Later Tang Dynasty (Five Dynasties)
The Later Tang Dynasty was a short-lived dynasty that lasted from 923 to 937 one of the five dynasties during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was also the first in a series of three dynasties ruled by the Shatuo Turks. At its height, it controlled most of northern China.
Formation of the Later Tang Dynasty
From the fall of the Tang Dynasty in 907, a rivalry had developed between the successor Later Liang Dynasty, formed by Zhu Wen and the State of Jin by Li Keyong in present-day Shanxi. That rivalry was not quelled by the death of Li Keyong. His son, Li Cunxu continued to expand Jin territories at the expense of the Later Liang. The fact that an alliance forged by Li Keyong with the powerful Khitan, who, like the Shatuo Turks, were also a people of the northern steppe, was maintained, figured significantly in the expansion and ultimate triumph of the Shatuo Turks.
Li Cunxu was successful in overthrowing the Later Liang Dynasty in 923 and proclaimed himself emperor of the Later Tang Dynasty, which he referred to as the “Restored Tang”. As a part of “restoring the Tang”, the capital was moved back to the old Tang eastern capital of Luoyang.
Course of the Later Tang
As with all of the other dynasties of the Five Dynasties, this was a short-lived regime lasting only thirteen years. Li Cunxu himself lived only three years after the founding of the dynasty, having been killed during an officer’s rebellion in 926.
Li Siyuan, the adopted son of Li Keyong, took over the dynasty, but relations with the Khitan and had fallen sour. Internal struggles typified the remaining ten years of the dynasty, ending with its toppling in 937 when Shi Jingtang, son-in-law of Li Siyuan and a fellow Shatuo Turk, rebelled, stormed the capital with the help of Khitan troops, and founded the Later Jin Dynasty.
Extent of Later Tang territories
The Later Tang controlled considerably more territory at its height than did the Later Liang Dynasty. Not only did it control all northern Chinese territories controlled by the previous dynasty, it held onto control of its own base in Shanxi. It also had control over the areas around Beijing and Shaanxi, which were not entirely under the control of the Later Liang. The largest expansion of the Later Tang occurred in 925 when they conquered the Former Shu State, centered in present-day Sichuan. However, as Later Tang power was waning, a Later Shu state formed in 934, one year prior to the fall of the Later Tang.
Legacy of the Later Tang
The importance of the Later Tang on Chinese history is far more important than its short thirteen years would imply. This represented the first time in Chinese history, since the Xianbei Northern Zhou (557-581) of the Northern Dynasties, where a substantial portion of the Chinese heartland was under the control of a foreign regime. This would be the first of three Shatuo Turk regimes, and would be a precursor to even more powerful foreign regimes to come.