During the Eastern Jin Dynasty [317-419 A.D.], there were several people who wanted to revolt, and one named Huan Wen was very ambitious because his martial skills and military strength were both very good. When a man possessed power, especially military power, he was apt to have ambitions of establishing his own territory so that he could feel like a king.
However, Huan Wen was not successful. Later on, his son, Huan Xuan, succeeded in usurping the throne from Emperor An of the Eastern Jin Dynasty. But it was not too long before he was defeated by another ambitious general, Liu Yu. In Chinese history in general, ever since the Jin Dynasty, or rather the Era of the Three Kingdoms, there had been ceaseless struggles to usurp or rebel against the ruling power. After Liu Yu seized power, his troops kept increasing in strength and he overthrew the Jin Dynasty and established a new country named Song.
There have been two Song dynasties in Chinese history. One was founded by the Liu family, and its first emperor was Liu Yu. The other Song Dynasty, which came right after the Tang Dynasty, was founded by the Zhao family, and its first emperor was Zhao Kuanyin. In order to distinguish these two Song dynasties, the one founded by Liu Yu is called Liu Song [420-479 A.D.] and the one founded by Zhao Kuanyin is called Zhao Song [960-1127 A.D.].
The Eastern Jin Dynasty was vanquished by Liu Yu's Song Dynasty. Liu Yu first dethroned the last two emperors of the Eastern Jin Dynasty, then plotted to kill both in order to finish the Eastern Jin Dynasty completely. All of these events happened during Tao Yuanming's lifetime. How did Tao Yuanming live through and react to such chaotic times?
In the various versions of Tao Yuanming's biography, there are differing accounts of his names and age in Chinese history. Tao Yuanming was born in the third year of the Xingning Reign Period of Emperor Ai during the Eastern Jin Dynasty (365 A. D.). Based on what documents do I say that he was born in that year? On Tao Yuanming's biography in the Book of Jin History. Later, the Eastern Jin Dynasty was overthrown by the new dynasty founded by Liu Yu. Tao Yuanming witnessed the perishing of the Jin Dynasty and lived till Emperor Wen of the Song Dynasty. Therefore, his biography also appears in the Book of the (Liu) Song History. In addition to these two books, the History of the South also has his biography.
The History of the South was so named because ever since the beginning of the Western Jin Dynasty, the northern part of China had been occupied by foreigners. There were the "Five Hu and Sixteen Kingdoms," as mentioned earlier. By the time of the Eastern Jin, only the area south of the Yangtze River was still under Han Chinese rule. The records of the few dynasties in southern China are named the History of the South.
The government of the Liu Song Dynasty, which followed the Eastern Jin, was also very corrupt. Thus, that dynasty and several subsequent ones were all very short-lived. If you can usurp others' country and power, I can also take yours away. Thus, after Liu Yu seized the throne from the emperor of the Eastern Jin Dynasty, Xiao Daocheng seized power from the Liu family and set up the Qi Dynasty. Later, Xiao Yan seized power from Qi Dynasty and founded the Liang Dynasty. The emperors of the Liang Dynasty also had the surname Xiao, but they were not the same as the Xiao family of the Qi Dynasty. Then, Chen Baxian took over Liang Dynasty and set up the Chen Dynasty.
Anyway, the dynasties Song, Qi, Liang, and Chen, were all very short because their governments were very unstable. Since these four dynasties were established in south China, people call them Southern Dynasties. Meanwhile, many foreign tribes were fighting each other in north China and setting up many dynasties, which people refer to as the Northern Dynasties. The History of the South records the history these small, brief dynasties, Song, Qi, Liang and Chen, in south China.
Tao Yuanming lived till Song Dynasty, the first of the Southern Dynasties. Therefore his biography was included in the Book of Jin History, the Book of Song History, and the History of the South. Based on these historical books, he died in the fourth year of the Yuanjia reign period of Emperor Wen. So he should have been 63 years old when he died. The Western date was 428 A. D., and subtracting 63 years gives 365 A.D. This conclusion is based on Tao Yuanming's biography in the Book of Song History. However, there are various views on how long Tao Yuanming actually lived. We choose the more reliable one in the Book of Song History. We are not discussing history today, so I can only talk about it briefly. As for the research on the verification, I will skip it today.
To be continued