After a long time of division northern China was reunited by the Northern Wei Dynasty 北魏 (386-534). Their rulers shifted the capital from Pingcheng 平城 (modern Taiyuan 太原, Shanxi) to the traditional capital Luoyang 洛陽 (modern Luoyang, Henan) in the Yellow River plain. The Northern Wei empire stretched from the Liaodong Peninsula, with the three Korean kingdoms Koguryŏ/Gaogouli 高句麗, Paekche/Baiji 百濟, and Silla/Xinluo 新羅 as neighbours, to the Tarim Basin in the west, with the Colonel of the Western Barbarians (Xirong xiaoweifu 西戎校尉府) and the garrison Yanqi 焉耆 as the administrative centres from which the Northern Wei controlled their colonies in the Western Territories. The whole northwest was administered by garrisons (zhen 鎮), like Dunhuang 敦煌, Shanshan 鄯善 (shifted to the east!), Baogulü 薄骨律 (near modern Yinchuan 銀川,Ningxia), Woye 沃野, Huaishuo 懷朔, Wuchuan 武川 and Fuming 撫冥 (all located at the great northern bend of the Yellow River). The number of regions or provinces(zhou 州) substantially increased and led to a development that replaced the old commanderies (jun 郡) by prefectures (zhou 州).
At the end of the 5th century the Northern Wei conquered several regions of the Liu-Song empire 劉宋 (420-479), one of the Southern Dynasties 南朝 (420~589)
ruling over southern China.
The northern neigbours of the Northern Wei empire were nomadic federations like the Rouran 柔然, the Khitans 契丹 and Kumoxi 庫莫奚 (or Xi 奚) in the north and northeast, and the city state of Gaochang 高昌 (near modern Turfan 吐魯番, Xinjiang) in the northwest. Their southwestern neigbours were the Tuyuhun 吐谷渾, a proto-Mongolian empire in modern Qinghai and the Tsaidam Basin.
In the years between 523 and 531 several rebellions and uprisings starting in the western and northern garrisons shook the fundaments of the Wei empire (big yellow dots in the map).
The Northern Wei empire fell apart into two states: The Eastern Wei 東魏 (534-550) and the Western Wei 西魏 (535-556)
empire. The political disruptures of these years were a phase of international peace for the Liang dynasty 梁 (502-557) that ruled over southern China. Although there still existed commanderies, the two Wei states administered their territory by prefectures. This new administration pattern introduced many new names into the historical geography of China.
With the Liang dynasty in the south disintegrating, the lacking central power gave the two new northern dynasties of Northern Zhou 北周 (557-581) and Northern Qi 北齊 (550-577) the chance to conquer vast territories of the south, down to the Yangtse River nd the whole area of the modern provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan. In the region of Jiangling 江陵 (modern Shashi 沙市, Hubei) was the small territory of the last rulers of the Liang dynasty, called Later Liang 後梁.
At that time, a new nomadic federation in the north appeared: the Turks (Tujue 突厥).
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