An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

The Empire of Southern Tang 南唐 (937-975)

Mar 19, 2016 © Ulrich Theobald

The empire of Southern Tang 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 Li Sheng 李昪 (889-942, posthumous title Emperor Liezu 南唐烈祖, r. 937-942). The main and western capital (xidu 西都) was Jinling 金陵 (modern Nanjing 南京, Jiangsu), called prefecture of Jiangging 江寧, the secondary and eastern capital (dongdu 東都) the prefecture of Jiangdu 江都 (modern Yangzhou 揚州). The empire controlled the area of what is today Jiangxi, the southern part of Anhui, central and southern Jiangsu, eastern Hubei, and later also the western parts of Fujian. This area roughly corresponded to the empire of Wu 吳 which preceded the Southern Tang.
During the reign of Yang Longyan 楊隆演 (r. 908-920), ruler of Wu, general Xu Wen 徐溫 and his adoptive son Xu Zhihao 徐知浩 (or Xu Zhigao 徐知誥) controlled the court affairs. In 937 Xu Zhihao deposed the emperor Yang Pu 楊溥 (r. 920-937) and adopted himself the title of emperor, calling his empire first Great Qi 大齊, and a year later Tang 唐 (Southern Tang 南唐). At the same time he changed his own name to Li Bian.

Li Bian favored peaceful politics and promoted internal and cross-border trade and commerce, particularly with the commodities tea and silk, in exchange for horses and sheep. He also founded a national university and initiated state examinations to promote competent state officials. His son Li Jing 李景 (916-961, also called Li Jingtong 李景通 or Li Jing 李璟; posthumous title Emperor Yuanzong 南唐元宗, r. 943-960) took the chance of internal problems in the state of Min 閩 (909-945), and invaded it in 945. While the Southern Tang conquered the western parts of Min, Wu-Yue 吳越 (907-978) occupied its northern regions. A general of Min, Liu Congxiao 留從效, was appointed military commissioner (jiedushi 節度使) of the military prefecture of Qingyuan 清源軍 (modern Quanzhou 泉州), and so Southern Tang more or less controlled the remainings of the former state of Min. In 951 the armies of Southern Tang invaded the empire of Chu. General Ma Xichong 馬希崇 surrendered, and only parts of Chu survived independently, mainly under the control of general Zhou Xingfeng 周行逢. From 955 on the empire of Later Zhou 後周 (951-960) in the north continuously attacked Southern Tang, and forced Li Jing to cede fourteen prefectures. He also had to accept the suzerainty of the Zhou and abandoned using a reign motto. He moved the capital seat to the prefecture of Gongzhou 洪州, renaming it Nanchang 南昌 (i.e. modern Nanchang).

Li Jing's son Li Yu 李煜 (937-978, called Last Ruler 南唐後主, r. 961-975), again moved the seat of government back to Jinling. He was a famous poet, calligrapher and musician, but not interested in politics. In 976 the armies of the Song 宋 (960-1279) conquered his empire.

Rulers of Southern Tang 南唐 (937-975)
Capital: Jinling 金陵 (modern Nanjing 南京, Jiangsu)
temple name (miaohao 廟號) personal name reign-periods (nianhao 年號)
Nantang Liezu 南唐烈祖 (r. 937-942) Li Sheng 李昇 (Xu Zhigao 知誥, Gao 徐誥) Shengyuan 昇元 (937-942)
Nantang Yuanzong 南唐元宗, The Middle Ruler (Zhongzhu) of Southern Tang 南唐中主 (r. 943-960) Li Jing 李璟 (or Jingtong 景通, Jing 景) Baoda 保大 (943-957)
Zhongxing 中興 (958)
Jiaotai 交泰 (958-960)
The Last Ruler (Houzhu) of Southern Tang 南唐後主, Prince of Wu 吳王 (r. 961-975) Li Yu 李煜 (or Congjia 從嘉, Zhongfeng Yinju 鍾峰隱居)
975 Southern Tang conquered by Song 宋.
Bian Xiaoxuan 卞孝萱 (1992). "Nantang 南唐", 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. 2, 278.
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, 3338, 3340.