Heqin (Chinese: 和親; pinyin: Héqīn; Wade–Giles: Ho-ch'in; literally: "peace marriage"), or marriage alliance, refers to the historical practice of Chinese emperors marrying princesses, usually members of minor branches of the royal family, to rulers of neighbouring states. It was often adopted as an appeasement strategy with an enemy state that was too powerful to defeat on the battlefield. The policy was not always effective. It implied an equal diplomatic status between the Chinese emperor and the foreign ruler. As a result, it was controversial and had many critics.
Lou Jing (Chinese: 娄敬, later granted the royal surname Liu), the architect of the policy, proposed granting the eldest daughter of Emperor Gaozu of Han to the Modu Chanyu of the Xiongnu. His proposal was adopted and implemented with a treaty in 198 BCE, following the Battle of Baideng two years prior. Wang Zhaojun, of the Han dynasty, and Princess Wencheng, of the Tang dynasty, are among the most famous heqin princesses. Heqin was never again practiced by any Han Chinese dynasty after the Tang.
The 20th-century scholar Wang Tonglin praised heqin for facilitating the "melting of races" in China.
There were a total of fifteen instances of heqin marriage alliances during the Han Dynasty.200 BCE: Emperor Gaozu of Han marries a Han "princess" to Xiongnu chieftain Modu Chanyu. This is the first recorded incidence of heqin marriage in Chinese history.
192 BCE: Emperor Hui of Han marries another Han "princess" to Xiongnu chieftain Modu Chanyu.
176 BCE: Emperor Wen of Han marries a third Han "princess" to Xiongnu chieftain Modu Chanyu.
174 BCE: Emperor Wen of Han marries a Han "princess" to Xiongnu chieftain Laoshang Chanyu. She brings a Yan eunuch named Zhonghang Yue with her to be her tutor.
162 BCE: Emperor Wen of Han marries another Han "princess" to Xiongnu chieftain Laoshang Chanyu.
160 BCE: Emperor Wen of Han marries a Han "princess" to Xiongnu chieftain Gunchen Chanyu.
156 BCE: Emperor Jing of Han marries another Han "princess" to Xiongnu chieftain Gunchen Chanyu.
155 BCE: Emperor Jing of Han marries a third Han "princess" to Xiongnu chieftain Gunchen Chanyu.
152 BCE: Emperor Jing of Han marries a fourth Han "princess" to Xiongnu chieftain Gunchen Chanyu.
140 BCE: Emperor Wu of Han marries a Han "princess" to Xiongnu chieftain Gunchen Chanyu.
108 BCE: Emperor Wu of Han marries Princess Liu Xijun (劉細君公主), daughter of Liu Jian, Prince of Jiangdu (江都王劉建), to Liejiaomi, King of Wusun.
103 BCE: Emperor Wu of Han marries Princess Liu Jieyou (劉解憂公主), daughter of Liu Wu, Prince of Chu (楚王劉戊), to King Junxumi of Wusun (Liejiaomi's grandson). After Junxumi's death in 93 BCE, Princess Jieyou, in accordance with Wusun tradition, married his successor (and younger brother), King Wengguimi. After Wengguimi's death in 60 BCE, Princess Jieyou again remarried his successor King Nimi (son of Junximi and a Xiongnu princess).
33 BCE: Emperor Yuan of Han marries Wang Zhaojun, a lady of the imperial harem, to Xiongnu chieftain Huhanye. After Huhanye's death in 31 BCE, she remarried Huhanye's successor (his son by his first wife and thus her stepson) Fuzhuleiruodi Chanyu.
During the Sixteen Kingdoms period, there were a total of six recorded instances of heqin marriage. Heqin marriage alliances during the Sixteen Kingdoms period differed from those practiced during the Han dynasty in two main ways. First, they involved "real" princesses (i.e. daughters of emperors or rulers). Second, unlike during the Han Dynasty, when most heqin marriages were aimed at establishing peace with foreign nations, heqin marriages during the Sixteen Kingdoms period were made primarily to settle rivalries and maintain a balance of power between the various states in China at the time.Fu Jian (337–385), Emperor Xuanzhao of Former Qin, married one of his daughters to Yang Ding, ruler of the state of Chouchi.
