Thursday, September 4, 2008

Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period

Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms was an era of political upheaval in China, beginning in the Tang Dynasty and ending in the . During this period, five dynasties quickly succeeded one another in the north, and more than 12 independent states were established, mainly in the south. However, only ten are traditionally listed, hence the era's name, "Ten Kingdoms." Some historians, such as Bo Yang, count 11, including and , but not Northern Han, viewing it as simply a continuation of Later Han.

The Five Dynasties:

* Later Liang Dynasty

* Later Tang Dynasty



* Later Zhou Dynasty

The Ten Kingdoms: , Wuyue, , , Southern Han, Former Shu, Later Shu, Jingnan, Southern Tang, Northern Han.

Other regimes: , , Chengde Jiedushi , Yiwu Jiedushi, Dingnan Jiedushi, Wuping Jiedushi, Qingyuan Jiedushi, , , , .


Towards the end of the Tang Dynasty, the imperial government granted increased powers to the ''jiedushi'', the regional military governors. The weakened the imperial government's authority, and by the early 10th century the jiedushi, who commanded ''de facto'' independence, were not subject to the authority of the imperial government. Thus, the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms ensued.

The following were important jiedushi:

North China

* at Bianzhou , precursor to Later Liang Dynasty

* Li Keyong and Li Cunxu at Taiyuan , precursor to Later Tang Dynasty

* Liu Rengong and Liu Shouguang at Youzhou , precursor to

* Li Maozhen at Fengxiang , precursor to

* Luo Shaowei at Weibo

* Wang Rong at Zhenzhou

* Wang Chuzhi at Dingzhou

South China

* Yang Xingmi at Yangzhou , precursor to

* Qian Liu at Hangzhou , precursor to Wuyue

* Ma Yin at Tanzhou , precursor to

* Wang Shenzhi at Fuzhou , precursor to

* at Guangzhou , precursor to Southern Han

* at Chengdu , precursor to Former Shu

Northern China

Later Liang Dynasty

During the Liang Dynasty, the warlord held the most power in northern China. Although he was originally a member of Huang Chao's rebel army, he took on a crucial role in suppressing the Huang Chao Rebellion. For this function, he was awarded the Xuanwu Jiedushi title. Within a few years, he had consolidated his power by destroying neighbours and forcing the move of the imperial capital to Luoyang , which was within his region of influence. In 904, he executed and made his 13-year-old son a subordinate ruler. Three years later, he induced the boy emperor to abdicate in his favour. He then proclaimed himself emperor, thus beginning the Later Liang Dynasty.

After his death, his son ruled. Zhū Zhèn, a cowardly man who disdained responsibility, left the kingdom to avoid kingship.

Later Tang Dynasty

During the Tang Dynasty, rival warlords declared independence in their governing provinces — not all of whom recognized the emperor's authority. Li Cunxu and Liu Shouguang fiercely fought the regime forces to conquer northern China; Li Cunxu succeeded. He defeated Liu Shouguang in 915, and declared himself emperor in 923; within a few months, he brought down the Later Liang regime. Thus began the Later Tang Dynasty—the first in a long line of conquest dynasties. After reuniting much of northern China, Cunxu conquered Former Shu in 925, a regime that had been set up in Sichuan.

Later Jin Dynasty

The Later Tang Dynasty had a few years of relative calm, followed by unrest. In 934, Sichuan again asserted independence. In 936, , a jiedushi from Taiyuan, was aided by the Manchurian Khitan Empire in a rebellion against the dynasty. In return for their aid, Shi Jingtang promised annual tribute and 16 prefectures in the Youyun area to the Khitans. The rebellion succeeded; Shi Jingtang became emperor in this same year.

Not long after the Jin Dynasty's founding, the Khitans regarded the emperor as a proxy ruler for China proper. In 943, they declared war on this kingdom, and within three years seized the capital, Kaifeng—thus marking the end of Later Jin Dynasty. But, although they had conquered vast regions of China, they were unable or unwilling to control those regions and retreated from them early in the next year.

Later Han Dynasty

To fill the power vacuum, the ''jiedushi'' Liu Zhiyuan entered the imperial capital in 947, and proclaimed the advent of the , establishing a third successive dynasty. 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 Dynasty. However, Liu Chong, a member of the Later Han imperial family, established a rival Northern Han regime in Taiyuan, and requested Khitan aid to defeat Later Han.

