Emperor Taizu of Later Liang

Emperor Taizu of later liang dynasty (後梁太祖), personal name Zhu Quanzhong (朱全忠) (852–912), né Zhu Wen (朱溫), name later changed to Zhu Huang (朱晃), nickname Zhu San (朱三, 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 rebel Huang Chao's state of Qi and overthrew Tang in 907, established the later liang dynasty as its emperor, and ushered in the era of the five dynasties and ten kingdoms.

Early career

Details on Zhu Wen's origin are scarce. He was born the youngest of three sons, Quanyu, Cun and Wen, his father, Zhu Cheng, an instructor in the Five Classics in Dangshan County, Songzhou. There was also a sister who married one Yuan Xiangxian of Xiayi, Songzhou, whose father and grandfather had held office on a provincial and prefectural level. 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 became a village tough instead and probably the leader of one of the many bandit gangs 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 Tongzhou, 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 back 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 Tongzhou. 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 governor, 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, also conferring the new personal name Quanzhong – Wholeheartedly Loyal.

On 3 May 883 Quanzhong was appointed prefect of Bianzhou and governor of the Xuanwu command, the appointment to take effect after the expected recapture of Chang'an. It was already known that Huang Chao 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 Quanzhong was a natural choice. It can 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 of the Wang clan). Tang forces entered Chang'an half a month after Quanzhong's appointment and on 9 August Zhu Quanzhong duly arrived at the capital of Bianzhou.

Xuanwu governor

Campaigns against Huang Chao

As seen above Zhu Quanzhong arrived at Bian more than 3 months after his appointment. The delay probably was related to various duties assigned to him in between, but may also have been due to bargaining over how many men of his own men he was to be allowed to bring with him to his new command. When he surrendered Zhu Quanzhong brought with him an army of several thousand men, but by the time he left for Bianzhou this army must have been largely dispersed or absorbed into the imperial armies, for he brought with him to Bian only a few hundred men including a core of at least eighty military retainers. These retainers, who were to provide crucial leadership in the early years at Bianzhou. The majority of them had probably served with Zhu Quanzhong under Huang Chao, but some, such as Pang Shigu, were new recruits. To the Xuanwu command belonged one of the strongest armies in the region and Zhu Quanzhong now set about making sure that this army become loyal to him personally. The army consisted of two sections: the governor's guard and the main field force, the former acting as the governor's bodyguards. Quanzhong appointed several of his military retainers as guards officers, such as Ding Hui who was made administrator, Hu Zhen who was made a commander. Quanzhong's eldest son Zhu Youyu was also made an officer, though at this time he was yet a boy. The most important of these appointments was Zhu Zhen, who was given special responsibility for selection, training and reorganization. Quanzhong did retain the hereditary officers in the guards and main army, but the reorganizations and preparations for war against Huang Chao had been entrusted to his own men. The Xuanwu army consisted largely of infantry. Having seen the effectiveness of the Shatou Turks' tribal cavalry during the recapture of Chang'an, Zhu Quanzhong ordered the formation of his own cavalry units. Command of the initial force was entrusted his military retainer Pang Shigu. Later as new units were formed both officers who had come with Quanzhong and men selected locally were appointed commanders.

Zhu Quanzhong soon had the opportunity to test the mettle of his new army. After his flight through Lantian Pass, Huang Chao attacked Caizhou and the governor of that province, Qin Zongquan, defected to the rebels. Huang Chao then proceeded to attack Chenzhou, but there the prefect, Zhao Chou, decided to resist even as his prefectural capital was put under siege. With Huang Chao held up at Chenzhou and his armies also meeting resistance in other prefectures, Zhu Quanzhong joined with the other governors of the region in early 884 to call in the man who had spearheaded the recapture of Chang'an - Li Keyong, governor of Hedong and chief of the Shatou Turks. In spring 884 the combined forces of Zhu Quanzhong and Li Keyong routed Huang Chao's generals and forced him to abandon the siege of Chenzhou. Suffering a string of defeats from the governmental armies, Huang Chao again managed to flee eastward, but his career had now run its course. He was hunted down and killed later that summer. The final defeat of Huang Chao brought about the surrender of several rebel commanders to Zhu Quanzhong, strengthening his forces and providing him with a second group of officers who would serve him loyally in the years to come.