Fu Deng, Emperor Gao of Former Qin, married his younger sister, Princess Dongping (東平公主) to Qifu Gangui, Prince of Western Qi.
441: Feng Ba, Emperor Wencheng of Northern Yan, married his daughter, Princess Lelang (樂浪公主), to Yujiulü Hulü, Khan Aidougai of Rouran.
415: Yao Xing, Emperor Wenhuan of Later Qin, married his daughter, Princess Xiping (西平公主), to Emperor Mingyuan of Northern Wei. Because she was unable to forge a golden statue with her own hands, she was never formally empress, but was nevertheless recognized and respected as Emperor Mingyuan's wife, Consort Yao.
Qifu Chipan, Prince Wenzhao of Western Qin, married his daughter, Princess Xingping (興平公主), to Juqu Mengxun, Prince of Northern Liang's son Juqu Xingguo.
433: Juqu Mengxun, Prince of Northern Liang, marries his daughter, Princess Xingping (興平公主), to Emperor Taiwu of Northern Wei. She became Emperor Taiwu's concubine.
During the Southern and Northern Dynasties, China was also divided into many rival states. A complicated system of rivalries and vassalage existed. Heqin marriage was employed as a method to maintain a balance of power or to solidify alliances between states.
During the Southern and Northern Dynasties, there were five instances of heqin marriage.428: Emperor Mingyuan of Northern Wei marries his daughter, Princess Shiping (始平公主), to Helian Chang, Emperor of Xia.
437: Emperor Mingyuan of Northern Wei marries his daughter, Princess Wuwei (武威公主), to Juqu Mujian, Prince Ai of Hexi, last ruler of the state of Northern Liang, whence she is known as Princess Tuoba.
Princess Lanling (蘭陵公主), a "princess" of the imperial family of Northern Wei, married the Khagan of the Rouran Khaganate, Yujiulü Anagui.
Princess Qianjin (千金公主), daughter of Yuwen Zhao, Prince of Zhao (趙王宇文招) and a member of the imperial family of Northern Zhou, married Ishbara, Khagan of the Eastern Turkic Khaganate.
582: Emperor Ming of Western Liang marries his daughter, Princess Xiao, to Yang Guang, Prince of Jin, the second son Emperor Ming's overlord, Emperor Wen of Sui. She is known as Empress Xiao of Sui after his accession to the throne as Emperor Yang of Sui.
With the establishment of the Sui dynasty in 581, China was once again unified under one dynasty. Heqin marriage during the Sui Dynasty therefore returned to its original purpose of trying to appease barbarian tribes on China's borders.
There were a total of seven instances of heqin marriage during the Sui Dynasty.597: Emperor Wen of Sui marries Princess Anyi (安義公主), a Sui "princess", to Yami Qaghan, Khagan of the Eastern Turkic Khaganate. She was assassinated by Yung Yu-lu in 599
599: Emperor Wen of Sui marries another Sui princess, Princess Yicheng (義成公主), the daughter of a Sui imperial clansman, to Yami, Khagan of the Eastern Turkic Khaganate. After his death in 609, Princess Yicheng, in accordance with the Göktürk custom of levirate marriage, remarried to Yami Qaghan's successor and son (by another wife), Shibi Qaghan. After Shibi Qaghan's death in 619, Princess Yicheng again remarried to Shibi Qaghan's successor and younger brother, Chuluo. After the khagan's death in 621, Princess Yicheng remarried for the fourth and final time to his successor and younger brother, Illig Qaghan, who revolted against Tang China and was captured and killed in 630
Emperor Yang of Sui married Princess Xinyi (信義公主), a Sui "princess", to Heshana Khan, Khagan of the Western Turkish Khaganate.
Emperor Yang of Sui married his youngest daughter, Princess Huainan (淮南公主), to the new heir, Shibi's eldest son, Tuli.
596: Emperor Wen of Sui marries Princess Guanghua (光化公主), a Sui "princess", to Murong Shifu, khagan of Tuyuhun. After Murong Shifu's assassination in 597, Princess Guanghua remarried Murong Shifu's successor and younger brother, Murong Fuyun.
