History of Hong Kong/Imperial years/Tang and Southern Han

Little is known about Hong Kong during the short-lived Sui Dynasty, so we will not talk about that. Emperor Yang of Sui's cousin, Li Yuan, declared himself emperor after Yuwen Huaji assassinated Yang, staring the Tang Dynasty. Hong Kong entered a new era in the Tang Dynasty. For once, Hong Kong appeared in history books as Tuen Mun, a district now located in the southwestern New Territories. In ancient China, Tuen Mun had multiple definitions. In this chapter, we will focus on Tuen Mun during the Tang Dynasty.

After the Tang Dynasty, there was a period of chaos called the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. We will talk about that also. The period is called so because many states appeared in China then.

Tuen Mun


What is Tuen Mun?


Tuen Mun is located in Western Hong Kong. Its main mountain is Castle Peak, also known as Tuen Mun Shan, Tsing Shan, and historically as Pui To Shan as the monk (see previous chapter) had been there. On eastern Tuen Mun is Castle Peak Bay. On the east of Tuen Mun is Kau Keng Shan, and on the south Lantau Island.

The name of Tuen Mun[1] was first recorded in the New Book of Tang. Because it is located at the Zhu Jiang Delta, it had been an important port since the Southern Dynasty period. People from Iran, India, Arabia, the Indochinese Peninsula and the Malay Archipelago had to pass through Tuen Mun to trade in China.

Tang Tuen Mun


With the increasing importance of Tuen Mun, the Tuen Mun Tseng was set up during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of Tang, in 736.[2] It was looked after by a 'garrison commander'. It had two thousand soldiers and was ruled by the Annam government, the Protectorate General to Pacify the South. Liu Julin, the Tai Shou of Hainan, used the troops to defeat Wu Lingguang, a pirate.

'Tuen Mun Tseng' can refer to both the district which the Tseng governs, or the place from which the district was governed. For the sake of simplicity, Tuen Mun will refer to the district and Tuen Mun Tseng the place from which it was governed for the rest of this chapter. At the time, Tuen Mun was a huge area, spanning from the New Territories to coastal Nantou, and as far as Yongjia, Zhejiang. Tuen Mun Tseng was located in present-day Nantou. The exact location is a mystery.

When poets Han Yu and Liu Yuxi were exiled, they went south. Both wrote poetry about Tuen Mun,[3] although thus far there is no proof that they had actually been there. Guangzhou was near the southern sea and Tuen Mun was the part of Guangzhou close to the sea. Han used this to show how far away he was from home.

Hong Kong society during the Tang Dynasty


Hong Kong belonged to Bao'an Commandery, Nanhai County until 757, in the reign of Emperor Shuzong, when it was changed to Dongguan Commandery, when the local government moved from Nantou to Daoyong. Most of the residents of Hong Kong at the time were still natives, as described in the prehistoric times chapter. Most of them were Ches and Yaos, with some Tankas along the coast. There have been no records of where the Ches and Yaos lived, nor any other sources that give us an idea where except the names of places (see the prehistoric times chapter).

The coastal Tankas were probably Yue descendants. Most lived in junks and fished. Some, who might have been descendents of the remaining troops of Lu Xun (see the previous chapter). Those fished and made salt for a living. There are numerous Tang kilns found along the coastal areas of Hong Kong, which proves that the Tankas were well spread along the Hong Kong coast. There is little we know about the people from the north who came south, although some artefacts belonging to them have been discovered in Tuen Mun.

Hong Kong society during the Ten Kingdoms period


Hong Kong belonged to Dongguan County, Guangzhou Prefecture, Southern Han during the Ten Kingdoms period. Near the end of the Tang Dynasty, Zhu Wen, a general of the rebel Huang Chao, surrendered to the Tang Dynasty. The emperor made him a powerful jiedushi. After being invited to kill off all eunuchs at court, he controlled the court and forced Emperor Zhaozong and the people to move to Luoyang. He then killed Zhaozong and made Ai emperor, then overthrew Ai and made himself the Emperor of Later Liang. Liu Yin, another jiedushi who ruled, amongst other places, Hong Kong, was made by Zhu the Prince of Nanping and later of Nanhai. Liu's brother, Liu Yan, after inheriting the title, made himself the emperor of Great Yue, and later Southern Han, the state which ruled Hong Kong until it gave in to the Song Dynasty.

The office of coastguard and a military camp were set up in Tuen Mun. The camp was located at the foot of Pui Tu Shan, although there s no archaeological evidence for historians to learn about it.

During the rule of Northern Han, Chen Yan, an official in Tuen Mun, ordered that a statue of Pui To be made in 955[4]. The statue can still be seen in Castle Peak Monsastery today. During the rule of Southern Han, Emperor Liu Chang decided to give Pui To Shan the name of Sui Ying Shan in 969[5], and did a stone tablet to commemorate that. The tablet did not survive. It was because the court was Buddhist at the time and therefore, such events were common, Castle Peak being a holy hill thanks to Pui To.

The sea from Tai Po Sea to Lantau had popular pearl-hunting sites. Tolo Harbour, in particular, was famous and was called Mei Zhu Lake. Liu Chang set up an administrative organisation called the Mei Zhu Du, and stationed by 2000 people. He hired pearl-divers to get pearls. Some went as deep as 500 metres below sea level, and many drowned as a result. As a result, Mei Zhu Du was abolished in the Song Dynasty.


  1. The origin of the name is unknown, although some claim it means 'a pass where troops are stationed'.
  2. The twenty-fourth year of Kaiyuan.
  3. See Han Yu's poem on Wikisource.
  4. The eighth year of Ganyou.
  5. The twelfth year of Dabao