Home > China Facts > Chinese Culture and History > Chinese History > Chinese Dynasties > Five Dynasties and Ten States

Five Dynasties and Ten States

Last updated by fabiowzgogo at 2015/5/26

Five Dynasties are usually known as Five Dynasties and Ten States. They began from 907 AD when Zhu Wen overthrew Tang Dynasty to 960 AD when Northern Song Dynasty was established, covering 53 years. In fact, six of the above mentioned states had perished with Northern Han Dynasty as the last one in 979 AD.

The Five Dynasties referred to the five empires located nearby Yellow River, and the Ten States were all situated to the south of Qinling Mountains and Huaihe River except Northern Han. Actually there were another two empires, Namely, Liao and Western Xia. However, they failed to be recorded into the history of China because most Chinese historical books only centered on Han ethnic groups.

The period of Five Dynasties and Ten States was a times of chaos. There were cruel emperors, irresponsible officials, heavy taxes, as well as fights and wars all through the year. The famous capital cities Chang'an and Luoyang were once destroyed. Therefore the stage of Five Dynasties was usually called by people in history the "Five Seasons" which mean the end and the worse. A famous poet, Ouyang Xiu, made in his poem History of the New Five Dynasties an exclamation "alackaday" to express his disappointment on that period of history. He did not exaggerate it but was telling the truth. There was a kind of very cruel penalty called Lingchi, according to which the criminal would be cut into thousands of pieces until he was dead, was enacted in that turmoil period.

However, the period of Five Dynasties and Ten States led to another dynasty of peace and stability. Chai Rong in Late Zhou dynasty spent ten years on finishing the chaos, and therefore made preparation for the final unification of North China. In addition, the invention of gun powder, block printing and the astronomical clock, have substantially contributed to the development of world civilization.