Monday 17 April 2017

Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period of China

The Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period, also called Five Dynasties, was an era of political upheaval in 10th-century imperial China. During this period, five states quickly succeeded one another in the Chinese Central Plain, while more than a dozen concurrent states were established elsewhere, mainly in south China. Traditionally, the era started with the fall of the Tang dynasty in 907 AD and ended with the founding of the Song dynasty in 960.

The Later Liang (June 1, 907–923) was the first of the Five Dynasties during the period. It was founded by Zhu Wen(later Emperor Taizu of Later Liang), after he forced the last emperor of the Tang dynasty to abdicate in his favour (and then murdered him). The Later Liang would last until 923 when it was destroyed by Later Tang.

Emperor Taizu of Later Liang(Zhu Wen)

Tang, known in history as Later Tang, was the second and short-lived imperial dynasty that lasted from 923 to 937 during the period. The name Tang was used to legitimize itself as the restorer of the Tang dynasty (618–907). At its height, Later Tang controlled most of northern China.  Internal struggles typified the remaining ten years of the dynasty, ending with its toppling in 937 when rebels  stormed the capital with the help of Khitan troops, and founded the Later Jin.

Painting by Chinese artist Li Cheng (c. 919–967)

The Later Jìn, was third of the Five Dynasties the Five Dynasties. It was founded by Shi Jingtang. Liao, its original protector state, destroyed Later Jin by invading in 946 and 947, after Jin's second ruler, Shi Chonggui, fell out with them.

Emperor Gaozu of Later Jin(Shi Jingtang)

To fill the power vacuum, the jiedushi Liu Zhiyuan entered the imperial capital in 947 and proclaimed the advent of the Later Han, establishing a third successive Shatuo reign. This was the shortest of the five dynasties. Following a coup in 951, General Guo Wei, a Han Chinese, was enthroned, thus beginning the Later Zhou.

Butterfly and Wisteria Flowers, by Xu Xi (886–975)

After the death of Guo Wei in 951, his adopted son Chai Rong succeeded the throne and began a policy of expansion and reunification. In 954, his army defeated combined Khitan and Northern Han forces, ending their ambition of toppling the Later Zhou. Between 956 and 958, forces of Later Zhou conquered much of Southern Tang, the most powerful regime in southern China, which ceded all the territory north of the Yangtze in defeat.

Emperor Taizu of Later Zhou(Guo Wei)

Though considered one of the ten kingdoms, the Northern Han was based in the traditional Shatuo stronghold of Shanxi. It was created after the last of three dynasties created by Shatuo Turks fell to the Han-governed Later Zhou in 951. With the protection of the powerful Liao, the Northern Han maintained nominal independence until the Song Dynasty wrested it from the Khitan in 979.

Buddhist donatresses, Cave 98, Mo-kao Caves, Tunhwang, Five Dyasties era

Unlike the dynasties of northern China, which succeeded one other in rapid succession, the regimes of South China were generally concurrent, each controlling a specific geographical area. These were known as "The Ten Kingdoms".

The Kingdom of Wu (902–937) was established in modern-day Jiangsu, Anhui, and Jiangxi. It was founded by Yang Xingmi, who became a Tang Dynasty military governor in 892. The capital was initially at Guangling (present-day Yangzhou) and later moved to Jinling (present-day Nanjing). The kingdom fell in 937 when it was taken from within by the founder of the Southern Tang.

Wu Dai Warriors (907 CE -979 CE) - Warriors of the Five Dynasties

The Kingdom of Wuyue was the longest-lived (907–978) and among the most powerful of the southern states. Wuyue was known for its learning and culture. It was founded by Qian Liu, who set up his capital at Xifu (modern-day Hangzhou). Qian Liu was named the Prince of Yue by the Tang emperor in 902; the Prince of Wu was added in 904. After the fall of the Tang Dynasty in 907, he declared himself king of Wuyue. Wuyue survived until the eighteenth year of the Song dynasty, when Qian Shu surrendered to the expanding dynasty.

Qian Liu
The Kingdom of Min (909–945) was founded by Wang Shenzhi, who named himself the Prince of Min with its capital at Changle (present-day Fuzhou). One of Shenzhi’s sons proclaimed the independent state of Yin in the northeast of Min territory. The Southern Tang took that territory after the Min asked for help. Despite declaring loyalty to the neighboring Wuyue, the Southern Tang finished its conquest of Min in 945.

Wang Shenzhi

The Kingdom of Southern Han (917–971) was founded in Guangzhou (also known as Canton) by Liu Yan. His brother, Liu Yin, was named regional governor by the Tang court. The kingdom included Guangdong, Guangxi, and Hainan.

The Kingdom of Chu (927–951) was founded by Ma Yin with the capital at Changsha. Ma was named regional military governor by the Tang court in 896, and named himself the Prince of Chu with the fall of the Tang in 907. This status as the Prince of Chu was confirmed by the Later Tang in 927. The Southern Tang absorbed the state in 951 and moved the royal family to its capital in Nanjing.

The Kingdom of Southern Tang (937–975) was the successor state of Wu as Li Bian (Emperor Liezu) took the state over from within in 937. Expanding from the original domains of Wu, it eventually took over Yin, Min, and Chu. The kingdom became nominally subordinate to the expanding Song in 961 and was invaded outright in 975, when it was formally absorbed into Song China.

Southern Tang Royal Family

The smallest of the southern states, Kingdom of Jingnan (924–963), was founded by Gao Jichang.  Gao’s successors claimed the title of King of Jingnan after the fall of the Later Liang in 924. It was a small and weak kingdom, and thus tried to maintain good relations with each of the Five Dynasties. The kingdom fell to advancing armies of the Song in 963.

The Kingdom of Northern Han was founded by Liu Min , formerly known as Liu Chong  and lasted from 951 to 979. It has the capital at Taiyuan.

Kingdom of Former Shu (907–25) was founded after the fall of the Tang Dynasty by Wang Jian, who held his court in Chengdu. Wang was named military governor of western Sichuan by the Tang court in 891. The kingdom fell when his son surrendered in the face of an advance by the Later Tang in 925.

The Kingdom of Later Shu (935–965) is essentially a resurrection of the previous Shu state that had fallen a decade earlier to the Later Tang. Because the Later Tang was in decline, Meng Zhixiang found the opportunity to reassert Shu’s independence. Like the Former Shu, the capital was at Chengdu and it basically controlled the same territory as its predecessor. The kingdom was ruled well until forced to succumb to Song armies in 965.

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