The Ten Kingdoms was a period in the history of Southern China that followed the fall of the Tang dynasty in 907. It lasted until the founding of the Song dynasty in 960. Nine of the kingdoms were in the South and one small kingdom was in the far North. Many states were effectively independent as governorships long before the Tang Empire dissolved. The last of the Ten Kingdoms, the Northern Han, survived until 979.
While Five Dynasties succeeded one another in Kaifeng, the regimes of South China each controlled a separate geographic region. Each court was a center of artistic excellence. The period is noted for the vitality of its poetry and for its economic prosperity. Commerce grew so quickly that there was a shortage of metallic currency. This was partly addressed by the creation of bank drafts, or "flying money" (feiqian), as well as by certificates of deposit, both of which originate in the North. Wood block printing became common during this period, 500 years before Johannes Gutenberg's press.
|History of China|
|Xia c. 2070–c. 1600 BC|
|Shang c. 1600 – 1046 BC|
|Zhou 1045–256 BC|
|Qin 221–206 BC|
|Han 206 BC – 220 AD|
|Three Kingdoms 220–280|
|Northern and Southern|
| Five Dynasties and|
Ten Kingdoms 907–960
|People's Republic 1949–present|
Wuyue, Chu, Jingnan
Historical accounts suggest that these kingdoms were non-Chinese, possibly Turkic or even Arab. Islam likely entered China through these states, as indicated by the presence of Muslim religious items.
Northern and Southern Han
Relatives of Liu Zhiyuan founded these states. Despite the weakness of the Later Han, these two states lasted a long time, with the Northern Han still standing well into the Song Dynasty.
Former and Later Shu
The Shu state was founded by members of the Shu clan, a royal family dating back to the Han Dynasty. Initially one state, it split into two because of infighting within the family. The Former Shu was controlled by the family patriarchs, the Later Shu was controlled by Shu Xie and his family.
The Southern Tang was composed mostly of Manchu and Tibetans, and is considered the forebear of the Qing Dynasty. It was one of the first dynasties to fall, after the other states withdrew support for what they saw as an inferior group.
Wu and Min
There is less historical information on these states than the others; only personal accounts exist. The Wu state is described as very militaristic, however they hewed to Mohist thought and used their might only for defense. The Min state is described as being wealthy through trade, but weak otherwise. They used trade connections to purchase protection from neighboring states.
Among the other kingdoms and states are Yan, Chengde Jiedushi, Yiwu Jiedushi, Ganzhou and Qi. For various reasons, they are not counted as proper kingdoms by most historians.