's Ancient Civilizations of the World/The Later Han and Imperial Collapse

The Later Han DynastyEdit

Hou Han Shu (後漢書. The History of the Later Han Dynasty)

The Later Han Dynasty (后汉) was founded in 947. It was the fourth of the Five Dynasties and the third consecutive Shatuo Turk dynasty. It was among the shortest-lived of all Chinese regimes, lasting for slightly under four years before it was overcome by a rebellion that resulted in the founding of the Later Zhou dynasty.

Establishment of the Later HanEdit

Liu Zhiyuan was military governor of Bingzhou, an area around Taiyuan in present-day Shanxi, an area that had long been a stronghold of the Shatuo Turks. However, the Later Jin Dynasty that he served was a weak dynasty and was little more than a puppet of the expanding Khitan empire to the north. When the Later Jin finally did decide to defy the Khitan, they sent an expedition south that resulted in the destruction of the Later Jin Dynasty.

The Khitan force made it all the way to the Yellow River before the emperor decided to return to his base in present-day Beijing, in the heart of the contentious Sixteen Prefectures. However, following constant harassment from the Chinese on the return route, he died of an illness in May 947. The combination of the fall of the Later Jin Dynasty and the succession crisis among the Khitan resulted in a power vacuum. Liu Zhiyuan was able to fill that void and founded the Later Han Dynasty.

Territorial ExtentEdit

Liu Zhiyuan established his capital at Bian, present day Kaifeng. The Later Han held essentially the same territory as the Later Jin dynasty. Its southern border with the southern states stretched from the East China Sea about halfway between the Yellow River and the Yangtze River before dipping south toward the Yangtze at its mid reaches before turning northwest along the northern border of Sichuan and extending as far west as Shaanxi. In the north, it included much of Shaanxi and Hebei except the Sixteen Prefectures, which were lost by the Later Jin Dynasty to what was by this time known as the Liao Dynasty.

Short-lived dynastyEdit

The Later Han dynasty was among the shortest-lived regimes in the long history of China. Liu Zhiyuan died the year following the founding of the dynasty, to be succeeded by his teenage son. The dynasty was overthrown two years later when Guo Wei, a Han Chinese led a military coup and declared himself emperor of the Later Zhou dynasty.

Northern HanEdit

The remnants of the Later Han returned to the traditional Shatuo Turk stronghold of Shanxi and established the Northern Han kingdom, sometimes referred to the Eastern Han. Under Liao dynasty protection, it was able to remain independent of the Later Zhou Dynasty. The Song Dynasty emerged from the ashes of the Later Zhou dynasty in 960 and emerged as a strong, stabilizing presence in northern China. Though they had been successful in bringing the southern states under its control, a process essentially completed in 978, the Northern Han were able to hold out due to help from the Liao Dynasty. In fact, the continued existence of the Northern Han was one of the two thorns in the side of Liao-Song relations. Finally, the Song Dynasty was able to incorporate the Northern Han into its territory in 979, essentially completing the reunification of China, with the exception of the Sixteen Prefectures, which would remain in the hands of the Liao dynasty.


"The Late Han Dynasty" (Wikipedia)