The Five Dynasties 881–979


Map Code: Ax01824

Often known as the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms, the period between the Tang and Song dynasties was a time of turmoil. In quick succession ‘dynasties’ – none lasting more than 17 years – were founded and usurped by different military leaders; non-Chinese northern tribes founded three of the five dynasties (Later Tang, Later Jin and Later Han) in northern China. During the same period ten relatively stable kingdoms held sway in southern China. The short-lived Later Liang Dynasty was established in 907, with its capital at present-day Kaifeng; it was later to become Bei, the northern Song capital. As a result of its internal corruption, the Later Liang fell in 923, to be succeeded by Later Tang, Later Ha and Later Zhou. Each dynasty was founded by a military leader, who recruited non-aristocratic followers to expand his personal power-base. The old bureaucracy of the Tang was adapted by officials, promoted on the basis of merit, who brought the administration under military control. Effectively, the foundations were being laid for a centralized, meritocratic, unified administration; this happened in 960 with the foundation of the Northern Song dynasty.

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