "to follow" and implies loyalty, Emperor Wen created the unique character "Sui", morphed from the character of his former title, as the name of his newly founded dynasty.
In a bloody purge, he had fifty-nine princes of the Zhou royal family eliminated, yet became known as the "Cultured Emperor". Emperor Wen reclaimed his Han surname of Yang. Having won the support of Confucian scholars who held power in previous Han dynasties, Emperor Wen initiated a series of reforms aimed at strengthening his empire for the wars that would reunify China. In his campaign for southern conquest, Emperor Wen assembled thousands of boats to confront the naval forces of the Chen dynasty on the Yangtze River; the largest of these ships were tall, having five layered decks and the capacity for 800 non-crew personnel. They were outfitted with six 50-foot-long booms that were used to swing and damage enemy ships, or to pin them down so that Sui marine troops could use act-and-board techniques. Besides employing Xianbei and other Chinese ethnic groups for the fight against Chen, Emperor Wen employed the service of people from southeastern Sichuan, which Sui had conquered. In 588, the Sui had amassed 518,000 troops along the northern bank of the Yangtze River, stretching from Sichuan to the East China Sea.
The Chen dynasty could not withstand such an assault. By 589, Sui troops entered the last emperor of Chen surrendered; the city was razed to the ground, while Sui troops escorted Chen nobles back north, where the northern aristocrats became fascinated with everything the south had to provide culturally and intellectually. Although Emperor Wen was famous for bankrupting the state treasury with warfare and construction projects, he made many improvements to infrastructure during his early reign, he established granaries as sources of food and as a means to regulate market prices from the taxation of crops, much like the earlier Han dynasty. The large agricultural surplus supported rapid growth of population to a historical peak, only surpassed at the zenith of the Tang Dynasty more than a century later; the state capital of Chang'an, while situated in the militarily secure heartland of Guanzhong, was remote from the economic centers to the east and south of the empire. Emperor Wen in
The Northern Wei or the Northern Wei Empire known as the Tuoba Wei, Later Wei, or Yuan Wei, was a dynasty founded by the Tuoba clan of the Xianbei, which ruled northern China from 386 to 534 AD, during the period of the Southern and Northern Dynasties. Described as "part of an era of political turbulence and intense social and cultural change", the Northern Wei Dynasty is noted for unifying northern China in 439: this was a period of introduced foreign ideas, such as Buddhism, which became established. During the Taihe period of Emperor Xiaowen, court advisers instituted sweeping reforms and introduced changes that led to the dynasty moving its capital from Datong to Luoyang, in 494; the Tuoba renamed themselves the Han people surname Yuan as a part of systematic Sinicization. Towards the end of the dynasty there was significant internal dissension resulting in a split into Eastern Wei and Western Wei. Many antiques and art works, both Taoist art and Buddhist art, from this period have survived.
It was the time of the construction of the Yungang Grottoes near Datong during the mid-to-late 5th century, towards the latter part of the dynasty, the Longmen Caves outside the capital city of Luoyang, in which more than 30,000 Buddhist images from the time of this dynasty have been found. The Jin Dynasty had developed an alliance with the Tuoba against the Xiongnu state Han Zhao. In 315 the Tuoba chief was granted the title of the Prince of Dai. After the death of its founding prince, Tuoba Yilu, the Dai state stagnated and remained a partial ally and a partial tributary state to Later Zhao and Former Yan falling to Former Qin in 376. After Former Qin's emperor Fu Jiān was defeated by Jin forces at the Battle of Fei River in his failed bid to unify China, the Former Qin state began to break apart. By 386, Tuoba Gui, the son of Tuoba Shiyijian, reasserted Tuoba independence as the Prince of Dai, he changed his title to the Prince of Wei, his state was therefore known as Northern Wei. In 391, Tuoba Gui defeated the Rouran tribes and killed their chief, forcing the Rouran to flee west.
Northern Wei was a vassal of Later Yan, but by 395 had rebelled and by 398 had conquered most of Later Yan territory north of the Yellow River. In 399 Tuoba Gui he declared himself Emperor Daowu, that title was used by Northern Wei's rulers for the rest of the state's history; that same year he defeated the Tiele tribes near the Gobi desert. Early in Northern Wei history, the state inherited a number of traditions from its initial history as a Xianbei tribe, some of the more unusual ones, from a traditional Chinese standpoint: The officials did not receive salaries, but were expected to requisition the necessities of their lives directly from the people they governed; as Northern Wei Empire's history progressed, this appeared to be a major contributing factor leading to corruption among officials. Not until the 2nd century of the empire's existence did the state begin to distribute salaries to its officials. Empresses were not named according to imperial favors or nobility of birth, but required that the candidates submit themselves to a ceremony where they had to forge golden statues, as a way of discerning divine favor.
