THE FIVE DYNASTIES,
AND TEN KINGDOMS
AD 907 TO 960
The fall of T'ang plunged China into turmoil, with power shifted through a series of dynasties, culminating in the establishment of the Northern Sung dynasty. Direct transfer of power from T'ang to Northern Sung involved five dynasties, but at least another 10 dynasties existed and influenced the history of this period.
Only some of the roughly fifteen dynasties are known to have issued coins, but the numismatic history of this period is rich and complex. There are many very rare issues that are not listed in the standard reference books, including some which have not yet been fully identified.
Following are some of the best known of the Dynasties formed during the period of the Five Dynasties:
POSTERIOR HAN DYNASY, AD 947 to 950
A Turkish general, Liu Chih Yuan, using the title Kao Tsu, established and was the only emperor of the Posterior Han.
ANTERIOR SHU DYNASTY, AD 907 to 960
"Kao Tsu" was also the name adopted by the first Anterior Shu Emperor. We have to assume this name was chosen to imply a connection to the family T'ang ("Kao Tsu" was the name of the first T'ang Emperor), thus establishing his right to rule. This name was also adopted by the first emperors of Posterior Liang and Posterior Chin and Posterior Han, presumably for the same reason.
The Emperors of the Anterior Shu Dynasty
Emperor KAO TSU, AD 907 to 918
Reign title: T'UNG-CHENG, AD 911 to 912
Reign title: T'IEN-HAN, AD 912 to 913
Reign title: KUANG-T'IEN, AD 913 to 915
Emperor WANG YEN, AD 918 to 925
Reign title: CH'IEN-TE, AD 918 to 924
Reign title: HSIEN-K'ANG, AD 924 to 925
SOUTHERN HAN DYNASTY, AD 917 to 942
The Southern Han Dynasty was formed by the Emperor Liu Yen who took the Reign title: Ch'ein-Heng. He was the only Emperor.
SOUTHERN T'ANG DYNASTY, AD 907 to 978
The Southern T'ang Dynasty was one of the more powerful and stable of this period. One of several dynasties established at the fall of T'ang, it controlled large portions of China from its capital in Nanking. After 71 years and a succession of only four emperors, it was eventually overrun by T'ai Tsu of Northern Sung.
The Emperors of the Southern T'ang
Emperor LI KUANG, AD 954 to 961
Reign title: Hsien-te, AD 955 to ?
Emperor LI YU, AD 961 to 978
POSTERIOR ZHOU DYNASTY, AD 951 to 960
Because of a shortage of copper, in AD 955 Shih Tsung confiscated the bronze objects from 3360 monasteries, including all the images of Buddha, and cast them into coins. Many of these coins, being cast from melted-down images of Buddha, are now used as charms for midwives. The following year Shih Tsung ordered all publicly owned bronze to be turned in and forbade the casting of any bronze objects other than for official purposes, copying an order given in AD 947 by Emperor Kao Tsu of the Posterior Han Dynasty.
Emperor SHIH TSUNG ruled the Posterior Zhou Dynasty from AD 954 to 959.
CH'U DYNASTY, AD 930 to 970
Ch'u was founded by Ma Yin, who was the governor of Hunan and part of Kuangsi during the late T'ang Dynasty, and he allied himself with Che Wen as the Posterior Liang Dynasty was established at the overthrow of T'ang. In AD 930 Ma Wen established the Ch'u Dynasty when he revolted against the Posterior Liang, but he died the same year. His Dynasty continued until absorbed by the Northern Sung in about AD 970, but we have found little further information about it.
For more information on the coinage of the Five Dynasties, please check our Reference Guide.