An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

The Empire of Wu-Yue 吳越 (907-978)

Mar 19, 2016 © Ulrich Theobald

The empire of Wu-Yue 吳越 (907-978) 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). Its founder was Qian Liu 錢鏐 (852-932, posthumous title King Wusu 吳越武肅王, r. 907-931). The royal seat was in Hangzhou, called Prefecture of Xifu 西府, and the territory covered approximately the modern province of Zhejiang, later also parts of Fujian.

The potentate in the region of what is today the province of Zhejiang was Dong Chang 董昌, surveillance commissioner (guanchashi 觀察使) of Yuezhou 越州 (modern Shaoxing 紹興, Zhejiang). In 887, Dong was ordered to take over the military administration of the larger circuit of Zhedong 浙東, and Qian Liu was appointed regional inspector (cishi 刺史) of Hangzhou 杭州, and in 893 military commissioner (jiedushi 節度使) of Haijun 海軍. In this function, he undertook a successful military campaign against Dong Chang, who had planned to proclaim himself emperor of Yue 越. Qian was rewarded with the double-post of military commissioner of Zhenhai 鎮海 and Donghai 東海, which gave him the control over the two circuits of Zhejiang-Dong 浙江東 and Zhejiang-Xi 浙江西. In 902 he was officially made king of Yue 越, in 907 as king of Wu and Yue 越, his seat located in Hangzhou.

In comparison with the empire of Wu to its north and west, Wu-Yue was quite a weak state, and Qian therefore accepted the suzerainty of the Later Liang dynasty 後梁 (907-923) and its successors in north China.

Qian Liao's successors tried several times to gain territory from the empire of Min in the south, particularly in 940, and again in 946. While heavily defeated the first time, the armies of Wu-Yue were able to conquer Fuzhou 福州, capital of Min, during the second campaign.

When the Song empire 宋 (960-1279) had defeated the neighbouring state of Southern Tang 南唐 (937-975, the successor-state of Wu) in 975, emperor Qian Chu 錢俶 (posthumous title King Zhongyi 吳越忠懿王, r. 948-978) submitted to the new ruler of China. The Qian family was forced to resettle in the capital of the Song, Bianjing 汴京 (Kaifeng).

During the long rule of Qian Liu, his son Qian Guan 錢瓘 (posthumous title King Wenmu 吳越文穆王, r. 932-941) and his grandson Qian Chu the Wu-Yue empire enjoyed a period of internal and external peace that provided the conditions for economical prosperity. Silk, paper, and porcelain were famous products of this region. The location at the sea shore offered the possibility for international trade with Japan, the northeastern regions of China, and Southeast Asia. Qian Liao had the dykes along the Qiantang River 錢塘江 reinforced and the sluices of Longshan 龍山 and the Zhe River 浙江 constructed. He also created the office of water manager (du shuiying shi 都水營使) which unified military with hydrological duties, mainly in the region of Lake Taihu 太湖. Hangzhou and Mingzhou 明州 (Ningbo 寧波) flourished as important economical centres. Yet the 'Qian dynasty' was also known for squandering large amounts of money for the construction of extravagant palaces, which required heavy taxation.

Wu-Yue Dynasty 吳越 (907-978)
Capital: Hangzhou 杭州/modern Zhejiang
temple name (miaohao 廟號) personal name reign-periods (nianhao 年號)
Wu-Yue Wusuwang 吳越武肅王 (r. 907-931) Qian Liu 錢鏐 Tianbao 天寶 (908-912)
Baoda 寶大 (924-925)
Baozheng 寶正 (926-931)
Wu-Yue Wenmuwang 吳越文穆王 (r. 932-941) Qian Yuanguang 錢元瓘 (or Chuanguan 傳瓘)
Wu-Yue Zhongxianwang 吳越忠獻王 (r. 941-946) Qian Hongzuo 錢宏佐 (or Zuo 佐)
Wu-Yue Zhongxunwang 吳越忠遜王 (r. 947) Qian Hongzong 錢宏倧 (or Zong 倧)
Wu-Yue Zhongyiwang 吳越忠懿王 (r. 948-978) Qian Hongchu 錢宏俶 (or Chu 俶)
978 Wu-Yue conquered by Song 宋.
Bian Xiaoxuan 卞孝萱 (1992). "Wu-Yue 吳越", 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, 1238.
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.