Southern Han

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Great Han / Great Yue

CapitalXingwang (Guangzhou)
Common languagesMiddle Chinese
• 917–941
Emperor Gaozu
• 941–943
Emperor Shangdi
• 943–958
Emperor Zhongzong
• 958–971
Emperor Houzhu
Historical eraFive Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period
• Established
• Renamed from "Yue" to "Han"
• Ended by the Song dynasty
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Tang dynasty
Song dynasty
Ngô dynasty
Today part ofChina
Southern Han
Traditional Chinese南漢
Simplified Chinese南汉

Southern Han (Chinese: 南漢; pinyin: Nán Hàn; 917–971), originally Great Yue (Chinese: 大越), was one of the ten kingdoms that existed during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. It was located on China's southern coast, controlling modern Guangdong and Guangxi. The kingdom greatly expanded its capital Xingwang Fu (Chinese: 興王府; pinyin: Xìngwángfǔ, present-day Guangzhou). It attempted but failed to annex the Tang province of Annam (modern northern Vietnam).

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); he changed the name to Great Han (大漢) in 918. This was because his surname Liu () was the imperial surname of the Han dynasty and he claimed to be a descendant of that famous dynasty. The kingdom is often referred to 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 had borders with the kingdoms of Min, Chu and the Southern Tang as well as 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

Đông Hồ woodblock depiction of Ngô Quyền leading his troops against Southern Han forces on the Bạch Đằng River, 938 AD

While the Tang Dynasty was strong, the region of the present-day Vietnam remained a stable, secure part of the Southern Han's Viet domains. However, as the Tang weakened late in the 9th 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 its 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.

Fall of the Southern Han

The Five Dynasties ended in 960 when the Song Dynasty was founded to replace the Later Zhou. From that point, the new Song rulers set themselves about to continue the reunification process set in motion by the Later Zhou. 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 Posthumous Names Personal Names Period of Reigns Era Names
Gao Zu (高祖 gāo zǔ) Tian Huang Da Di (天皇大帝 tiān huáng dà dì) Liu Yan (劉巖 liú yán)

Liu Yan (劉龑 liú yǎn) after 926

917–941 Qianheng (乾亨 qián hēng) 917–925

Bailong (白龍 bái lóng) 925–928
Dayou (大有 dà yǒu) 928–941

Did not exist Shang Di (殤帝 shāng dì) Liu Bin (劉玢 liú bīn) 941–943 Guangtian (光天 guāng tiān) 941–943
Zhong Zong (中宗 zhōng zōng) Wénwǔ Guāngmíng Xiào (文武光明孝皇帝)

Too tedious thus not used when referring to this sovereign

Liu Sheng (劉晟 liú shèng) 943–958 Yingqian (應乾 yìng qián) 943

Qianhe (乾和 qiàn hé) 943–958

Hou Zhu (後主 hòu zhǔ) Did not exist Liu Chang (劉鋹 liú chǎng) 958–971 Dabao (大寶 dà bǎo) 958–971

Rulers family tree




  • 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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