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Five Dynasties and Ten States

After the fall of the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907), China entered another period of segmentation. In north China, five stronger dynasties appeared one after the other, which were Later Liang, Later Tang, Later Jin, Later Han and Later Zhou. Comparatively, in south China, nine other smaller separate regimes coexisted, which were Wu, Southern Tang, Wuyue, Chu, Former Shu, Later Shu, Southern Han, Jingnan and Min. In addition to the Northern Han in the east of the Yellow River, they were together called Ten States (902 - 979).

The founders of the five dynasties that rose through military segmentations were all the former Jiedushi (regional military detachments) of Tang armies. Therefore, wars broke out frequently and regimes alternated repeatedly. Among the five dynasties, the Later Liang existed 17 years, which was the longest, and the Later Han lasted only four years. Furthermore, emperor changing during a single dynasty was also typical. For example, Emperor Taizu of the Later Liang Dynasty was killed by his second son, Zhu Yougui. Five years after ascending to the throne, Zhu Yougui was killed by his younger brother, Zhu Youzhen. Another example was in the Later Tang Dynasty: Li Congrong, son of Emperor Mingzong Li Siyuan, attempted to capture state power, but failed and finally lost his life. After Emperor Mingzong's death, his fifth son, Li Conghou, inherited the throne. After being on the throne for only one year, Li Conghou was dethroned by his adopted son, Li Congke. The frequent fights during the five dynasties brought the people great sufferings and disasters.

Compared with the Five Dynasties, the situation of the Ten States was much better. For example, the regime of Wuyue had lasted for 85 years, 68 years longer than the longest-lived Later Liang (907 - 923). Except for the Northern Han, the other nine states were all located in south China, so they were less influenced by the wars in the north. As a result, their political situation was relatively stable and their regimes lasted much longer than the five dynasties. The shortest regimes among the Ten States the Former Shu, existed for 34 years, twice as long as the longest of the five dynasties, the Later Liang Dynasty. The longest regime was the Wuyue State, lasting for 85 years. During this time, large groups of people moved from the north to the south to avoid the wars. They brought with them advanced production techniques and cultures. These factors, combined with the peaceful environment, brought rapid development to south China, laying a foundation for the southward move of the economic center in the succeeding dynasty.

 Capitals and reign periods of the Five Dynasties and Ten States:

Dynasty (State)
Period of Reign
Old Name
Current Name
Kaifeng City of Henan Province
Zhu Wen
907 - 923
Luo Yang
Luoyang City of Henan Province
Li Cunxu
923 - 936
Kaifeng City of Henan Province
Shi Jingtang
936 - 946
Kaifeng City of Henan Province
Liu Zhiyuan
947 - 951
Kaifeng City of Henan Province
Guo Wei
951 - 960
Former Shu
Chengdu City of Sichuan Province
Wang Jian
891 - 925
Later Shu
Chengdu City of Sichuan Province
Meng Zhixiang
925 - 965
Yangzhou City of Jiangsu Province
Yang Xingmi
892 - 937
Southern Tang
Nanjing City of Jiangsu Province
Xu Zhigao
937 - 975
Hangzhou City of Zhejiang Province
Qian Liu
893 - 978
Fuzhou City of Fujian Province
Wang Chao
893 - 945
Changsha City of Hunan Province
Ma Yin
896 - 951
Southern Han
Guangzhou City of Guangdong Province
Liu Yin
905 - 971
Jingzhou City of Hubei Province
Gao Jixing
907 - 963
Northern Han
Taiyuan City of Shanxi Province
Liu Chong
951 - 979