Later Zhou Dynasty

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 dynasty. 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 River in defeat. In 959, Chai Rong attacked the Khitan Empire in an attempt to recover territories ceded during the Later Jin Dynasty. After many victories, he succumbed to illness.

In 960, the general Zhao Kuangyin staged a coup and took the throne for himself, founding the Northern Song Dynasty. This is the official end of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. During the next two decades, Zhao Kuangyin and his successor defeated the other remaining regimes in China proper, conquering Northern Han in 979, and reunifying China completely in 982.

Northern Han

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

Southern China: The Ten Kingdoms

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


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


The Kingdom of Wuyue was the longest-lived 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 . It was based mostly in modern Zhejiang province but also held parts of southern Jiangsu. Qian Liu was named the Prince of Yue by the 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.


The Kingdom of Min was founded by Wang Shenzhi, who named himself the Prince of Min in 909 after the fall of the Tang Dynasty. It was not until his son formally declared himself the Emperor of Min in 933 that Shenzhi was posthumously named as the founding emperor. It was located in Fujian with its capital at Changle . 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.

Southern Han

The Southern Han was founded in Guangzhou by Liu Yan. His father, Liu Yin, was named regional governor by the court. The kingdom included Guangdong and most of Guangxi.


The was founded by Ma Yin with the capital at Changsha. The kingdom held Hunan and northeastern Guangxi. Ma was named regional military governor by the court in 896, and named himself the Prince of Chu with the fall of the Tang Dynasty in 907. This status as the Prince of Chu was confirmed by the Later Tang Dynasty in 927. The Southern Tang absorbed the state in 951 and moved the royal family to its capital in Nanjing, although Southern Tang rule of the region was temporary, as the next year former Chu military officers under the leadership of seized the territory. In the waning years of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period, the region was ruled by Zhou Xingfeng.


The smallest of the southern states, Jingnan , was founded by Gao Jichang. It was based in Jiangling and held two other districts southwest of present-day Wuhan in Hubei. Gao was in the service of the Later Liang Dynasty . Gao’s successors claimed the title of King of Nanping 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 Dynasty in 963.

Former Shu

The Kingdom of was founded after the fall of the Tang Dynasty by Wang Jian, who held his court in Chengdu. The kingdom held most of present-day Sichuan, western Hubei, and parts of southern Gansu and Shaanxi. Wang was named military governor of western Sichuan by the court in 891. The kingdom fell when his incompetent son surrendered in the face of an advance by the Later Tang Dynasty in 925.

Later Shu

The Later Shu is essentially a resurrection of the previous Shu state that had fallen a decade earlier to the Later Tang Dynasty. Because the 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 armies in 965.

Southern Tang

The Southern Tang was the successor state of as took the state over from within in 937. Expanding from the original domains of , it eventually took over Yin, Min, and Chu, holding present-day southern Anhui, southern Jiangsu, much of Jiangxi, Hunan, and eastern Hubei at its height. The kingdom became nominally subordinate to the expanding Song Dynasty in 961 and was invaded outright in 975, when it was formally absorbed into the Song Dynasty.

Transitions between kingdoms

Although more stable than northern China as a whole, southern China was also torn apart by warfare. quarrelled with its neighbours, a trend that continued as Wu was replaced with Southern Tang. In the 940s and underwent internal crises which Southern Tang handily took advantage of, destroying Min in 945 and Chu in 951. Remnants of Min and Chu, however, survived in the form of Qingyuan Jiedushi and Wuping Jiedushi for many years after. With this, Southern Tang became the undisputedly most powerful regime in southern China. However, it was unable to defeat incursions by the Later Zhou Dynasty between 956 and 958, and ceded all of its land north of the Yangtze River.

The Northern Song Dynasty, established in 960, was determined to reunify China. Jingnan and were swept away in 963, Later Shu in 965, Southern Han in 971, and Southern Tang in 975. Finally, Wuyue and gave up their land to Northern Song in 978, bringing all of southern China under the control of the central government.