Only an imperial consort, successful in forging a golden statue could become the empress. All men, regardless of ethnicity, were ordered to tie their hair into a single braid that would be rolled and placed on top of the head, have a cap worn over the head; when a crown prince is named, his mother, if still alive, must be forced to commit suicide. As a result, because emperors would not have mothers, they honored their wet nurses with the honorific title, "Nurse Empress Dowager"; as Sinicization of the Northern Wei state progressed, these customs and traditions were abandoned. Five families formed a neighborhood Five lin formed a village Five li formed a commune At each of these levels, leaders that were associated with the central government were appointed. In order for the state to reclaim dry, barren areas of land, the state further developed this system by dividing up the land according to the number of men of an age to cultivate it; the Sui and Tang Dynasties resurrected this system in the 7th century.
During the reign of Emperor Daowu, the total number of deported people from the regions east of Taihangshan to Datong was estimated to be around 460,000. Deportations took place once a new piece of territory had been conquered; as the Northern Wei state grew, the emperors' desire for Han Chinese institutions and advisors grew. Cui Hao, an advisor at the courts in Datong played a great part in this process, he introduced Han Chinese administrative methods and penal codes in the Northern Wei state, as well as creating a Taoist theocracy that lasted until 450. The attraction of Han Chinese products, the royal court's taste for luxury, the prestige of Chinese culture at the time, Taoism were all factors in the growing Chinese influence in the Northern Wei state. Chinese influence accelerated during the capital's move to Luoyang in 494 and Emperor Xiaowen continued this by establishing a policy of systematic sinicization, continued by his successors. Xianbei traditions were aba
Latter Deposed Emperor of Liu Song
The Latter Deposed Emperor of Liu Song known by posthumous demoted title of Prince of Cangwu, personal name Liu Yu, courtesy name Derong, nickname Huizhen, was an emperor of the Chinese dynasty Liu Song. During his brief reign as a boy emperor, he showed a knack for violence and arbitrariness, in 477 he was killed by his general Xiao Daocheng, who made Emperor Houfei's brother Liu Zhun emperor but seized the throne in 479, ending Liu Song and starting Southern Qi. Liu Yu was born in 463, when his father Liu Yu was the Prince of Xiangdong under his uncle Emperor Xiaowu, he was the oldest son of the Prince of Xiangdong, his mother was the concubine Chen Miaodeng. His courtesy name of Huizhen came from the I Ching, which the Prince of Xiangdong used extensively for divination. After the Prince of Xiangdong became emperor after the assassination of his nephew Emperor Qianfei in 465, he created Liu Yu crown prince in 466; as the Crown Prince grew, he was known as an overly active child who liked carrying out dangerous tasks, such as climbing flag poles, he had severe mood swings and was so impulsive that his attendants could not stop him from taking violent actions.
Emperor Ming had his mother Consort Chen beat him as punishment. In 470, Emperor Ming set up a separate household for the Crown Prince, as per tradition for crown princes. In 472, Emperor Ming died, Crown Prince Yu took the throne as Emperor Houfei at the age of nine, he honored Emperor Ming's wife Empress Wang Zhenfeng as empress dowager and his mother Consort Chen as "Consort Dowager." After Emperor Houfei ascended the throne, the government was technically in the hands of two high level officials whom Emperor Ming had entrusted Emperor Houfei to, Chu Yuan and Yuan Can. However, the close associates of Emperor Ming, led by Ruan Dianfu and Wang Daolong, continued to be powerful behind the scenes and influential, Chu and Yuan were unable to curb their powers. Chu and Yuan soon added Emperor Houfei's distant relative Liu Bing to their own rank to be involved in important decisions. In 473, Yuan's mother died, he left the government to observe the three-year mourning period. One crisis that Emperor Houfei's administration needed to deal with immediately was that Emperor Houfei's single remaining paternal uncle, Liu Xiufan the Prince of Guiyang and the governor of Jiang Province, was becoming displeased that he was not made prime minister, as the emperor's uncle.
