Ten States, Five Dynasties, One Great Emperor


  • PDF eBook: 221 pages
  • Author: Hung Hing Ming
  • Published: 2014

Drawn from Chinese classics of history, Hung Hing Ming’s biographies introduce China’s most emblematic historical figures and the cultural attributes fostered by China’s ancient chronicles. This book is about one of the greatest emperors in Chinese history, Zhao Kuang Yin, founder of the Song Dynasty (960 1279). He is honored for having unified China in the extremely chaotic period of ‘Five Dynasties and Ten States’.

This enjoyable little book introduces more of China’s heroes and villains, highlighting a modest man yet a great emperor who brought peace and stability to the realm and saved the people from great suffering. Interwoven into the narrative of battles fought and alliances forged or flouted, we find examples of good leadership and bad, hot-headed fighters and disciplined warriors, and lessons on how to assess and win people’s loyalty.

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  • PDF eBook: 221 pages
  • Author: Hung Hing Ming
  • Published: 2014

From the book’s introduction:

This book is about one of the greatest emperors in Chinese history, Zhao Kuang Yin (927–976), Emperor Taizu of the Song Dynasty (960–1279). Chinese historians have highly praised him because he unified China in the extremely chaotic period of “Five Dynasties and Ten States” (907–960). He brought peace and tranquility to the realm and saved the people from great sufferings.

By the end of the Tang Dynasty (Tang Dynasty: 618–907), the emperor was very weak and could not rule the country. Power was in the hands of the regional military governors, and popular uprisings were common. A famine in 875 devastated the eastern part of China. A man named Huang Chao led the hungry people in a revolt. In December of 880, Huang Chao seized control in Chang’an, the capital of the Tang Dynasty. The Emperor had to escape to Chengdu (now Chengdu, Sichuan Province). The regional military governors tried to defeat Huang Chao’s army, but they could not. However, one of Huang Chao’s own generals, Zhu Wen, betrayed him and went over to the side of the Emperor. The Emperor granted him the name of Zhu Quan Zhong, “loyal to the court.” Zhu Quan Zhong was instrumental in defeating Huang Chao’s insurrectionists and became a powerful man. By the time Huang Chao’s army was destroyed and he was killed, Zhu Quan Zhong already controlled a vast area in Central China. He gained so much power that he was able to force the Emperor of the Tang Dynasty to step down in 907. Zhu Quan Zhong took the throne himself and established the (Later) Liang Dynasty. He made his capital in Daliang (now Kaifeng, Henan Province). From then on, China entered into a period known as “Five Dynasties and Ten States” (907–960).

China was hopelessly divided and the wars were never-ending. In March 923, Li Cun Xu declared himself emperor of the (Later) Tang Dynasty. In October 923 he took Daliang and destroyed Zhu Quan Zhong’s (Later) Liang Dynasty. Emboldened, he then set his sights on Taiyuan. In response, in May 936, Shi Jing Tang, the Regional Military Governor of Hedong (the area of Taiyuan, Shanxi Province), sought an alliance with the Emperor of the State of Khitan. He promised to cede to him sixteen prefectures including Youzhou (now the area around Beijing) and Yunzhou (now the area around Datong, Shanxi Province), so as to get the help from the State of Khitan to defeat the army of the (Later) Tang Dynasty. With the help of the State of Khitan, Shi Jing Tang defeated Li Cun Xu and his (Later) Tang army, and the Emperor of the State of Khitan named him Emperor of the (Later) Jin Dynasty. Now the tables were turned. Shi Jing Tang commanded his army and the Khitan army in a march south to Luoyang, the capital of the (Later) Tang Dynasty, and took it.

In June 942 the victorious Emperor Shi Jing Tang died. His eldest son Shi Cong Gui succeeded to the throne of the (Later) Jin Dynasty. However, he decided not to submit to the Emperor of the State of Khitan anymore. Rash decision. The Emperor of the State of Khitan commanded a great army to march south to Daliang, the capital of the (Later) Jin Dynasty. Shi Cong Gui realized his error, and he surrendered.