Soon after Huang Chao's defeat a quarrel occurred between Zhu Quanzhong and Li Keyong, and when Keyong passed through Bianzhou, Quanzhong attempted to have Keyong assassinated during the night of 11 June 884. The attempt failed and Keyong escaped back to his own capital at Taiyuan from where he lodged a complaint in the imperial court. In his reply Quanzhong claimed to have had no foreknowledge of the incident, but explained that the plan had been hatched by his army commander Yang Yenhung in collusion with a representative of the court and that he had since had Yenhung executed. The Tang court, which by this time had little actual power left, was unwilling to choose sides between the two warlords and decided not to investigate the matter further, merely investing Li Keyong Prince of Longxi. This was the start of a forty years long struggle that was to outlast both Zhu Quanzhong and Li Keyong.

Campaigns against Qin Zongquan

The death of Huang Chao was however not the end of the rebels. Qin Zongquan took over the leadership and declared himself emperor. The rebels attacked successfully in all directions, even capturing Luoyang, the Eastern Capital, in 885-886. With the withdrawal of Li Keyong's armies Zhu Quanzhong was no longer strong enough to defeat them. No help could be gotten from the court either since the Emperor had again been forced to flee Chang'an after quarreling with Zhu Quanzhong's former patron Wang Chongrong. The lack of a central authority left the initiative to Quanzhong and the other governors.

Autumn 884 the Emperor bestowed titles on Zhu Quanzhong as honorary dignitary for education with ministerial standing and elevated him to Marquis of Pei. In 885 Quanzhong married his daughter, the future Princess Changle, to Zhao Yun, son of Zhao Chou of Chenzhou, who was already indebted to Quanzhong for breaking the siege of Huang Chao. With this alliance Quanzhong gained an important buffer between Bian and the rebel capital at Caizhou. A further opportunity to strengthen his position came in December 886 when the Yicheng provincial army, headquartered at Huazhou, mutinied, driving out the court chosen governor, An Shiru. An Shiru fled to Zhu Quanzhong for sanctuary. Quanzhogn killed Shiru instead and sent an army under his chief commander, Zhu Zhen, to take control at Huazhou. The neighboring governor, Zhu Xuan of the Tianping command, headquartered at Yunzhou, also sent an army to seize Huazhou, and it now became a race between the two armies to reach Hua first and secure its prize, the Yicheng army. En route Zhu Zhen encountered a snowstorm, but he chose to press on through the night. The Yicheng officers were caught off guard by Zhu Zhen's early arrival and the command surrendered. With the capture of Hua, Zhu Quanzhong was for the first time faced with the problem of how to govern multiple provinces while ostensibly remaining within the legal framework of the Tang state. His solution was to install one of his own guards officers, Hu Zhen at Hua as deputy governor. The Yicheng army was reorganized by transferring some of its officers and men to the Xuanwu army and appointing Xuanwu officers to command the rest. Large parts of the Yicheng army had to be left at Hua to guard the Yellow River, but Zhu Quanzhong had gained a strategic reserve. In January 887 the Emperor invested Zhu Quanzhong Prince of Wuxing.

Having beaten off two rebel attacks, Zhu Quanzhong in June/July 886 sent a cavalry commander, Guo Yen, to attack the rebel capital, Caizhou. The attack failed however and late 886 Qin Zongquan began a siege of Bianzhou. Though under siege, Quanzhong was not harder pressed than he was able to send out two armies to recruit additional troops outside his own territory. This served the double purpose of expanding the armies and easing the supply situation at Bianzhou. One army, under Guo Yen, was sent westward into rebel controlled territory. Defeating a major bandit gang, Guo Yen recruited many of the survivors and then fought his way back to Bianzhou with the recruits, the whole expedition lasting about six months. Another large army under Zhu Zhen was sent east towards the comparatively peaceful Qing province (in modern Shandong ). Defeating the provincial armies of Yan and Qing, Zhu Zhen reached deep into Qing province where he captured a county seat. Having obtained men, horses and equipment after his victories and in the captured county, Zhu Zhen returned to Bianzhou spring 887 after only two months, bringing with him, according to the Zizhi Tongjian, ten thousand recruits and one thousand horse. These numbers might be exaggerated, but Zhu Quanzhong's total force might well have reached thirty thousands by this time.

By May/June 887 Zhu Quanzhong felt strong enough to counter-attack. He called in the Yicheng army, and asked for, and received, aid from his two neighbouring "brother" governors, Zhu Xuan of Yun and Xuan's cousin, Zhu Jin of Yan. Halfway through a banquet Zhu Quanzhong suddenly launched a sally from Bianzhou. Taken by surprise by the sally and the approach of the armies of Yun and Yan, the besieging army was routed. Qin Zongquan launched another attack, but Quanzhong together with Zhu Zhen tricked the rebel army into an ambush and inflicted a new defeat. Following these defeats several prefectures defected from Zongquan. No longer in danger from the rebels, Zhu Quanzhong was ready to start the subjugation of Henan to his own authority.

