Neha Patil (Editor)

Di (Five Barbarians)

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The Di (Chinese: ; pinyin: ; Wade–Giles: Ti1; Old Chinese: *tˁij) were an ancient ethnic group that lived in western China, and are best known as one of the non-Han Chinese peoples that overran northern China during the Jin Dynasty (265–420) and the Sixteen Kingdoms period. This ethnic group should not be confused with the Dí 狄, which refers to unrelated nomadic peoples in northern China during the earlier Zhou Dynasty. The Di are thought to have been of proto-Tibetan origin, though there is a widespread belief among Chinese scholars that the Di have spoken an Altaic (specifically Turkic) language.


The Di lived in areas of the present-day provinces of Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan and Shaanxi, and are culturally related to the Qiang. While the Qiang were herders who lived in the highlands, the Di farmed in the river valleys and lived in wood frame homes with mud walls. They might be related to the Geji (戈基) people in Qiang people stories. During the 4th and early 5th centuries, they established Former Qin and Later Liang states of that era's Sixteen Kingdoms. The Di were eventually assimilated into other populations. The modern Baima people living in southeast Gansu and northwest Sichuan may be descended from the Di.

Only a few special Di names and place names preserved in old Chinese books. They may be a language isolate, a Qiang language or a Burmese language.

Political history

During the Jin Dynasty, the five semi-nomadic tribes of Xiongnu, Jie, Xianbei, Di, and Qiang overran northern China. Historians call this period the Sixteen Kingdoms. During that period, Di ruled the states of Former Qin (351-394) and Later Liang (386-403).

The tribe of Di was originally from the southern part of Gansu Province. Its leader was Fu Jian, who founded the Former Qin Kingdom (351-394). He established his capital in Chang'an. 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 (307-370) and Former Liang (345-376). 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 Jin Dynasty (317-420).

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 the Fei River in Anhui. The Jin Army of only about eighty thousand strong were under the command of Xie Shi (謝石) and Xie Xuan. They camped near the river, and the battle is known as the Battle of Fei River. 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 (384-417). 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 394 the Kingdom of Former Qin was conquered by the Kingdom of Later Qin. The Former Qin lasted for only 44 years.

Common surnames used by the Di

  • Li (李) family of Cheng Han
  • Fu (符) family of Former Qin
  • Lü (呂) family of Former Qin
  • Lü (呂) family of Later Liang
  • Yang (楊) family of Chouchi
  • References

    Di (Five Barbarians) Wikipedia

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