Emperor Yang of Sui married a Sui "princess" to Qu Boya, ruler of the oasis city of Gaochang in the Taklamakan Desert.
During the Tang Dynasty, heqin marriage alliances were aimed primarily at five major states that bordered Tang China: Tuyuhun, the Tibetan Empire, the Khitans and the allied Kumo Xi, the Uyghur Khaganate, and Nanzhao.
There were a total of twenty-one instances of heqin marriage alliances during the Tang Dynasty:640: Emperor Taizong of Tang marries Princess Honghua (弘化公主) to Murong Nuohebo, Khan of Tuyuhun.
641: Emperor Taizong of Tang marries Princess Wencheng to Emperor Songtsän Gampo of the Tibetan Empire.
642: Emperor Taizong proposed the marriage of his fifteenth daughter, Princess Xinxing (新興公主), to Zhenzhu Khan, Khan of Xueyantuo. The heqin was called off.
664: Emperor Gaozong of Tang marries Lady Jincheng (金城縣主), the third daughter of Li Dao'en, Prince of Guiji (會稽郡王李道恩), to Prince Sudumomo of Tuyuhun (吐谷渾王子蘇度摸末).
664: Emperor Gaozong marries Lady Jinming (金明縣主), the daughter of a Tang imperial clansman, to Prince Talumomo of Tuyuhun (吐谷渾王子闥盧摸末).
698: A daughter of Qapaghan, Khagan of the Second Eastern Turkic Khaganate marries Wu Zetian's great-nephew Wu Chengsi, Prince of Huaiyang (淮陽王武延秀).
703: A daughter of Qapaghan Khagan marries Crown Prince Li Dan's eldest son Li Chengqi, Prince of Song.
709: Empress Wu Zetian marries her great-granddaughter Princess Jincheng (金城公主), the daughter of her grandson Li Shouli, Prince of Bin, to Emperor Me Agtsom of Tibet
712: Emperor Ruizong of Tang marries his granddaughter, Princess Jinshan (金山公主), the daughter of his son Li Chengqi, to Qapaghan Khagan
717: Emperor Xuanzong of Tang marries Princess Yongle (永樂公主), the daughter of Yang Yuansi (楊元嗣) and a daughter of Li Xu, Prince of Dongping (東平王李續, son of Li Shen, Prince of Ji, the seventeenth son of Emperor Taizong), to Li Shihuo (李失活), leader of the Khitans.
717: Princess Jianghe (交河公主), the daughter of Ashina Nahuaidao, 10th Khagan of the Western Turkic Khaganate, marries Sulu Khan, Khagan of Turgesh.
722: Emperor Xuanzong of Tang marries Princess Yanjun (燕郡公主) (surname Murong (慕容)), a Tang "princess", to Khitan prince Li Yuyu (李郁於).
726: Emperor Xuanzong marries his niece, Princess Donghua (東華公主, surname Chen 陳), to Khitan prince Li Shaogu (李邵固).
726: Emperor Xuanzong marries Princess Dongguang (東光公主), the daughter of Emperor Xuanzong's first cousin Li Jijiang, Princess Cheng'an (成安公主李季姜) (eighth daughter of Emperor Zhongzong of Tang) and Wei Jie (韋捷), to Li Lusu (李魯甦), ruler of Kumo Xi.
744: Emperor Xuanzong marries Princess Heyi (和義公主), a daughter of Li Can, Magistrate of Gaocheng (告城縣令李參), to Axilan Dagan (阿悉爛達干), King of Ningyuan (寧遠國王) in the Fergana Valley.
745: Emperor Xuanzong marries his granddaughter, Princess Jingle (靜樂公主, daughter of his fifteenth daughter Princess Xincheng 信成公主 and Dugu Ming 獨孤明), to Khitan prince Li Huaixiu (李懷秀).
