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Emperor Ai of Jin

emperor of the Jin Dynasty (265–420)
The basics
Date of birth
Date of death Mar 30, 365
Spouse: Wang Muzhi
Mother: Consort Zhou (Cheng)
Brother(s): Emperor Fei of Jin
Father: Emperor Cheng of Jin
The details

Emperor Ai of Jin (simplified Chinese: 晋哀帝; traditional Chinese: 晉哀帝; pinyin: Jìn Aī Dì; Wade–Giles: Chin Ai-ti; 341 – March 30, 365), personal name Sima Pi (司馬丕), courtesy name Qianling (千齡), was an emperor of the Eastern Jin Dynasty (265-420). During his brief reign, the actual powers were largely in the hands of his granduncle Sima Yu the Prince of Kuaiji, and the paramount general Huan Wen. According to historical accounts, he had an obsession with immortality, which ironically resulted in his death, as he became poisoned by pills that were given to him by magicians in 364 and in 365 would die.

Early life

Sima Pi was born in 341, during the reign of his father Emperor Cheng of Jin, as Emperor Cheng's oldest son. His mother was Consort Zhou, who in 342 gave birth to his younger brother Sima Yi. In summer 342, Emperor Cheng grew ill. The common succession protocol, as He Chong (何充) pointed out, would mean that his oldest son would succeed to the throne, but Emperor Cheng's uncle Yu Bing (庾冰), wanting a new emperor who would also be connected to his clan as well, persuaded Emperor Cheng to pass the throne to his younger brother Sima Yue the Prince of Langye, also a son of his sister Empress Yu Wenjun, under the reasoning that with the powerful rival Later Zhao to the north, the empire needed an adult emperor. Emperor Cheng agreed, and named Sima Yue as the heir, and Sima Yue succeeded to the throne as Emperor Kang when he died soon after. The one-year-old Sima Pi was instead created the Prince of Langye. He continued in that title after Emperor Kang's death in 344, as Emperor Kang chose to pass the throne to his infant son Sima Dan (as Emperor Mu). It is not known when he married his wife Wang Muzhi, only that she carried the title Princess of Langye.


In 361, Emperor Mu died without a son. Emperor Mu's mother Empress Dowager Chu thus ordered that Sima Pi be made emperor, and he took the throne as Emperor Ai, at age 20. He created his wife Princess Wang as empress, and his brother Sima Yi, who previously carried the title the Prince of Donghai, as the Prince of Langye. Since he was an adult, Empress Dowager Chu did not serve as regent for him, and he honored his mother Consort Zhou as Consort Dowager (皇太妃) in 362, but with supplies and ceremonies similar to the empress dowager. However, the decision-making process was largely in the hands of the general Huan Wen and Emperor Ai's granduncle Sima Yu the Prince of Kuaiji.

In 362, Huan, after securing the Luoyang region, requested that the capital be moved back to Luoyang, where it had been until it was captured by Han Zhao in 311. The imperial government, under an edict issued by Emperor Ai, declined.

In 363, Consort Dowgaer Zhou died. In accordance with proper protocol that he could no longer honor her as mother, out of respect for Empress Dowgaer Chu, Emperor Ai did not observe the normal mourning period due a mother.

Emperor Ai was obsessed with seeking immortality, and despite his young age, he died from Chinese alchemical elixir poisoning. In 364, he became poisoned by pills given him by magicians, and he grew so ill that he was unable to handle important matters. Empress Dowager Chu had to resume regency on his behalf.

Later in 364, Former Yan launched a major attack against Luoyang, and Huan and Sima Yu considered a counterattack to relieve Luoyang. However, as Emperor Ai died in early 365, that plan was cancelled, and Luoyang soon fell. As he did not have a son, Emperor Ai was succeeded by his brother Sima Yi, as Emperor Fei. (Emperor Ai was preceded in death by his wife Empress Wang, as she died about a month before he died; they were buried together with imperial honors.)

Era names

  • Longhe (隆和 py. Lónghé) March 2, 362 – February 5, 363
  • Xingning (興寧, py. Xīngníng) February 6, 363-365

Personal information

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