Southern Han

Southern Han
Great Han / Great Yue
Language(s) Middle Chinese
Government Monarchy
 - 917-941 Emperor Gaozu
 - 941-943 Emperor Shandi
 - 943-958 Emperor Zhongzong
 - 958-971 Emperor Houzhu
Historical era Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period
 - Established 917
 - Renamed from "Yue" to "Han" 918
 - Ended by the Song Dynasty 971

Southern Han (simplified Chinese: 南汉; traditional Chinese: 南漢; pinyin: Nán Hàn) was a kingdom that existed during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period (907-960) along China’s southern coast from 917 to 971. The Kingdom greatly expanded her capital city Hing Wong Fu (興王府, pinyin: Xìngwángfǔ), namely present-day Guangzhou. Not only did it have interaction with other Chinese kingdoms, but due to its location, it also had relations with the Viet (Traditional Chinese: 越) people to the south.


Founding of the Southern Han

Liu Yin, was named regional governor and military officer by the Tang court in 905. Though the Tang fell two years later, Liu did not declare himself the founder of a new kingdom as other southern leaders had done. He merely inherited the title of Prince of Nanping in 909.

It was not until Liu Yin’s death in 917 that his brother, Liu Yan, declared the founding of a new kingdom, which he initially called "Great Yue" (大越), but he changed the name to Great Han (大漢) next year (918). It was because his surname Liu (劉) was the imperial surname of the Han dynasty and he claimed himself a descendant of that famous dynasty. The kingdom is often referred as the Southern Han Dynasty throughout China's history.

Territorial extent

With its capital at present-day Guangzhou, the domains of the kingdom spread along the coastal regions of present-day Guangdong, Guangxi , Hanoi and the island of Hainan. It not only had borders with the kingdoms of Min, Chu and the Southern Tang, they also bordered the non-Chinese kingdoms of Dali. The Southern Tang occupied all of the northern boundary of the Southern Han after Min and Chu were conquered by the Southern Tang in 945 and 951 respectively.

Relations with Vietnam

While the Tang Dynasty was strong, the region of the present-day Vietnam remain a stable, secure part of the Viet domains. However, as the Tang Dynasty was weakening late in the ninth century, the Viet sought to regain control over their own affairs. Hanoi, which had developed as a political center during the Tang Dynasty, was the center of an early Vietnamese polity.

The Southern Han sought to bring the Viet into the Tang's orbit; however, their invasion was unsuccessful and was repelled. In 939, The Viet in the Chinese province of Annam, under the leadership of Ngo Quyen (吳權) redeclared independence. He named the country Great Viet (Traditional Chinese: 大越, Vietnamese: Đại Việt).

Fall of the Southern Han

The Five Dynasties ended in 960 when the Song Dynasty was founded to replace the Later Zhou Dynasty. From that point, the new Song rulers set themselves about to continue the reunification process set in motion by the Later Zhou Dynasty. Through the 960s and 970s, the Song increased its influence in the south until finally it was able to force the Southern Han dynasty to submit to its rule in 971.


Sovereigns in the Southern Han Kingdom 917-971
Temple Names ( Miao Hao 廟號 miao4 hao4) Posthumous Names ( Shi Hao 諡號 ) Personal Names Period of Reigns Era Names (Nian Hao 年號) and their according range of years
Gao Zu [高祖 gao1 zu3] Tian Huang Da Di [天皇大帝 tian1 huang2 da4 di4] Liu Yan [劉巖 liu2 yan2], or Liu Yan [劉龑 liu2 yan3] after 926 917-941 Qianheng (乾亨 qian2 heng1) 917-925

Bailong (白龍 bai2 long2) 925-928
Dayou (大有 da4 you3) 928-941

Did not exist Shang Di [殤帝 shang1 di4] Liu Bin [劉玢 liu2 bin1] 941-943 Guangtian [光天 guang1 tian1] 941-943
Zhong Zong [中宗 zhong1 zong1] Too tedious thus not used when referring to this sovereign Liu Cheng [劉晟 liu2 cheng2] 943-958 Yingqian [應乾 ying4 qian2] 943

Qianhe [乾和 qian4 he2] 943-958

Hou Zhu [後主 hou4 zhu3] Did not exist Liu Chang [劉鋹 liu2 chang3] 958-971 Dabao [大寶 da4 bao3] 958-971


  • Mote, F.W. (1999). Imperial China (900-1800). Harvard University Press. pp. 11, 15. ISBN 0-674-01212-7. 
  • Schafer, Edward H. "The History of the Empire of Southern Han: According to Chapter 65 of the Wu-tai-shih of Ou-yang Hsiu", Zinbun-kagaku-kenkyusyo (ed.), Silver Jubilee Volume of the Zinbun-kagaku-kenkyusyo. Kyoto, Kyoto University, 1954.
  • Tarling, Nicholas, ed (1999). The Cambridge History of Southeast Asia (Volume One, Part One): From early times to c. 1500. Cambridge University Press. p. 139. ISBN 0-521-66369-5. 

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