The Emperor of the State of Khitan changed the name of his state from the “State of Khitan” into the “State of Liao.” The Emperor of the State of Liao did not enjoy the hot weather in Central China, so he went back to the north. Liu Zhi Yuan, the Regional Military Governor of Hedong, seized the chance to march his army to Daliang in June 947 and established himself as emperor of the (Later) Han Dynasty. But the next January Liu Zhi Yuan died. His son Liu Cheng You succeeded to the throne. In December 948, General Guo Wei forced Liu Cheng You to step down from the throne and promptly took his place. He established the (Later) Zhou Dynasty. In this period, apart from the five dynasties in Central China, there were ten states in China. These ten states were: the State of Wu in the southeast part of China — later replaced by the State of Southern Tang; the State of Former Shu (in what is now Sichuan Province) — later replaced by the State of Later Shu; the State of Wuyue in what is now Zhejiang Province; the State of Chu in what is now Hunan Province; the State of Min in what is now Fujian Province; the State of Northern Han in what is now the area around Taiyuan, Shanxi Province; the State of Southern Han in what is now Guangdong Province; and the State of Nanping in what is now the southern part of Hubei Province.

Zhao Kuang Yin enters our story as an astute man who joined the army under General Guo Wei. When Guo Wei ascended the throne and established the (Later) Zhou Dynasty, Zhao Kuang Yin was promoted to the rank of commander under Guo Rong, the Emperor’s adopted son. Emperor Guo Wei died in January 954. Guo Rong assumed the throne of the (Later) Zhou Dynasty in the same month. The valiant Zhao Kuang Yin took part in many great battles and expeditions commanded by Emperor Guo Rong, such as the great battle of Gaoping against the State of Northern Han, three Introduction expeditions against the State of Southern Tang, and the northern expedition against the State of Liao. In these battles and expeditions, Zhao Kuang Yin fought bravely and showed that he was a man of great ability. He was promoted to the highest military rank, that is, the Commander-in-chief of the Royal Guard Army.

In June 959 Emperor Guo Rong died. His seven-year-old son Guo Zong Xun inherited the throne of the (Later) Zhou Dynasty. Assuming this left the (Later) Zhou Dynasty in a weak position, in January 960 the army of the State of Liao invaded the northern border area. The young emperor ordered Zhao Kuang Yin to command a great army to march to the north to repel the attack. The army under Zhao Kuang Yin crossed the Yellow River and reached a place named Chenqiao, about twenty kilometers north of Daliang (now Kaifeng, Henan Province). Zhao Kuang Yin ordered the troops to camp in Chenqiao and he himself stayed in the Courier Station of Chenqiao. That night, the generals and officers decided to make Zhao Kuang Yin emperor because the present emperor was too young. At dawn the generals and officers entered the house where Zhao Kuang Yin was sleeping. They draped him with a yellow robe and forced him to accept the emperorship. When the army went back to Daliang, the capital, the generals and officers forced the young Guo Zong Xun to step down. Zhao Kuang Yin established the Song Dynasty, which lasted over 300 years and introduced important innovations to the world.

Emperor Zhao Kuang Yin knew very well the reason for the chaos in the period of the Five Dynasties: the regional military governors held too much military power. So Emperor Zhao Kuang Yin invited these powerful generals to a wine party. He allured them with the pleasures of a life of luxury, and succeeded in persuading them to reduce their own burdens by distributing the military power. In this way Emperor Zhao Kuang Yin tempered their power and removed their incentives to cause chaos. Tranquility settled over the realm. Emperor Zhao Kuang Yin was determined to unify China. His policy was to try peaceful means before resorting to force. In this way he took control of the State of Nanping, the State of Chu, the State of Shu, the State of Southern Han, and the State of Jiangnan (originally the State of Southern Tang), one by one.

Emperor Zhao Kuang Yin was on the throne for seventeen years. He established the Song Dynasty which lasted for more than three hundred years. Historians commented that the Song Dynasty was as great as the Han Dynasty (Former Han Dynasty: 206 BC–AD 9; Later Han Dynasty: 25–220) and the Tang Dynasty (618–907).

Historians summed up his great contributions in the following words: He was draped with a yellow robe in the Courier Station of Chenqiao; this great man pacified the whole realm; this great  Emperor sat on the throne in the golden palace in the Eastern Capital and he used his great power to unify China; he had done all he could to make the country prosperous.


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