List of Sovereigns

Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms

Sovereigns in the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period
Temple Names
Posthumous Names
Personal NamesPeriod of Reigns and their according range of years
Five Dynasties
''* note the naming convention: name of dynasty + temple name or posthumous name , which makes ''後漢高祖
Later Liang Dynasty 後梁 ''Hòu Liáng'' 907-923
Tài Zǔ 太祖Too tedious thus not used when referring to this sovereign 朱溫907-912

Kāipíng 開平

Qiánhuà 乾化

Did not existMò Dì 末帝 朱瑱913-923

Qiánhuà 乾化

Zhēnmíng 貞明

Lóngdé 龍德

Later Tang Dynasty 後唐 ''Hòu Táng'' 923-936
Zhuāng Zōng 莊宗Too tedious thus not used when referring to this sovereign 李存勗 923-926Tóngguāng 同光

Míng Zōng 明宗Too tedious thus not used when referring to this sovereign 李嗣源
Lǐ Dǎn 李亶

Tiānchéng 天成

Chángxīng 長興

Did not existMǐn Dì 節閔帝 李從厚933-934Yìngshùn 應順

Did not existMò Dì 末帝 李從珂934-936Qīngtài 清泰

後晉 ''Hòu Jìn'' 936-947
Gāo Zǔ 高祖Too tedious thus not used when referring to this sovereign 石敬瑭 936-942Tiānfú 天福

Did not existChū Dì 出帝 石重貴942-947

Tiānfú 天福

Kāiyùn 開運

後漢 ''Hòu Hàn'' 936-947
Gāo Zǔ 高祖Too tedious thus not used when referring to this sovereign 劉知遠947-948

Tiānfú 天福

Qiányòu 乾祐

Did not existYǐn Dì 隱帝 劉承祐948-950Qiányòu 乾祐

Later Zhou Dynasty 後周 ''Hòu Zhōu'' 951-960
Tài Zǔ 太祖Too tedious thus not used when referring to this sovereign 郭威951-954

Guǎngshùn 廣順

Xiǎndé 顯德

Shì Zōng 世宗 Too tedious thus not used when referring to this sovereign 柴榮 954-959Xiǎndé 顯德

Did not existGōng Dì 恭帝 柴宗訓959-960Xiǎndé 顯德

Ten Kingdoms
''note the naming convention: use the personal names unless otherwise stated''
Wuyue Kingdom 吳越 904-978
Tài Zǔ 太祖Wǔsù Wáng 武肅王 錢鏐904-932

Tiānbǎo 908-923

Bǎodà 923-925

Bǎozhèng 925-932

Shìzōng Wénmù Wáng 文穆王 錢元瓘932-941Did not exist
Chéngzōng 成宗Zhōngxiàn Wáng 忠獻王 錢佐941-947Did not exist
Did not existZhōngxùn Wáng 忠遜王 錢倧947Did not exist
Did not existZhōngyì Wáng 忠懿王 錢俶947-978Did not exist
Kingdom 閩 909-945 including Kingdom 殷 943-945
Tàizǔ 太祖Zhōngyì Wáng 忠懿王 王審知909-925Did not exist
Did not exist Did not exist 王延翰925-926Did not exist
Tàizōng 太宗Huìdì 惠帝 王延鈞926-935

Lóngqǐ 933-935

Yǒnghé 935
Kāngzōng Too tedious thus not used when referring to this sovereign 王繼鵬935-939Tōngwén 936-939
Jǐngzōng Too tedious thus not used when referring to this sovereign 王延羲939-944Yǒnglóng 939-944
Did not existTiāndé Dì 王延政943-945Tiāndé 943-945
Jingnan 荊南 or Nanping 南平 Kingdom 906-963
Did not existWǔxìn Wáng 武信王 高季興909-928Did not exist
Did not existWénxiàn Wáng 文獻王 高從誨928-948Did not exist
Did not existZhēnyì Wáng 貞懿王 高寶融948-960Did not exist
Did not existShìzhōng 侍中 高寶勗960-962Did not exist
Did not existDid not exist 高繼沖962-963Did not exist
Kingdom 楚 897-951
Did not existWǔmù Wáng 武穆王 馬殷 897-930Did not exist
Did not existHéngyáng Wáng 衡陽王 馬希聲930-932Did not exist
Did not existWénzhāo Wáng 文昭王 馬希範932-947Did not exist
Did not existFèi Wáng 廢王 馬希廣947-950Did not exist
Did not existGōngxiào Wáng 恭孝王 馬希萼950Did not exist
Did not existDid not exist 馬希崇950-951Did not exist
Kingdom 吳 904-937
Tài Zǔ 太祖Xiàowǔ Dì 孝武帝 楊行密 904-905Tiānyòu 904-905
Liè Zōng 烈宗Jǐng Dì 景帝 楊渥905-908Tiānyòu 905-908
Gāo Zǔ 高祖Xuān Dì 宣帝 楊隆演908-921