Conquest of Henan

The alliance with Zhu Xuan and Zhu Jin did not last long. Even as their armies were returning eastward, Zhu Quanzhong accused Zhu Xuan and Zhu Jin of luring eastwards deserters from his own army. With these accusations as justifications, Zhu Quanzhong launched an offensive against Zhu Jin, the chief commander Zhu Zhen capturing Caozhou and apprehending its prefect Qiu Hongli while Zhang Guiba routed Zhu Jin in battle at Jinxiang and overrun Puzhou. An attempt by Zhu Zhen to seize Yunzhou itself is repulsed with loss however, and later both Cao and Pu prefectures had to be abandoned.

Meanwhile to the south, Gao Pian, governor of Huainan circuit, had been killed in a mutiny and the Tang court conferred on Zhu Quanzhong concurrent powers as governor of Huainan . Quanzhong sent a deputy, Li Fan, to take control of the province, but on arrival Li Fan found Yang Xingmi, one of Guo Pian's generals, in control of the provincial capital Yangzhou. Zhu Quanzhong had to accept a compromise where he kept the title of governor, but recommended Yang Xingmi as his deputy governor.

February/March 888 Zhu Quanzhong set out for Huainan , returning after reaching Songzhou. Following the defection of one of Qin Zongquan's prefects, Zhao Deyin of Xiangyang, Zhu Quanzhong's armies laid siege to Caizhou.

To purchase supplies for the war against the rebels Zhu Quanzhong sent a military administrator north with 10,000 taels of silver to buy grain from Le Yanzhen, governor of the Tianxiong command, head quartered at Weizhou. However this mission coincided with a mutiny of the governor's guard during which Zhu Quanzhong's man was killed and the money and any grain he had purchased presumably confiscated. In retaliation Zhu Quanzhong dispatched Zhu Zhen with an army who successfully plunder across Wei terrority before returning home.

To the west two former followers of Zhuge Shuang, Zhang Quanyi of Luoyang and Li Hanzhi of Meng, had been quarreling with Li Hanzhi eventually fleeing to Li Keyong, who dispatched an army to reinstate Li Hanzhi. Hard pressed Zhang Quanyi turned to Zhu Quanzhong for aid. Quanzhong responded by sending an army under Ding Hui and Niu Cunjie. They defeated Keyong's army and secured Meng for Zhu Quanzhong. In Zhang Quanyi Zhu Quanzhong gained a loyal ally under whose administration Luoyang was to recover after years of ruinous warfare.

By June/July 888 the siege of Cai Prefecture had been ongoing for more than a hundred days. As general commander of the south-eastern front, governor Shi Pu of Xu was formally in charge of the operation, Zhu Quanzhong submitted a memorial to the court censuring Shi Pu and demanding his removal from the post of general commander. Some time earlier Liu Zhan, the prefect of Chuzhou , had fled to Zhu Quanzhong due to the turmoil in Huaian. Intending to provoke Shi Pu to take up arms Quanzhong now ordered Zhu Zhen to lead an army east and restore Liu Zhan to his prefecture - to reach Chuzhou Zhu Zhen would have to pass through the territory of Shi Pu. As expected this was too much for Shi Pu to bear and he ordered his armies to attack Zhu Zhen. Zhen was however victorious in a battle at Wukang and proceeded to capture Suzhou to the south. Zhen then ordered subordinate commander Pang Shigu to attack Xu. In February/March 889 Pang Shigu defeated Shi Pu in a battle at Lüliang.

Meanwhile Caizhou had finally been captured in January/February 889. Qin Zongquan was taken captive and, after passing through several hands, ended up in the care of Zhu Quanzhong who entrusted his own manager-adjutant Li Fan with the delivery of the prisoner. In April/May Zhu Quanzhong was elevated to Prince of Dongping.