In summer 474, Liu Xiufan declared a rebellion, accusing Wang Daolong and another associate of Emperor Ming, Yang Yunchang, of having wrongly instigated the death of Liu Xiuren the Prince of Jian'an and Liu Xiuruo the Prince of Baling. Taking lesson from past rebellions that had failed because they had proceeded too Liu Xiufan ordered his troops to advance on the capital Jiankang as as possible, it took only five days for them to arrive at Jiankang; the general Xiao Daocheng volunteered to face Liu Xiufan's forces, while Liu Xiufan's forces were able to prevail over Xiao's, the battles were not decisive. Meanwhile, Xiao was offered a plan of deception by his subordinates Huang Hui and Zhang Jing'er -- that they would pretend to surrender to Liu Xiufan and assassinate him, he agreed with it. Huang and Zhang pretended to surrender to Liu Xiufan, but took the opportunity to kill him. However, Liu Xiufan's troops were not aware that Liu Xiufan was dead, they continued fighting. Indeed, Liu Xiufan's general Ding Wenhao soon engaged and defeated the forces under Wang Daolong's and Liu Mian, killing Wang and Liu Mian, put the palace under siege.
Though, Ding's forces became aware that Liu Xiufan had died, began to collapse on their own. Xiao and Yuan Can defeated Liu Xiufan's remaining troops, ending the rebellion. In light of the victory, Xiao was promoted to be part of the decision-making nucleus, along with Yuan and Liu Bing. Meanwhile, Emperor Houfei had begun to develop a reputation of lacking in virtue; the people instead were hopeful that his cousin Liu Jingsu the Prince of Jianping, an adult and was considered a kind and generous man, could become emperor. Many army officers were hoping to join a rebellion by Liu Jingsu, while Yang Yunchang and Ruan Dianfu, who wanted to hold onto power, wanted to eliminate Liu Jingsu as a potential threat. In 475, they wanted to act on an accusation that Liu Jingsu was plotting rebellion and arrest him, but were stopped from doing so by Yuan and Xiao. In summer 476, one of the army officers, hopeful for a Liu Jingsu rebellion fled to Liu Jingsu's headquarters at Jingkou, falsely telling Liu Jingsu that Jiankang was in disarray and that he needed to proceed to Jiankang and take the throne.
Liu Jingsu therefore started his uprising. Meanwhile, Xiao sent Huang Hui to attack Liu Jingsu, Huang, while
Liu Song dynasty
The Song dynasty, better known as the Liu Song dynasty known as Former Song or Southern Song, was the first of the four Southern Dynasties in China, succeeding the Eastern Jin and followed by the Southern Qi. The dynasty was founded by Liu Yu, whose surname together with "Song" forms the common name for the dynasty, the Liu Song; this appellation is used to distinguish it from a dynasty of the same name, the Song dynasty. Although the Liu Song has at times been referred to as the "Southern Song", the name is now used to refer to the Song dynasty after 1127; the Liu Song was a time. A number of emperors were incompetent and/or tyrannical, which at least led to many military revolts; these rulers include Liu Shao, Emperor Xiaowu, Emperor Qianfei, Emperor Ming, Emperor Houfei. Emperor Ming was vicious, murdering a large number of his brothers and other male relatives — many of them children; such internal instability led to the dynasty's destruction. However, its founder Emperor Wu was considered one of the greatest generals during the Southern and Northern Dynasties period, the reign of its third emperor, Emperor Wen, is known for its political stability and capable administration, not only of its emperor but its strong and honest officials.
This is known as the Reign of Yuanjia and one of the relative golden ages for the Southern Dynasties. Note: Naming conventions of people and places in this article assume modern Mandarin pronunciation, known to not have bene spoken at that time. Therefore, all names are exonyms. A peasant of modest origins, Liu Yu joined the army at a young age and soon distinguished himself in the army and was promoted to the command of an army, the Beifu corps. Liu Yu was instrumental in fighting the rebel Huan Xuan. After Huan Xuan's fall, Liu Yu gained control of the Jin dynasty; the Han dynasty founder, Emperor Gaozu of Han's younger brother, Liu Jiao was an ancestor of Liu Yu. Regarded as one of the best generals of the Northern and Southern dynasties, Liu Yu started off by reclaiming much of the territory the Chinese had lost during the Sixteen Kingdoms era, he started off his career by conquering Southern Yan, which bordered Jin to the north and had adopted a policy of aggression and kidnapping citizens from the Jin.