Tiānyòu 908-919

Wǔyì 919-921
Did not existRuì Dì 睿帝 楊溥921-937

Shùnyì 921-927

Qiánzhēn 927-929

Dàhé 929-935

Tiānzuò 935-937

Southern Tang Kingdom 南唐 937-975
''Convention'' for this kingdom only '': Nan Tang + posthumous names.'' Hòu Zhǔ was referred to as Lǐ Hòuzhǔ 李後主.
Xiān Zhǔ 先主
Liè Zǔ 烈祖
Too tedious thus not used when referring to this sovereign 李昪 937-943Shēngyuán 937-943
Zhōng Zhǔ 中主
Yuán Zōng 元宗
Too tedious thus not used when referring to this sovereign 李璟943-961

Bǎodà 943-958

Jiāotài 958

Zhōngxīng 958

後主Wǔ Wáng 武王Lǐ Yù 李煜961-975Did not exist

Southern Han Kingdom 南漢 917-971
Gāo Zǔ 高祖Tiān Huáng Dà Dì 天皇大帝 劉龑917-925

Qiánhēng 917-925

Báilóng 925-928

Dàyǒu 928-941

Did not existShāng Dì 殤帝 劉玢941-943Guāngtiān 941-943

Zhōng Zōng 中宗Too tedious thus not used when referring to this sovereign 劉晟943-958

Yìngqián 943

Qiánhé 943-958

Hòu Zhǔ 後主Did not exist 劉鋹958-971Dàbǎo 958-971

Bei Han Kingdom 951-979
Shi Zu|世祖 shi4 zu3Shen Wu Di|神武帝 shen2 wu3 di4Liu Min|劉旻 liu3 min2951-954Qianyou 951-954

Rui Zong|睿宗 rui4 zong1Xiao He Di|孝和帝 xiao4 he2 di4Liu Cheng Jun|劉承鈞 liu3 cheng2 jun1954-970

Qianyou 954-957

Tianhui 957-970

Shao Zhu|少主 shao4 zhu3Did not existLiu Ji En|劉繼恩 liu3 ji4 en1970Did not exist

Did not exist

Ying Wu Di|英武帝 ying1 wu3 di4Liu Ji Yuan|劉繼元 liu3 ji4 yuan2970-982Guangyun 970-982

Qian Shu Kingdom 907 - 925
Gao Zu|高祖 gao1 zu3Too tedious thus not used when referring to this sovereignWang Jian|王建 wang2 jian4907-918

Tianfu 907

Wucheng 908-910

Yongping 911-915

Tongzheng 916

Tianhan 917

Guangtian 918

Hou Zhu|後主 hou4 zhu3Did not existWang Yan|王衍 wang2 yan3918-925

Qiande 918-925

Xiankang 925

Hou Shu Kingdom 934 - 965
Gao Zu|高祖 gao1 zu3Too tedious thus not used when referring to this sovereignMeng Zhi Xiang|孟知祥 meng4 zhi1 xiang2934Mingde 934

Hou Zhu|後主 hou4 zhu3Did not existMeng Chang|孟昶 meng4 chang3938-965

Mingde 934-938

Guangzheng 938-965

Other regimes

Local independent regimes during Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period but traditionally not counted in the Ten Kingdoms
Name of PostsPersonal NamesPeriod on post
Wuping jiedu|節度 950-963
Wuping jiedushi|武平節度使 Wǔpíng jíedùshǐLiú Yán|劉言950-953
Wuping jiedushi|武平節度使 Wǔpíng jíedùshǐWáng Kuí|王逵 or Wáng Jìnkuí|王進逵953-956
Wuping jiedushi|武平節度使 Wǔpíng jíedùshǐZhōu Xíngféng|周行逢956-962
Wuping jiedushi|武平節度使 Wǔpíng jíedùshǐZhōu Bǎoquán|周保權962-963
Qingyuan jiedu|節度 945-978
Qingyuan jiedushi|清源節度使 Qīngyuán jíedùshǐLiú Cóngxiào|留從效945-962
Qingyuan jiedushi|清源節度使 Qīngyuán jíedùshǐLiú Shàozī|留紹鎡962
Qingyuan jiedushi|清源節度使 Qīngyuán jíedùshǐZhāng Hànsī|張漢思962-963
Qingyuan jiedushi|清源節度使 Qīngyuán jíedùshǐChén Hóngjìn|陳洪進963-978

Popular culture

* The 2006 Chinese film by director Feng Xiaogang is set in this period. However, it has no historical accuracy, nor does it claim to have any.

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