Chai Rong

This is a Chinese name; the family name is Chai (later changed to Guo).
Guo Rong / Chai Rong
Emperor Shizong of (Later) Zhou (more...)

an illustration from Sancai Tuhui (1609)
2nd emperor of Later Zhou
Reign 26 February 954[1] – 27 July 959
Predecessor Guo Wei (Emperor Taizu), uncle by marriage and adoptive father
Successor Chai Zongxun (Emperor Gong), son
Born (921-10-27)27 October 921
modern Xingtai, Hebei
Died 27 July 959(959-07-27) (aged 37)
Kaifeng, Henan, China
Burial in today's Xinzheng, Henan 34°33′44.52″N 113°41′47.88″E / 34.5623667°N 113.6966333°E / 34.5623667; 113.6966333
first 3 sons died young in 950
  • Chai Zongxun, son
  • Chai Xirang (柴熙讓), son
  • Chai Xijin (柴熙謹), son
  • Chai Xihui (柴熙誨), son
Full name
Surname: Chái (), later changed to Guō ()[2]
Given name: Róng ()
Era dates
Xiǎndé (), continued from Emperor Taizu
Year 1: 6 February 954 – 26 January 955
Year 2: 27 January 955 – 14 February 956
Year 3: 15 February 956 – 2 February 957
Year 4: 3 February 957 – 22 January 958
Year 5: 23 January 958 – 10 February 959
Year 6: 11 February 959 – 30 January 960
Posthumous name
Emperor Ruìwǔ Xiàowén (皇帝)
Temple name
Shìzōng ()
Father Chai Shouli (柴守禮) (biological)
Guo Wei (adoptive)
Chai Rong
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese

Chai Rong (柴榮) (27 October 921[3] – 27 July 959[4]) or Guo Rong (郭榮),[2] also known by his temple name Shizong (世宗), was the second emperor of imperial China's short-lived Later Zhou during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period, reigning from 954 until his death. He succeeded his uncle-in-law Guo Wei, whose surname he had adopted.

Emperor Shizong is considered a highly successful emperor of the Five Dynasties period. He centralized military power by his reforms, and proved his military prowess by a series of victories against Northern Han, Later Shu, Southern Tang, and the Liao Dynasty. Although his accomplishments were limited due to his premature death, they paved way for Chinese reunification later completed by the Song Dynasty, founded by his trusted general Zhao Kuangyin.

Early life

Chai Rong was born in Xingzhou (邢州; modern Xingtai, Hebei).[3] As a child he came to live with his aunt — a younger sister of his father Chai Shouli (柴守禮) — and her husband Guo Wei, an official in the Later Tang military. The Guos had no sons, so they adopted the quiet nephew as their own. The youngster grew up into a muscular young man skilled at mounted archery, while also possessing a basic understanding of Chinese classics, history, and the Huang-Lao philosophy.[1]

Career under Later Han

After the establishment of the Later Han in 947, the Guo family's condition improved dramatically. Guo Wei became the commissioner of military affairs (樞密使) in 948,[5] and his adopted son became the left commandant for palace-gate security (左堅門衛將軍).[1] On 4 May 950, Guo was promoted to military governor of Tianxiong Command (天雄軍) and delegated to garrison at Weizhou (魏州; modern Linzhang County, Hebei) at the Later Han-Liao Dynasty border to prevent a possible Liao incursion. Ten days later, his adopted son was appointed Tianxiong Command's chief director of military headquarters (牙內都指揮使) to follow him in Weizhou. Chai Rong — by now known as Guo Rong — was also given a nominal post of prefect of Guizhou (貴州).[6][7]

In 950, the Later Han emperor Liu Chengyou unexpectedly killed the entire family of Guo Wei as a plot to liquidate the most powerful ministers in his nation. Guo Wei decided to rebel. As Guo Rong's wife Lady Liu (劉氏) and children including 3 young sons also remained in the capital Bianzhou (汴州; today's Kaifeng, Henan), they were all slaughtered as well.[8] Guo Wei asked Guo Rong to stay behind at the frontier as he led his main army southbound towards Bianzhou.

Career under Emperor Taizu of Later Zhou

In a few months, Liu Chengyou was killed, Later Han was terminated, as Guo Wei founded the Later Zhou. Guo Rong became the military governor of Zhenning Command (鎮寧軍) and went to Chanzhou (澶州; today's Qingfeng County, Henan).[1] At Chanzhou, he quickly eradicated militarized outlaws in the region and promoted literati to enforce laws more effectively,[9] winning the support of the people. He also initiated projects to tear down dilapidated street walls and build new public office buildings and residential housings.[3]

Chancellor Wang Jun, the most powerful minister, did not see eye-to-eye with Guo Rong on some issues and prevented him from visiting the capital on more than one occasion. In 952, Guo Rong requested permission to lead an army to quell a rebellion, but Wang Jun vetoed it for fear that Guo Rong would hold too much military power. At the end, Guo Wei had to personally lead the troops as an emperor. It was not until Wang's banishment in early 953 that Guo Rong finally got a chance to come back to the capital, when in April 953 he was named Prince of Jin (晉王).[3] By this time he was again married, to a Lady Fu, a widowed daughter of general Fu Yanqing.[8] His son Chai Zongxun was born in late 953 in Chanzhou.[10]

Emperor of Later Zhou

Guo Rong (posthumously known as Shizong of Later Zhou) became emperor in 954 upon his adoptive father’s death. Like his father, he was considered an able ruler. He continued reforms introduced by his father. More importantly, he began putting pressure on the Northern Han and even the Liao Dynasty, though nothing substantial came of it. More success was met in the south as some minor successes were made against the Southern Tang and Later Shu, paving the way to eventual unification by the Song Dynasty.

He suffered an early death at the age of 38 when he died from illness while out on the field in 959. He left behind him a six-year-old heir to succeed him. This led to the fall of the dynasty and the rise of the Song Dynasty, which eventually succeeded in reunifying China.

Famous campaign

Campaign against Liu Chong

One month after Chai Rong took the throne, Liu Chong, Emperor of Northern Han, colluded with Liao Dynasty to launch an assault on Later Zhou. Against the advice of Minister Feng Dao, Chai Rong decided to lead the army to fight against the incursion. When Chai Rong engaged Liu Chong at Gao Ping (in modern Jincheng), two of Chai's general Fan Aineng, He Hui fled from battlefield along with their troops. At this critical moment, Chai Rong risked his life to break through the defense and crushed Liu’s forces. After this campaign, Chai Rong consolidated his power.[11]

Notes and references

  1. 1 2 3 4 Wudai Shiji, ch. 12.
  2. 1 2 Zizhi Tongjian, ch. 289 indicates that he was called Guo Rong at least since 950. However, his original name Chai Rong is far better known in posterity.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Wudai Shi, ch. 114.
  4. Wudai Shi, ch. 119.
  5. Zizhi Tongjian, ch. 288.
  6. Guizhou (貴州; modern Guigang, Guangxi) was then under Southern Han's and not Later Han's direct control.
  7. Zizhi Tongjian, ch. 289.
  8. 1 2 Wudai Shiji, ch. 20.
  9. Song Shi, vol. 274.
  10. Wudai Shi, ch. 120.
  11. Zizhi Tongjian, ch. 291.


Chai Rong
House of Chai (954–960)
Born: 921 Died: 959
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Emperor Taizu of Later Zhou
Emperor of the Later Zhou
Succeeded by
The Emperor Gongdi
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