Five Dynasties & Ten States

Ten States

The so-called ten states refer to the nine kingdoms existing in the southern areas of China and one kingdom named Later Han in the northern areas. According to the chronological order, the ten states were Southern Chu, Wu Yue, Former Shu, Southern Wu, Southern Han, Southern Ping, Min, Later Shu, Southern Tang and Northern Han. Actually, almost all these ten states' predecessors were regional military attachments called Jiedushi (the provincial governor in charge of civil and military affairs in the Tang Dynasty). For example, the founder of Southern Wu, Yang Xingmi, was promoted to be the Huainan Jiedushi by the Tang emperor because he crashed down the peasant uprising successfully. Later, in 902, he was crowned as the King of Wu by the emperor. The Northern Han was an exception. It was established in Taiyuan by Liu Chong, who was the younger brother of the Later Han's founder Liu Zhiyuan.

The ten states, except Northern Han in the north, were all located in South China. They were seldom influenced by wars. Due to relatively stable political situation, the regimes of the ten states could last for longer time than those of the five dynasties. For instance, the shortest-lived Former Shu lasted for 34 years, which was 16 years longer than the time span of Later Liang. Wuyue was the longest-lived state with a time span of 85 years.

Stable society was very beneficial to the development of South China. For example, Wuyue built Hanhaitang Dyke in 910, which was good for agriculture production. As a result, Wuyue became very prosperous. In the meantime, as wars occurred in North China very often, a lot of refugees fled to South China. They brought the South abundant productive technologies, science and culture, which played a very positive role in the process of developing the South.

Stable society also created a benign environment for literatures and arts. Unlike the glorious and luxurious cultural atmosphere of the Tang Dynasty, the culture and arts of the ten states developed and formed its unique plain feature. Among them, the Southern Chu was well known for making porcelain. Its capital city, Changsha, is still famous for its Changsha Kiln today. But the most prosperous dynasty was the Southern Tang which was situated in Nanjing. Since the rulers put much effort in to developing the arts and literature, numerous painters, calligraphers and poets constantly emerged in that period. Especially, Li Yu, the last emperor of the Later Tang, was renowned as a great master of the 'ci' poems in Chinese literary history.

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- Last updated on Jul. 18, 2019 -
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