chapter  1
22 Pages

Unity through war, 900–1005

On 27 December 901, Zhu Wen (852?–912), a former rebel commander, took control of the Tang dynasty capital at Chang’an.2 The emperor was not in the city at the time, but that simply delayed matters. Zhu killed the emperor in 904 and set up his own short-lived puppet. By 907 Zhu threw off all pretense, ended the Tang dynasty and established his own Liang dynasty (conventionally referred to as the Later Liang to distinguish it from an earlier dynasty of the same name, like all of the other northern dynasties in the early tenth century). The Tang dynasty had been moribund politically and militarily for many years, and Zhu’s demonstration of naked power, while unpleasant to many Tang officials, cannot have been terribly surprising. Although emperor Daizong managed to rescue the dynasty from extinction during the Anlushan Rebellion (755-763), the slow reconstruction of imperial power was almost completely undone by the Huang Chao Rebellion (875-884).3 The last Tang emperor’s abdication was merely a very clear acknowledgement that the vast Tang empire no longer existed. Form had caught up to reality.