Guo Wei

For other uses, see Guo Wei (disambiguation).
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Guo.
Guo Wei
Emperor Taizu of (Later) Zhou (more...)

an illustration from Sancai Tuhui (1609)
1st emperor of Later Zhou
Reign 13 February 951 – 22 February 954
Successor Chai Rong (Emperor Shizong), nephew of 1st wife
Born (904-09-10)10 September 904
modern Longyao County, Hebei
Died 22 February 954(954-02-22) (aged 49)
modern Kaifeng, Henan
Burial in modern Xinzheng, Henan 34°32′17.95″N 113°41′55.90″E / 34.5383194°N 113.6988611°E / 34.5383194; 113.6988611
  • Lady Chai (柴氏) (dec. ?)
  • Lady Yang (楊氏) (dec. 940s)
  • Lady Zhang (張氏) (dec. 950)
  • Consort Dong (董德妃) (dec. 953)
Among others
Daughter (m. Zhang Yongde)
Full name
Surname: Guō ()
Given name: Wēi ()
Courtesy name: Wénzhòng ()[1]
Era dates
Guǎngshùn (), began on 13 February 951
Year 1: 9 February 951 – 29 January 952
Year 2: 30 January 952 – 17 January 953
Year 3: 18 January 953 – 5 February 954
Xiǎndé ()
Year 1: 6 February 954 – 26 January 955
Posthumous name
Emperor Shèngshén Gōngsù Wénwǔ Xiào (皇帝)[1]
Temple name
Tàizǔ (; "Grand Progenitor")
Father Guo Jian (郭簡)
Mother Lady Wang (王氏)
Guo Wei

Guo Wei (郭威) (10 September 904[1] – 22 February 954[2]), also known by his temple name Taizu (太祖), was the founding emperor of imperial China's short-lived Later Zhou during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period, reigning from 951 until his death.

Nicknamed "Sparrow Guo" (郭雀兒) for a sparrow-shaped tattoo on his neck,[3] he rose to high position in the Later Han as an assistant military commissioner. He founded the Later Zhou in 951.

Early life

When Guo Wei was born in 904 in Yaoshan (堯山; in modern Longyao County, Hebei), the Tang Dynasty had disintegrated into regions controlled by warlords fighting amongst one other. Guo was just a toddler when his family moved to Taiyuan (in modern Shanxi), as his father Guo Jian (郭簡) became the prefect (刺史) of Shunzhou (順州, modern Shunyi District, Beijing), serving the Taiyuan-based warlord Li Keyong. Shortly afterwards, Guo Jian was killed by warlord Liu Rengong's forces which conquered Shunzhou, and before Guo Wei's deciduous teeth fell off his mother Lady Wang (王氏) also died. Orphaned, the young boy was raised by a distant relative Lady Han (韓氏).[1][4]

Guo Wei grew up into a muscular young man interested more in warfare than agriculture. He was also fond of drinking and gambling[5] and frequently participated in brawls. When he was around 17, to escape arrest he went to live with an acquaintance Gentleman Chang (常氏) in Huguan close to Luzhou (潞州, modern Changzhi, Shanxi), shortly before joining the army of Luzhou's interim regent (留後) Li Jitao. Li Jitao was serving Jin, ruled by Li Keyong's son Li Cunxu, but actually plotting to defect to the Later Liang, Jin's archenemy. He was therefore more interested in recruiting brave and talented soldiers than enforcing the law, so when an inebriated Guo stabbed a menacing marketplace butcher to death following an argument, he let Guo walk free, eventually summoning Guo back to serve him.[1]

Career under Later Tang

In 923, Li Cunxu established the Later Tang and overthrew Later Liang. Li Jitao was killed a few months later and all of his former soldiers, including 19-year-old Guo Wei, were assigned to the cavalry rotations. As Guo was literate and good at mathematics, he soon became an officer. He delved into the available literature on military strategy as much as he could, particularly enjoying Spring and Autumn Annals for a Wider World (閫外春秋), recommended by a blood brother Li Qiong (李瓊).[4][6]

In 927, the Later Tang emperor Li Siyuan personally led an army to suppress Zhu Shouyin's rebellion. Guo Wei, then under the leadership of general Shi Jingtang, was among the first soldiers scaling the defensive wall of Xun (in modern Henan). Shi saw Guo's literary talents and tasked him to manage military records. Guo proved very popular among generals and ministers.[1]

Career under Later Jin

Later Tang was replaced by the Later Jin in 936.

Career under Later Han

The Later Han was founded by a Shatuo Turk by the name of Liu Zhiyuan, posthumously known as Gaozu of Later Han. Guo Wei was already familiar with life under the Shatuo Turks as he had lived under their rule since he was nineteen years old. He served as the Assistant Military Commissioner to the founder of the Later Han. However, when a teenager assumed the throne in 948, court intrigue enabled Guo to usurp the throne in a coup and declare himself the founding Emperor of the Later Zhou Dynasty on New Year’s Day in 951.


He was the first Han Chinese Emperor in northern China since 923. His rule was able and he passed reforms that attempted to relieve pressures on China’s massive peasantry. However, he died from an illness three years into his reign in 954.




  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Wudai Shi, ch. 110.
  2. Wudai Shi, ch. 113.
  3. Wudai Shiji, ch. 70.
  4. 1 2 Wudai Shiji, ch. 11.
  5. Wudai Shiji, ch. 19.
  6. Song Shi, ch. 261.
  7. Posthumously honored as Emperor Ruihe (睿和皇帝) with the temple name Xinzu (信祖).
  8. Posthumously honored as Emperor Mingxian (明憲皇帝) with the temple name Xizu (僖祖).
  9. Posthumously honored as Empress Ruigong (睿恭皇后).
  10. Posthumously honored as Emperor Yishun (翼順皇帝) with the temple name Yizu (義祖).
  11. Posthumously honored as Empress Mingxiao (明孝皇后).
  12. Posthumously honored as Emperor Zhangsu (章肅皇帝) with the temple name Qingzu (慶祖).
  13. Posthumously honored as Empress Yijing (翼敬皇后).
  14. Posthumously honored as Empress Zhangde (章德皇后).


Guo Wei
House of Guo (951–960)
Born: 904 Died: 954
Regnal titles
Preceded by
None (state founded)
Emperor of Later Zhou
Succeeded by
Guo Rong (Emperor Shizong)
Preceded by
Liu Chengyou of Later Han
Emperor of China (Central)
Preceded by
Li Jing of Southern Tang
Emperor of China (Northwestern Hunan) (de jure)
Emperor of China (Southeastern Hunan) (de jure)
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