745: Emperor Xuanzong marries Princess Yifang (宜芳公主), daughter of Princess Changning (長寧公主, daughter of Emperor Zhongzong of Tang) and Yang Shenjiao (楊慎交), to Khitan prince Li Yanchong (李延寵)
756: Princess Pijia (毗伽公主), daughter of Bayanchur, Khagan of the Uyghur Khaganate, marries Li Chengcai (李承寀), Prince of Dunhuang (敦煌王李承採), son of Li Shouli, Prince of Bin.
There were a total of seventeen instances of heqin marriage alliances during the Tang Dynasty.
640—690: five instances, to Tuyuhun, and one instance to the Tibetan Empire
710—745: four instances to Khitans, three instances to the Kumo Xi and one instance to the Tibetan Empire
758—821: seven instances to Uyghur Khaganate, including two daughters of the Chinese Emperor, i.e. real princesses, and three of Tiele descent.
883: one occurrence to Nanzhao (second daughter of Emperor Yizong of Tang).
The Xiongnu practiced marriage alliances with Han dynasty officers and officials who defected to their side. The older sister of the Chanyu (the Xiongnu ruler) was married to the Xiongnu General Zhao Xin, the Marquis of Xi who was serving the Han dynasty. The daughter of the Chanyu was married to the Han Chinese General Li Ling after he surrendered and defected. The Yenisei Kirghiz Khagans claimed descent from Li Ling. Another Han Chinese General who defected to the Xiongnu was Li Guangli who also married a daughter of the Chanyu.
The Xianbei Tuoba royal family of Northern Wei started to arrange for Han Chinese elites to marry daughters of the royal family in the 480s. Some Han Chinese exiled royalty fled from southern China and defected to the Xianbei. Several daughters of the Xianbei Emperor Xiaowen of Northern Wei were married to Han Chinese elites, the Han Chinese Liu Song royal Liu Hui 刘辉, married Princess Lanling 蘭陵公主 of the Northern Wei, Princess Huayang 華陽公主 to Sima Fei 司馬朏, a descendant of Jin dynasty (265–420) royalty, Princess Jinan 濟南公主 to Lu Daoqian 盧道虔, Princess Nanyang 南阳长公主 to Xiao Baoyin 萧宝夤, a member of Southern Qi royalty. Emperor Xiaozhuang of Northern Wei's sister the Shouyang Princess was wedded to The Liang dynasty ruler Emperor Wu of Liang's son Xiao Zong 蕭綜.
When the Eastern Jin dynasty ended Northern Wei received the Jin prince Sima Chuzhi 司馬楚之 as a refugee. A Northern Wei Princess married Sima Chuzhi, giving birth to Sima Jinlong 司馬金龍. Northern Liang Xiongnu King Juqu Mujian's daughter married Sima Jinlong.
The Rouran Khaganate arranged for one of their princesses, Khagan Yujiulü Anagui's daughter Princess Ruru 蠕蠕公主 to be married to the Han Chinese ruler Gao Huan of the Eastern Wei.
The Kingdom of Gaochang was made out of Han Chinese colonists and ruled by the Han Chinese Qu family which originated from Gansu. Jincheng commandery 金城 (Lanzhou), district of Yuzhong 榆中 was the home of the Qu Jia. The Qu family was linked by marriage allianes to the Turks, with a Turk being the grandmother of King Qu Boya's.
The Chinese Cao family ruling Guiyi Circuit established marriage alliances with the Uighurs of the Ganzhou Kingdom, with both the Cao rulers marrying Uighur princesses and with Cao princesses marrying Uighur rulers. The Ganzhou Uighur Khagan's daughter was married to Cao Yijin in 916.
The Chinese Cao family ruling Guiyi Circuit established marriage alliances with the Saka Kingdom of Khotan, with both the Cao rulers marrying Khotanese princesses and with Cao princesses marrying Khotanese rulers. A Khotanese princess who was the daughter of the King of Khotan married Cao Yanlu.
The Khitan Liao dynasty arranged for women from the Khitan royal consort Xiao clan to marry members of the Han Chinese Han 韓 clan, which originated in Jizhou 冀州 before being abducted by the Khitan and becoming part of the Han Chinese elite of the Liao.
