Di (ethnic group)

Di (ethnic group)

The Di (Chinese: ; pinyin: ; Wade–Giles: Ti3) were an ethnic group in China from the 8th century BCE to approximately the middle of the 6th century CE. Note that the character Di (氐) is used to differentiate this group from the Beidi (北狄), a generic term for "northern barbarians".[citation needed] They lived in areas of the present-day provinces of Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan and Shaanxi. During the 4th and early 5th centuries, they established Former Qin and Later Liang states of that era's Sixteen Kingdoms. They were traditional horse animal husbandry nomads, semi-nomadic shepherds, and goatherds living on the Tibet/Sichuan frontier.[1]

The Di were eventually assimilated into other populations. The modern Baima (Ch. White Horse) people living in southeast Gansu and northwest Sichuan maybe descended from the Di. Genetic evidence of the Di can also be found in one of the Sichuan ethnic minorities.


Political history

Pre-Imperial time

According to legend the ancestors of Zhou dynasty lived among the Rong and Di for fourteen generations, until Gu Gong Danfu led then away to the mid-Wei River valley where they built their capital near Mount Qi (before 1107BC). In 676-651 Duke Xian of Jin conquered a number of Rong and Di groups. In 662 the Di drove the Rong out of Taiyuan. In 662-659 the state of Xing was nearly destroyed by the Chi Di (Red Di) until it was rescued by Qi. In 660BC the Chi Di took the capital of Wey and killed its king, but were driven out by Qi. From 660 to 507 Jin fought many wars with the Di, destroying Chi Di state of Lu in 594, 'subjugating' them in 541 and being severely defeated by the Xianyu Di in 507. In 640 the Di were allied with Qi and Xing against Wey and in 636 the Di helped the Zhou king against the state of Cheng. In 531 Jin attacked the Xianyu and Fei. By about 400 BCE most of the Di and Rong had been eliminated as independent polities. Zhongshan was conquered by Wei in 406, regained its independence in 377 and was conquered by Zhou in 295. Circa 283-265 Tian Dan fought with Di who seem to have lived within the area of the Chinese states.

Late Antique period

During the Jin Dynasty (晉朝 265-420 AD), the five semi-nomadic tribes of Xiongnu (匈奴), Jie (羯), Xianbei (鮮卑), Di (氐), and Qiang (羌) overran northern China. This was the period of what the historians called "The Five Barbarians and the Sixteen Kingdoms" (Wu Hu 五胡十六國). During that period, Di ruled the states of Former Qin (351-394) and Later Liang (386-403).

The tribe of Di (氐) was originally from the southern part of Gansu province (甘肅省). Its leader was Fu Jian (符堅), who founded the Former Qin Kingdom (前秦王國 351-394 AD). He established his capital in Changan (長安 the present day city of Xian 西安市 in Shaanxi province 陜西省). He appointed Wang Meng (王猛), a Han-Chinese, to be his Prime Minister. He built a highly Sinicized administration and formed a strong Han-Chinese infantry army to accompany his Di cavalry.

In 370 AD, Fu Jian conquered the Kingdoms of Former Yan (前燕王國, 307-370) and Former Liang (前涼王國 345-376AD). As a result, Fu Jian occupied the whole of northern China. He then embarked upon a plan to conquer southern China which was under the Eastern Qin Dynasty (東晉朝, 317AD-420AD).

In 383 AD, Fu Jian led an army of about a million strong marching south with the intention of destroying the Eastern Jin. He met the Jin's main forces at Feishui (Fei River 肥水) in Anhui (安徽省) province. The Jin Army of only about eighty thousand strong were under the command of Xie Shi (謝石) and Xie Xuan (謝玄). They camped near the river, [2] and the battle is known as the Battle of Fei. Fu Jian's campaign to conquer the south ended in disaster and his empire fell apart. He retreated to his capital of Changan, left his son Fu Pi (符丕) in charge of the capital, and returned to his home base in southern Gansu province to find new recruits from his own Di people. While on his way, Fu Jian was captured by the soldiers of the hostile Kingdom of Later Qin (後秦王國 384-417AD). He was later hanged by the ruler of Later Qin. His son, Fu Pi, became a new ruler of the Kingdom of Former Qin. In 394AD the Kingdom of Earlier Qin was conquered by the Kingdom of Later Qin. The Former Qin lasted for only 44 years.



  • Jin shu Xie Xuan Chuan: 晉書謝玄傳: Wen feng sheng he lei, jie yi wei wang shi [聞風聲鶴唳,皆以為王師]
  1. ^ Keay, John (2009). China - A History. Harper Collins. ISBN 9780007221783.  p. 209
  2. ^ Map from the Education Department of Hong Kong[dead link]

See also

External links

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