Southern and Northern Dynasties: 420 AD – 588 AD
After the Eastern Jin Dynasty, things start to get fairly confusing. The country was divided into two distinct parts, north and south, with individual small dynasties in each. The big families lost a lot of their power during this time and could no longer affect state matters. The great thinkers were given a favourable status and had important jobs and the Emperors took overall control once again.
General Liu Yu, who claimed to be a Han, took power in the southern region. There were four southern dynasties, Song, Qi, Liang and Chen all of which consisted of Han people.
One of the nomadic northern tribes, the Xianbei, took control of the north in 386 and began the Northern Wei Dynasty. Their empire covered the whole area north of the Yellow River. In 471, Emperor Xiaowen of the Wei moved the capital to Luoyang and promoted the Han culture. Everyone had to speak their language and dress like them and intermarriage was encouraged. He adopted the Han’s fair land policy and employed Han officials where he could. This wasn’t popular with the Xianbei nobility. After his death, all his reforms were thrown out which initiated conflict between the Xianbei and Han aristocrats. The Northern Wei empire was split into the Eastern Wei (later Northern Qi) and Western Wei (later Northern Zhou). In 577 the Zhou conquered the Qi and four years later one of the Northern Zhou seized the throne and started the Sui Dynasty.