An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

The Empire of Former Shu 前蜀 (907-925)

Mar 19, 2016 © Ulrich Theobald

The empire of Former Shu was one of the Ten States 十國 (902-979) that controlled southern China during the first half of the ninth century, the so-called Five Dynasties period 五代 (907-960).

It was founded by Wang Jian 王建 (posthumous title Emperor Gaozu 前蜀高祖, r. 907-918), who reigned from the capital Chengdu 成都, and controlled a territory that covered the modern province of Sichuan, as well as parts of Gansu, Shaanxi and Hubei.

Wang Jian was commander of the military prefecture of Zhongwu 忠武軍, then commander of the imperial guard, and in 886 was appointed regional inspector (cishi 刺史) of Bizhou 壁州 (modern Tonjiang 通江, Sichuan). In 891 he occupied Chengdu, from where he controlled the circuit of Xichuan 西川. Six years later he conquered the east of the Sichuan Basin with the prefectures of Zizhou 梓州 and Yuzhou 渝州. The region of Hanzhong 漢中 fell into his hands in 902. The Tang dynasty 唐 (618-907) thereupon gave him the title of king of Shu 蜀. In 907 he adopted the title of emperor. His isolated position in the west allowed him to develop more military strength, and he conquered the prefectures of Qinzhou 秦州, Fengzhou 鳳州, Chengzhou 成州 and Jiezhou XXX 州 to the north of his empire. In 917 he changed the name of Shu to Han 漢, but in the next year reversed this step.

Because of the political disturbances at the end of Tang period, many officials and scholars immigrated into the Sichuan Basin, where they found jobs in the civil administration thereby contributed to the political and economical development of this remote empire. Wang Jian's son Wang Yan 王衍 (899-926, called the Last Ruler 前蜀後主, r. 918-925) did not consequently pursuit this peaceful political course. Corruption and extravagancies resulted in a weak government, and intrigues in the palace culminated in bloody outbursts. The heir apparent Wang Yuanying 王元膺, for instance, was killed in a fight. Wang Yan, cared more for his extravagant palaces than for government, the Empress Dowager sold offices, and the state officials accepted briberies. In 925 Wang Yan was captured by the armies of the Later Tang empire 後唐 (923-936). He was murdered during his transport to Luoyang 洛陽. Instead of occupying the territory of Shu, it was left to military commisisoners (jiedushi 節度使). Already a year after the occupation of Shu, commissioner Meng Zhixiang 孟知祥 founded a new dynasty, called Later Shu 後蜀 (934-965).

Former Shu Dynasty 前蜀 (907-925)
Capital: Chengdu 成都 (modern Chengdu, Sichuan)
temple name (miaohao 廟號) personal name reign-periods (nianhao 年號)
Qianshu Gaozu 前蜀高祖 (r. 907-918) Wang Jian 王建 Wucheng 武成 (908-910)
Yongping 永平 (911-915)
Tongzheng 通正 (916)
Tianhan 天漢 (917)
Guangtian 光天 (918)
The Last Ruler (Houzhu) of Former Shu 前蜀後主 (r. 918-925) Wang Yan 王衍 Qiande 乾德 (919-924)
Xiankang咸康 (925)
925 Former Shu conquered by Later Tang 後唐.
Bian Xiaoxuan 卞孝萱 (1992). "Qianshu 前蜀", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, part Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 2, 771.
Zhonguo lishi da cidian bianzuan weiyuanhui 《中國歷史大辭典》編纂委員會, ed. (2000). Zhongguo lishi da cidian 中國歷史大辭典 (Shanghai: Shanghai cishu chubanshe), Vol. 2, 3336.