During these firsts years as governor Zhu Quanzhong had put much trust in his chief commander, Zhu Zhen, so much that Zhen became powerful enough to challenge Quanzhong's authority. To put a check on this Zhu Quanzhong appointed one of his guard officers, Li Tangbin, in a move clearly modelled after the Tang practice of appointing eunuch supervisors to the armies. Zhu Zhen and Li Tangbin soon began to quarrel and in August 889, while the army was encamped at Xiao County for further campaigns against Shi Pu, Zhu Zhen found an excuse to have Li Tangbin killed. He then reported that he had executed Tangbin for sedition. This was a grave crisis for Zhu Quanzhong as it threatened to spark off a major mutiny in the army. After planning his response with his private secretary, Jing Xiang, Zhu Quanzhong first pretended to imprison Li Tangbin's family, seemingly upholding the sedition charge, and then leaving for the army's camps at Xiao County. On arrival Zhu Zhen came out to greet him only to be seized and killed by Quanzhong's bodyguards in front of the other commanders. Disaster averted, Zhu Quanzhong proceeded to reorganize his army to ensure a similar situation could not arise again. A new chief commander was appointed, but was not given the same powers. Zhu Quanzhong had previously created several special regiments under selected officers, and some of these would now accompany the chief commander to battle and share the field commands. Also a larger number officers than before were given commands of expeditionary armies. In this way no single commander would hold enough power to threaten Zhu Quanzhong again.

Meanwhile to the south Yang Xingmi had been forced to abandon Yangzhou by Sun Ru, a former subordinate of Qin Zongquan. Having divided Zhu Zhen's army between Pang Shigu and Huo Cun, Zhu Quanzhong in spring 890 ordered Pang Shigu to cross the Huai River and attack Sun Ru, but Sun Ru was victorious.

April/May 890 the garrison of Suzhou mutinied and defected back to Shi Pu. Zhu Quanzhong personally led an attempt to retake the prefecture without success. It would take a one and a half year long siege to recapture Suzhou .

To the north Li Keyong had recently suffered defeats from rival governors Helian Duo and Li Kuangwei. Together with Zhu Quanzhong these two now petitioned the court for a campaign against Li Keyong. At court chief minister Zhang Jun, said to have been secretly bribed by Zhu Quanzhong, supported the measure, but the majority of the bureaucracy were against. Emperor Zhaozong, who had succeeded his brother Xizong in 888, also initially opposed military action, but in the end gave in to the pressure, assigning Zhang Jun as commander of the campaign with the imperial guards officer Han Jian as his deputy.

At this time a mutiny had occurred at Luzhou, headquarters of the Zhaoyi command and the governor Li Kegong, a brother of Li Keyong, had been killed. The leader of the mutiny, Feng Ba, now invited Zhu Quanzhong to take over the prefecture. Zhu Quanzhong sent an army under Ge Congzhou to occupy Luzhou and the court appointed the bureaucrat Sun Kui as the new Zhaoyi governor. However on his way to Luzhou Sun Kui was captured in an ambush by Li Keyong's troops and Ge Congzhou was forced to abandon Luzhou.

Rather than providing direct support for the imperial campaign against Li Keyong, Zhu Quanzhong at this time sought expand his own authority northwards. In December/January 890/891 Zhu Quanzhong gave up his claim to the Huainan governorship, an empty title given his failure to conquer that province, and instead received appointments as Xuanyi governor, head-quartered at Huazhou. This meant that the current governor at Hua, Hu Zhen, had to be removed since Zhu Quanzhong did not wish to keep him as acting governor, nor could he return to Zhu Quanzhong's service. Finally the court appointed Hu Zhen Grand General of the Metropolitan Guards and he had no more to do with Zhu Quanzhong. This episode is important as Zhu Quanzhong's first success in dealing with a subordinate governor. To serve as assistant governor at Hua while he himself remained at Bian, Zhu Quanzhong appointed his ex-secretary Xie Tong, one of his earliest followers from the Huang Chao days and a man with a proven administrative record.

Zhu Quanzhong next demanded from Luo Hongxin, the governor at Weizhou, rights of passage as well as provisions for his upcoming campaign against Li Keyong. Luo Hongxin refused on the grounds that provisions were scarce and pointed out that Zhu Quanzhong's men should not have to pass through his province to the north to strike at Li Keyong to the west. With this refusal as excuse Zhu Quanzhong in March/April 891 marched against Weizhou in person, with generals Ge Congzhou and Ding Hui in charge of subordinate commands, capturing four counties and routing the Wei army in a battle at Neihuang. Following these defeats Luo Hongxin was forced to sue for peace and accept an alliance with Zhu Quanzhong. Elsewhere Li Keyong had by this time soundly beaten Zhang Jun in the field was now restored to his former titles by the Emperor.

In November/December 891 Suzhou finally fell to Zhu Quanzhong's armies after Ge Congzhou and Ding Hui had flooded the city with water. This was followed the next month by the surrender of Caozhou after the assassination of its prefect, Guo Rao by one of his own commanders, Guo Shaobin.

