An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

The Empire of Later Shu 後蜀 (934-965)

Mar 19, 2016 © Ulrich Theobald

The empire of Later Shu was one of the Ten States 十國 (902-979) that controlled southern China during the first half of the ninth century, the so-called Five Dynasties period 五代 (907-960).

It was founded by Meng Zhixiang 孟知祥(874-934, posthumous title Emperor Gaozu 後蜀高祖, r. 934), its capital was Chengdu 成都, Sichuan, and it covered the area of the modern provinces of Sichuan, the east of Gansu, the south of Shaanxi, and the western parts of Hubei.

When the Later Tang empire 後唐 (923-936) conquered Chengdu and annihilated the Former Shu empire, in 925, Meng Zhixiang was appointed military commissioner (jiedushi 節度使) of Xichuan 西川. A year later he occupied Chengdu and began establishing an independent polity. In 932 he killed the military commissioner of Dongchuan 東川, Dong Zhang 董璋, and so won control over the whole Sichuan Basin. In 934 he was by the emperor of the Later Tang made king of Shu 蜀, and immediately adopted the title of emperor. His empire was later called Later Shu . Yet he died in the same year, and was succeeded by his son Meng Chang 孟昶 (919-965, called the Last Ruler 後蜀後主, r. 934-965). The territory of the empire grew when the Kitans destroyed the empire of Later Jin 後晉 (936-946) in the north, so that three border prefectures could be occupied by Shu. Meng Chang also undertook military campaigns to enlarge his empire to the northwest. Yet all these regions were lost to the Later Zhou in 955. In 965 the troops of the Song empire advanced to Chengdu, and Meng Chang surrendered.

The long-lasting reign of father and son Meng contributed to the peaceful development of the economy and culture in Shu. It can be said that the Later Shu and the Southern Tang were the most prosperous states during the early tenth century. Wu Zhaoyi 毋昭裔 and Zhao Chongzuo 趙崇祚 compiled the poetic anthology Huajianji 花間集 and promoted Confucianism by sponsoring not only private schools, but also an edition of the Nine Classics (jiujing 九經). Meng Chang initiated the first attempts to curtail the power of military commissionaries by replacing them with civilian officials. This measure was later imitated by the Song 宋 (960-1279).

Later Shu Dynasty 後蜀 (934-965)
Capital: Chengdu 成都 (modern Chengdu, Sichuan)
temple name (miaohao 廟號) personal name reign-periods (nianhao 年號)
Houshu Gaozu 後蜀高祖 (r. 934) Meng Zhixiang 孟知祥 Mingde 明德 (934-937)
The Last Ruler (Houzhu) of Later Shu 後蜀後主 (r. 934-965) Meng Chang 孟昶 (or Renzan 仁贊)
Guangzheng 廣政 (938-965)
965 Later Shu conquered by Song 宋.
Bian Xiaoxuan 卞孝萱 (1992). "Houshu 後蜀", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, part Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 1, 376.
Zhonguo lishi da cidian bianzuan weiyuanhui 《中國歷史大辭典》編纂委員會, ed. (2000). Zhongguo lishi da cidian 中國歷史大辭典 (Shanghai: Shanghai cishu chubanshe), Vol. 2, 3336, 3338.