Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (907 — 979) 

— Decades of Wars and Chaos

Night Revels of Han Xizai, by Artist Gu Hongzhong of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms.

The Copied Version in the Song Dynasty (960 — 1279) is Preserved in the Palace Museum.

Facts about the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms

1 This was one of the darkest eras in the history of China. Whoever strong and powerful could occupy some cities and claim themselves the kings.


2 Within these 72 years, there had been five dynasties in northern China and over ten kingdoms in the south. 


3 Most of the regimes followed the system of the Tang Dynasty, included administrative, tax, and land policies; but they all made changes to some extent. 

Unearthed Porcelain Lotus Bowl of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms — Suzhou Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

4 Because of endless wars, science and literature were poorly developed during this era. 


5 There were many kings with ridiculous behaviors in this era:


  • A king of one of these regimes was quite brave and talented; after he gained lots of territory through his military achievements, he started to act like a professional actor. Soon, he got assassinated and was burnt down together with his beloved musical instruments.


  • A king required all of his governors to become eunuchs; he believed that one without any family could be devoted to their jobs.

  • A king respected another king as father and ceded large land, in exchange for not being invaded.

Gong Chen Pagota, Built in the Year 915 —  Lin'an City, Zhejiang Province 

Brief History of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms



Enmity Between Empire Liang and Empire Tang

After warlord Zhu Wen destroyed the capital city and assassinated the entire royal family of the Tang Dynasty, he established his empire in the middle kingdom.  

This was the Liang Empire (907 — 923), which was soon perished by their long-term enemy Li Cunxu. 

Li Cunxu, a great general, then largely extended his territory and named his new empire Tang (923 — 936).


He planned to recover the late prosperous Tang Dynasty. As an incapable politician who spent much time in professional acting, however, he was assassinated soon. 

Painted Stone Relief of Warriors of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms — National Museum of China

Replacements of Regimes in Chaotic Eras

The usurper of the throne kept going. People who obtained a certain amount of power and the army could snatch the throne and establish a new empire. 

In the middle kingdom area of China, the Empire Jin (936 — 947), Empire Han (947 — 950), and Empire Zhou (951 — 960) were successively established and perished.


Until Zhao Kuangyin took the throne from his young king and established the Empire Song in the year 960. 

From 960 to 979, Zhao Kuangyin and his brother led Song’s army defeated those kingdoms in the south, and put an end to this era of huge separation and disorder. 

As both an excellent general and a wonderful monarch, Emperor Zhao Kuangyin built a long, wealthy empire, the Song Dynasty

Unearthed Gold Dragon of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms — Zhejiang Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

Systems of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms


Around 25 million — 32 million


Official Selection System:


Imperial Examination. 

Military Service: 


Recruitment of Professional Soldiers

Unearthed Stone Statues of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Playing Musical Instruments and Dancing — Shanghai Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)

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