Zhu Wen

19 Oct 2018
19 Oct 2018
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Emperor Taizu of Later Liang , personal name Zhu Quanzhong (852–912), né Zhu Wen , name later changed to Zhu Huang , nickname Zhu San ( literally, “the third Zhu”), was a Jiedushi (military governor) at the end of the Chinese dynasty Tang Dynasty, who previously served as a general under the rival Emperor Huang Chao’s Empire of Qi and overthrew Empire of Tang in 907, established the Later Liang as its emperor, and ushered in the era of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms.

Zhu was able to conquer much of central China, but most of Shaanxi, Shanxi, and Hebei remained outside his reach, controlled by rival states Qi, Jin, and Yan respectively.

Most of his later campaigns were directed at the Shatuo-ruled Jin state (later to become the Later Tang) based in Shanxi, but they mostly ended in failure due to the resourcefulness of the Jin leaders, first under Li Keyong and then later under his son, Li Cunxu.

Due to his emphasis on unifying the north Taizu was not able to make any inroads into the south, which came to be controlled by about a dozen different states over the next few decades during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period.

The rulers in the south largely were nominally submissive to him with the exception of major states Wu and Former Shu.

Emperor Taizu’s reign lasted until 912 when he was killed by his son Zhu Yougui. Zhu Yougui was subsequently overthrown by his brother Zhu Youzhen the next year. The Later Liang would last until 923.

Details on Zhu Wen’s origin are scarce. He was born the youngest of three sons, Quanyu, Cun and Wen, his father, Zhu Cheng was an instructor in the Five Classics in Dangshan County, which at that time belonged to Songzhou. There was also a younger sister who married one Yuan Jingchu of Xiayi County , near Dangshan, whose father and grandfather had held office on a provincial and prefectural level, but who claimed ancestry from the prominent middle-Tang official Yuan Shuji. (Her son with Yuan, Yuan Xiangxian, would later be an important general during Zhu Wen’s Later Liang and the succeeding Later Tang.)Zhu Cheng died while Wen was still a boy, likely about 864, or after.

His widow brought her three sons to live in the household of Liu Chong of Xiao County, Xuzhou.

Zhu Cheng’s mother is known to have been surnamed Liu. It is therefore possible that Liu Chong was a relative of Zhu Wen’s grandmother. If this was in fact the case, Zhu Cheng’s origin can not have been too obscure since the Liu family was the leading family in the area. The marriage of the daughter into the Yuan family also indicate a family of some standing.

Zhu Wen was brought up to be a family retainer or manor steward, but it is said that the people in the Liu household did not view him highly, except Liu Chong’s mother, who in fact had to intercede whenever Liu Chong, displeased with Zhu Wen, caned him. Zhu instead went on to form his own bandit gang, one of many operating between the Yellow and Huai Rivers.

In about 877 Zhu Wen and the second brother, Zhu Cun , joined the rebel army of Huang Chao when it fought its way through the region. Cun was later killed in battle, but Wen rose through the ranks until given a separate command following Huang Chao’s capture of the imperial capital Chang’an in January 881.

With this army Zhu Wen attacked and captured nearby Tong Prefecture (in modern Weinan, Shaanxi), becoming defense commissioner of that prefecture. Many of the military governors had submitted to Huang Chao following his capture of Chang’an, but soon reverted to the Tang court once they realized that cause was not yet lost. By 882 Huang Chao was effectively surrounded, controlling only two prefectures outside Chang’an, one of which was Zhu Wen’s Tong Prefecture. Wen now found the time opportune to change sides.

After first assassinating his military overseer Yan Shi , sent by Huang Chao to guard against just such a possibility, Zhu Wen surrendered to the Hezhong Circuit , headquartered in modern Yuncheng, Shanxi)’s military governor (Jiedushi), Wang Chongrong. As reward for his timely defection Emperor Xizong of Tang appointed Zhu Wen Grand General of the Imperial Guards and deputy field commander of the armies stationed at Hezhong, also conferring the new personal name Quanzhong – “wholeheartedly loyal.”

On 3 May 883 Zhu was appointed prefect of Bian Prefecture (汴州, in modern Kaifeng, Henan) and military governor of Xuanwu Circuit ( headquartered at Bian Prefecture), the appointment to take effect after the expected recapture of Chang’an. It was already known that Huang planned to escape east to Henan through the Lantian pass and the court needed someone to defend the canal route from the south-eastern granaries.

As a former rebel with local knowledge of the area in question, Zhu was a natural choice. It could not have hurt his chances either that Quanzhong had actively sought the patronage of Wang Chongrong, one of the chief architects of the imperial offensive, who he took to calling “uncle” (Quanzhong’s mother was also named Wang). Tang forces entered Chang’an half a month after Zhu’s appointment and on 9 August Zhu duly arrived at Bian.

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