Change of Xianbei names to Han names

Change Of Xianbei Names To Han Names

Change of Xianbei names to Han names

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The Change of Xianbei family names to Han names was part of a larger sinicization campaign. It was at its peak intensity under Emperor Xiaowen of the Northern Wei dynasty in 496.


To formalize sinification, a number of actions were taken prior to the name changes.
  • In 493 the capital was moved to Luoyang, closer to the agricultural Han and away from the nomadic roots.
  • In 494 nomadic style clothing were abandoned.
  • In 495 nomadic languages at court were abandoned.


Northern Wei ordered Xianbei family names that were two-to-three syllables to be shortened to one-to-two syllables, converting them to Han names. Later historians, including Wei Shou, the author of the official history of Northern Wei, Book of Wei, found shortened Han-style names to be easier to write about, and therefore used post-496 family names even where pre-496 events involving Northern Wei were described. Later, after the division of Northern Wei into two in 534, the paramount general of Western Wei, Yuwen Tai, tried to reverse these name changes and restore Xianbei names. A number of generals and officials changed their names back to Xianbei...
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