By spring of 410, he had captured the southern Yan capital at Guanggu. Afterwards, he campaigned against western Shu in modern Sichuan. Using a brilliant military manoeuver mentioned in the Art of War, Liu Yu instructed his generals to attack the capital of Shu by the Min River rather than the short route by the Fu river. Surprising the Shu forces, he captured Chengdu and re-annexed that area back into Jin. Following the death of the Later Qin Emperor Yao Xin, Liu Yu attacked the state of Later Qin, which controlled the valuable lands of Guanzhong, lands which had once housed the capital of the Qin and Jin dynasties before the barbarian uprisings. After defeating the Later Qin army in several battles, as well as an army of Northern Wei troops which had crossed to assist the Later Qin, Liu Yu recaptured the vital cities of Chang'an and Luoyang, the former capitals of the Jin Empire, it is recorded that he engaged the Wei army by the use of spears launched by crossbows, panicking the Wei cavalry and allowing him to score a decisive victory.
After this success, it seemed that Jin would exterminate the remaining barbarian states in the north and reunify China. However, fortunes began to change for the Jin forces. Liu Mengzhi died and in order to secure his power, Liu Yu left for Jiankang, abandoning the management of the North to his general Wang Zhen'e. After his departure, the state of Xia attacked Guanzhong and reoccupied it, the loss of these lands prescribed Jin's frontier at the Yellow River. However, Jin retained Luoyang, as well as most of the Chinese heartland. Following his return to Jiankang, Liu Yu ended the rule of the Jin and became emperor himself in 420, establishing the Liu Song dynasty, he died in 422, was succeeded by the incompetent Shaodi, removed. His eventual successor would be Wendi. Under Emperor Wen, the Liu Song economy prospered during the rule of Yuanjia, a period noted for its prosperity in the 400 years of conflict between the Han and Tang dynasties; the emperor's diligence caused the Liu Song to prosper.
However, the emperor's martial abilities were not equal to his father, his inability to crush the remaining barbarian states allowed Northern Wei to complete the unification of the North, to the detriment of Liu Song. Afterwards, Northern Wei would remain a permanent threat to the Liu Song. Emperor Wen continued the campaigns of his father. In 422, the first year of his reign, he lost three commandries to the Wei. Under the able general Dao Yanzhi, Liu Song recovered the four cities of Luoyang, Hulao and Qiao'ao south of the Yellow River. However, the emperor's unwillingness to advance past this line caused the destruction of the empire's ally, Xia, by the Wei; the emperor was to repeat this mistake as several barbarian states who had offered to ally with Liu Song against Wei were declined leading to Wei's unification of the North in 439, to the detriment of the Chinese. Towards the part of his reign, Emperor Wen was less than able, he wrongfully executed the general Tan Daoji, who had hitherto commanded the Song armies, took charge himself.
The empire's decline was shown in 450, where the
The Eastern Wei followed the disintegration of the Northern Wei, ruled northern China from 534 to 550. As with Northern Wei, the ruling family of Eastern Wei were members of the Tuoba clan of the Xianbei. In 534 Gao Huan, the potentate of the eastern half of what was Northern Wei territory following the disintegration of the Northern Wei dynasty installed Yuan Shanjian a descendant of the Northern Wei as ruler of Eastern Wei. Yuan Shanjian was a puppet ruler. Several military campaigns were launched against the neighboring Western Wei in an attempt to reunify the territory once held by the Northern Wei, however these campaigns were not successful, in 547 Gao Huan died, his sons Gao Cheng and Gao Yang were able to pursue his policy of controlling the emperor, but in 550 Gao Yang deposed Yuan Shanjian and founded his own dynasty, the Northern Qi. The Buddhist art of the Eastern Wei displays a combination of Greco-Buddhist influences from Gandhara and Central Asia, together with Chinese artistic influences.
Book of Wei History of Northern Dynasties Zizhi Tongjian
Emperor Wu of Liang
Emperor Wu of Liang, personal name Xiao Yan, courtesy name Shuda, nickname Lian'er, was the founding emperor of the Liang Dynasty of Chinese history. His reign, until the end, was one of the most prosperous during the Southern Dynasties, he came from the same family that from a different branch. Emperor Wu created universities and extending the Confucian civil service exams, demanding that sons of nobles study, he was well wrote poetry and patronized the arts. Although for governmental affairs he was Confucian in values, he embraced Buddhism as well, he himself was attracted to many Indian traditions. He was against execution, it was said that he received the Buddhist precepts during his reign, earning him the nickname The Bodhisattva Emperor. The Emperor is the namesake of the Emperor Liang Jeweled Repentance, a read and major Buddhist text in China and Korea. At the end of his reign, his overly lenient attitude on his clan's and officials' corruption and lack of dedication to the state came at a heavy price.
