Wu (Ten Kingdoms)

This article is about the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period state. For the Zhou Dynasty state, see Wu (state). For the Three Kingdoms period state, see Eastern Wu.
Capital Guangling
Languages Middle Chinese
Government Monarchy
   907-908 Yang Wo
  908-921 Yang Longyan
  921-937 Yang Pu
Historical era Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period
  Foundation of the State of Wu under Tang rule 902
   Fall of the Tang Dynasty June 1, 907
  Yang Longyan proclaimed himself King and inaugurated a new era name 919
  Yang Pu acceded the throne as Emperor November 29, 927
   Ended by the Southern Tang 937
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Tang Dynasty
Southern Tang

Wu (吳), also referred to as Huainan (淮南), Hongnong (弘農), Southern Wu (南吳), or Yang Wu (楊吳), was one of the Ten Kingdoms in south-central China which was in existence between the years of 907 and 937. Its capital was Jiangdu Municipality (江都) (modern Yangzhou in Jiangsu Province).

Some historians consider Wu to have begun in 902, when Yang Xingmi was named Prince of Wu by the Tang dynasty. All 3 rulers of Wu after 907 (when Tang dynasty collapsed) were Yang Xingmi's sons. The first ruler Yang Wo was murdered by Xu Wen and Zhang Hao, and the other 2 after him were effective puppets dominated by Xu Wen and his adopted son Xu Zhigao, who usurped power in 937 to establish Southern Tang. Yang Pu, the last ruler, was the only one to have claimed the title of emperor, the other rulers were kings or princes.


The founder of Wu, Yang Xingmi, started his career as a volunteer soldier before seizing power in his home prefecture Luzhou in a military coup. The weak Tang court could only confirm his position. In 887 the governor of Huainan, Gao Pian, was captured by Bi Shiduo. Xingmi defeated Shiduo and captured the provincial capital Yangzhou later that year, but by then Pian had been put to death by Shiduo. Another rebel leader, Sun Ru had Shiduo killed and absorbed his forces. Yang Xingmi was forced to abandon Yangzhou and retreat to Luzhou. With Luzhou as his base, Xingmi increased his power by seizing neighbouring prefectures until he could recapture Yangzhou in 892. For this act, the Tang court granted him the military governorship of Huainan.

While still nominally loyal to the Tang dynasty, rival warlords were now carving out their own statelets. Yang Xingmi clashed with Zhu Wen of Later Liang in the north and Qian Liu of Wuyue in the south, successfully defending his territory. In 902 Yang Xingmi was named Prince of Wu by Emperor Zhaozong of Tang.


Yang Xingmi died in 905 and was succeeded by his oldest son Yang Wo. In 907 Zhu Wen forced the last Tang emperor to abdicate and proclaimed himself the first emperor of the Later Liang. Yang Wo refused to acknowledge this change and continued the use of the last reign name of Tang. From this point Wu was an independent, sovereign entity.[1]

Subversion of power by Xu Wen

Young and untested at his father's death Yang Wo had relied on the director of the guard, Xu Wen, for his ascension, but later grew to resent Xu Wen's influence. However, before he could pull himself free, Yang Wo was assassinated by Xu Wen and his colleague Zhang Hao in 908. Wen and Hao had initially planned to divide Wu between themselves and submit to Liang, but they soon fell out. Xu Wen installed Yang Wo's younger brother Longyan and had Zhang Hao killed. Yang Longyan was a mere puppet with Xu Wen as the state's true ruler. Wen made himself Runzhou governor and moved his command to Jinling. The regular administration at the capital was left to his son Xu Zhixun. After Zhixun's murder in 918, this position was inherited by Wen's stepson, Zhigao. In 919, Yang Longyan proclaimed himself King of Wu and inaugurated a new era name, thus for the first time Wu officially claimed to be a sovereign state. Longyan died of illness in 922 and was succeeded by his brother, Xingmi's fourth son, Yang Pu. As before, Xu Wen had the real power. He prodded Yang Pu to proclaim himself emperor, but died in 927 before this could happen. 29 November 927 Yang Pu acceded the throne as Emperor of Wu. Xu Zhigao was made grand marshal and director of the Chancellery.

Territorial Extent

The Wu capital was at Guangling (present-day Yangzhou), and held present-day central and southern Anhui, central and southern Jiangsu, much of Jiangxi, and eastern Hubei.

End of the Kingdom

Xu Zhigao had been adopted by Xu Wen on Yang Xingmi's insistence and soon proved himself an able man. He came to power in Wu after his stepfather's death in 927 and continued to rule the state as governor of Jinling for some time. Finally in 937 he formally seized power for himself by proclaiming himself King of Qi and Yang Pu abdicated. Two years later, by claiming descent from a Tang prince Xu Zhigao and restoring his surname of Li, Xu Zhigao became Li Bian and proclaimed the restoration of the Tang. His state would be known to history as the Southern Tang.[1]


Wu and Southern Tang rulers family tree

See also



  1. 1 2 Mote, F.W. (1999). Imperial China 900-1800. Harvard University Press. p. 14.


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