Han Chinese Geng family intermarried with the Khitan and the Han 韓 clan provided two of their women as wives to Geng Yanyi and the second one was the mother of Geng Zhixin. Empress Rende's sister, a member of the Xiao clan, was the mother of Han Chinese General Geng Yanyi.
Han Durang (Yelu Longyun) was the father of Queen dowager of State Chen, who was the wife of General Geng Yanyi and buried with him in his tomb in Zhaoyang in Liaoning. His wife was also known as "Madame Han". The Geng's tomb is located in Liaoning at Guyingzi in Chaoying.
The Lý dynasty which ruled Dai Viet (Vietnam) married its princesses off to regional rivals to establish alliances with them. One of these marriages was between a Lý princess (Lý Chiêu Hoàng) and a member of the Chinese Trần (Chen) clan (Trần Thái Tông), which enabled the Trần to then topple the Lý and established their own Trần dynasty.
A Lý princess also married into the Hồ family, which was also of Chinese origin and later established the Hồ dynasty which also took power after having a Tran princess marry one of their members, Hồ Quý Ly.
The Manchu Imperial Aisin Gioro clan practiced marriage alliances with Han Chinese Ming Generals and Mongol princes. Aisin Gioro women were married to Han Chinese Generals who defected to the Manchu side during the Manchu conquest of China. The Manchu leader Nurhaci married one of his granddaughters to the Ming General Li Yongfang 李永芳 after he surrendered Fushun in Liaoning to the Manchu in 1618 and a mass marriage of Han Chinese officers and officials to Manchu women numbering 1,000 couples was arranged by Prince Yoto 岳托 (Prince Keqin) and Hongtaiji in 1632 to promote harmony between the two ethnic groups. Aisin Gioro women were married to the sons of the Han Chinese Generals Sun Sike (Sun Ssu-k'o) 孫思克, Geng Jimao (Keng Chi-mao), Shang Kexi (Shang K'o-hsi), and Wu Sangui (Wu San-kuei).
Nurhaci's son Abatai's daughter was married to Li Yongfang. The offspring of Li received the "Third Class Viscount" (三等子爵; sān děng zǐjué) title. Li Yongfang was the great great great grandfather of Li Shiyao 李侍堯.
The "Dolo efu" 和碩額駙 rank was given to husbands of Qing princesses. Geng Zhongming, a Han bannerman, was awarded the title of Prince Jingnan, and his son Geng Jingmao managed to have both his sons Geng Jingzhong and Geng Zhaozhong 耿昭忠 become court attendants under the Shunzhi Emperor and get married to Aisin Gioro women, with Prince Abatai's granddaughter marrying Geng Zhaozhong 耿昭忠 and Haoge's (a son of Hong Taiji) daughter marrying Geng Jingzhong. A daughter 和硕柔嘉公主 of the Manchu Aisin Gioro Prince Yolo 岳樂 (Prince An) was wedded to Geng Juzhong 耿聚忠 who was another son of Geng Jingmao.
The 4th daughter of Kangxi (和硕悫靖公主) was wedded to the son (孫承恩) of the Han Chinese Sun Sike (Sun Ssu-k'o) 孫思克.
Imperial Duke Who Assists the State (宗室輔國公) Aisin Gioro Suyan's (蘇燕) daughter was married to Han Chinese Banner General Nian Gengyao.
After the Second Manchu invasion of Korea, Joseon Korea was forced to give several of their royal princesses as concubines to the Qing Manchu regent Prince Dorgon. In 1650, Dorgon married the Korean Princess Yishun/Uisun (義願). She was a collateral branches of the Korean royal family, and daughter of Yi Gae-yun (李愷胤). Dorgon married two Korean princesses at Lianshan.
The Cambodian King Chey Chettha II married the Vietnamese Nguyễn lord Princess Nguyễn Thị Ngọc Vạn, a daughter of Lord Nguyễn Phúc Nguyên, in 1618. In return, the king granted the Vietnamese the right to establish settlements in Mô Xoài (now Bà Rịa), in the region of Prey Nokor—which they colloquially referred to as Sài Gòn, and which later became Ho Chi Minh City.