Emperor Liang himself died while under house arrest, with some historians believing that Hou starved him to death. Xiao Yan was born during the reign of Emperor Xiaowu of Liu Song, his father Xiao Shunzhi, who claimed ancestry from the great Han Dynasty prime minister Xiao He, was a distant cousin of the Liu Song general Xiao Daocheng, was part of Xiao Daocheng's close circle of advisors in Xiao Daocheng's eventual seizure of the Liu Song throne and establishment of Southern Qi in 479. For Xiao Shunzhi's contributions, Xiao Daocheng created him the Marquess of Linxiang and made him a general. Xiao Yan was Xiao Shunzhi's third son, his mother was Xiao Shunzhi's wife Zhang Zhirou, the mother of his older brothers Xiao Yi and Xiao Fu, his younger brother Xiao Chang, his younger sister Xiao Linyi. Lady Zhang died in 471. Xiao Yan had six other brothers born of Xiao Shunzhi's concubines. One of them, Xiao Xiu is now remembered because of his comparatively well-preserved funerary statuary ensemble near Nanjing.
Around 481 or 482, Xiao Yan married Chi Hui, the daughter of the Liu Song official Chi Ye and the Princess Xunyang. She bore him three daughters—Xiao Yuyao, Xiao Yuwan, Xiao Yuhuan, but no sons. Xiao Yan was considered intelligent and handsome in his youth, he started his career as a Southern Qi official by serving as military assistant for Emperor Wu's son Xiao Zilun the Prince of Baling, served on the staff of the prime minister Wang Jian. Wang was said to be impressed by Xiao Yan's talents and appearance, he once said, "Mr. Xiao will be Shizhong before he turns 30, his honor will be innumerable after he turns 30." Xiao Yan associated with Wang's successor as prime minister, Emperor Wu's son Xiao Ziliang the Prince of Jingling, became one of eight young officials talented in the literary arts befriended by Xiao Ziliang—along with Fan Yun, Xiao Chen, Ren Fang, Wang Rong, Xie Tiao, Shen Yue, Lu Chui. After his father Xiao Shunzhi died in 490, he temporary left governmental service, but subsequently returned, by 493 was serving on Xiao Ziliang's staff, but he did not join Wang Rong's plan to start a coup to have Xiao Ziliang made emperor when Emperor Wu grew ill in 493.
Xiao Yan subsequently was invited by the prime minister Xiao Luan to serve on his staff, when Xiao Luan subsequently overthrew the frivolous Xiao Zhaoye in a coup, Xiao Yan was made a general and ordered to defend the important city Shouyang. When Xiao Luan took the throne, Xiao Yan was created the Baron of Jianyang. In 495, when Northern Wei forces invade, Xiao Yan was on the frontline fighting Northern Wei troops, he distinguished himself under the command of Wang Guangzhi; that year, when Emperor Ming suspected the general Xiao Chen of treason and executed him, it was Xiao Yan that he sent to arrest and executed Xiao Chen's brother Xiao Dan the governor of Si Province. In 497, with Northern Wei again attacking, Xiao Yan was one of the generals that Emperor Ming sent to aid the embattled Yong Province. Though both he and his commander, Cui Huijing, were subsequently defeated by Northern Wei forces in battle, in 498 Xiao Yan was made the governor of Yong Province and the defender of Yong Province's capital, the important city Xiangyang, he continued in that post after Emperor Ming's death and succession by his son Xiao Baojuan.
It was at Xiangyang that Xiao Yan's wife Chi Hui died in 499. Xiao Yan would not take another wife for the rest of his life, although he would have a number of concubines; when Xiao Baojuan became Southern Qi's emperor in 498 at age 15, his power was curbed by several high-level officials that his father Emperor Ming left in charge—including Emperor Ming's cousins Jiang Shi and Jiang Si, Xiao Baojuan's own uncle Liu Xuan, Xiao Baojuan's cousin Xiao Yaoguang the Prince of Shi'an, the senior official Xu Xiaosi, the general Xiao Tanzhi. The six officials each handled important matters o