In March 892 Zhu Quanzhong led his army in an attack on Yunzhou, giving command of the vanguard to his first son Zhu Youyu. Zhu Youyu's career did not get a promising start with Zhu Quanzhong suffering two defeats due to Youyu's failure to link up with the main body. Despite these setbacks Zhu Quanzhong entrusted his son with an independent command and during the following winter Zhu Youyu captured Puzhou and put Shi Pu under siege at Xuzhou. However when inspector-in-chief Zhu Yougong charged Youyu with incompetence after a battle with Zhu Jin, Zhu Quanzhong chose to reassign the army to Pang Shigu. In April/May 893 Pang Shigu captured Xuzhou and Shi Pu was decapitated, eliminating one of Zhu Quanzhong's rivals for dominance of the region.

To succeed Shi Pu as governor at Xuzhou Zhu Quanzhong chose one of his own personal officials, Zhang Tingfan. The other only other prefecture of the province was given to general Ge Congzhou. Though Ge Congzhou was often absent on campaign it is unlikely that Zhang Tingfan could take advantage of this to expand his own power. By weakening the position of new governors in this way Zhu Quanzhong could control the various prefectures directly and ensure nobody built up an independent power base to rival his own.

He was promoted to Prince of Liang in 901.

Founding of the later liang

Within a few years he had consolidated his power by destroying his neighbours, and was able to force a move of the imperial capital to Luoyang (modern Luoyang, Henan province), within his power base. In 904 he had Emperor Zhaozong, along with most of his family, killed and installed Zhaozong's 13-year-old son on the throne as a puppet ruler. Three years later, in 907, he executed the remaining few ministers still loyal to the imperial Li family and induced the boy emperor to abdicate in his favour. He then proclaimed the founding of the later liang dynasty, with himself as emperor. The last Tang Emperor was ordered murdered by Zhu in 908.

Extent of conquests

Zhu was able to conquer much of central China, but most of Shaanxi , Shanxi , and Hebei remained outside his reach, controlled by the Qi State, Shatuo Turks, and Yan State respectively. Most of his later campaigns were directed at the Jin state (later to become the later tang) based in Shaanxi , 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.


Zhu Wen's reign lasted till 912 when he was murdered by his son Zhu Yougui(朱友珪). He was subsequently defeated by his brother, Zhu Youzhen 朱友貞,the next year. His dynasty would last until 923.

Personal information


Zhu Cheng (朱誠), posthumously honored Emperor Wenmu (文穆皇帝) with the temple name of Liezu (烈祖) (honored 907)


Lady Wang (d. 891), Lady Dowager of Jin, posthumously honored Empress Wenhui (文惠皇后)


Lady Zhang (d. 904), Lady of Wei, posthumously honored Xianfei (賢妃) (honored 908) then Empress Yuanzhen (元貞皇后) (honored 912), mother of Prince Yougui

Major Concubines

Consort Chen, titled Zhaoyi (陳昭儀), later Buddhist nun (tonsure 909)

Consort Li, titled Zhaorong (李昭容)

Consort Duan, sister of Duan Ning


Zhu Youyu (朱友裕) (d. 904), posthumously created Prince of Chen (created 907)

Zhu Yougui (朱友珪), the Prince of Ying (created 907), later emperor

Zhu Youzhen (朱友貞) (888-923), the Prince of Jun (created 907), later emperor

Zhu Youzhang (朱友璋), the Prince of Fu (created 907)

Zhu Youyong (朱友雍), the Prince of He (created 907)

Zhu Youhui (朱友徽), the Prince of Jian (created 907)

Zhu Youzi (朱友孜), the Prince of Kang (created 913?, executed by Zhu Youzhen 915)

Princess Anyang, wife of Luo Tinggui (羅廷規), son of Luo Shaowei

Princess Changle, wife of Zhang Yan, son of Zhao Chou

Princess Jinhua, second wife of Luo Tinggui, later Buddhist nun (tonsure 910)

Princess Puning, wife of Wang Zhaozuo, son of Wang Rong

Princess Zhenning

Adopted Children

Zhu Youwen (朱友文), né Kang Qin (康勤), the Prince of Bo (executed by Zhu Youzhen on Zhu Yougui's orders 912)

Zhu Yougong (朱友恭), né Li Yanwei (李彥威) (executed and original name restored 904)

Zhu Yourang (朱友讓), né Li Rang (李讓)

Last update 16-06-2012

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