The Former Liang (Chinese: 前涼; pinyin: Qián Liáng; 301[a]–376) was a dynastic state, one of the Sixteen Kingdoms, in Chinese history. It was founded by the Zhang family of the Han ethnicity. Its territories included present-day Gansu and parts of Ningxia, Shaanxi, Qinghai and Xinjiang.

Former Liang (前涼)
西平, 涼
Former Liang in the northwest
Former Liang in the northwest
StatusVassal of Eastern Jin, Han Zhao, Later Zhao, Former Qin
• 301–314
Zhang Gui
• 314–320
Zhang Shi
• 320–324
Zhang Mao
• 324–346
Zhang Jun
• 346–353
Zhang Chonghua
• 353
Zhang Yaoling
• 353–355
Zhang Zuo
• 355–363
Zhang Xuanjing
• 363–376
Zhang Tianxi
• Zhang Gui's appointment as Inspector of Liang Province
• Zhang Shi's retention of Emperor Min's reign era
• Zhang Mao's acceptance of Prince of Liang title
• Zhang Jun's proclamation as Acting Prince of Liang
• Zhang Zuo's formal rejection of Eastern Jin suzerainty
• Zhang Xuanjing's formal acceptance of Eastern Jin suzerainty
• Disestablished
26 September[1][2] 376
• Zhang Tianxi's death
CurrencyChinese coin, Chinese cash (Wu Zhu)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Eastern Jin
Former Qin
Today part ofChina

All rulers of the Former Liang remained largely titularly under the court of the Eastern Jin dynasty as the Duke of Xiping except Zhang Zuo who proclaimed himself emperor (or king). However, at times the other Former Liang rulers also used the king title when imposed on them when they were forced to submit to their powerful neighbour states—initially the Former Zhao, then the Later Zhao, and finally the Former Qin. As the early rulers did not explicitly declare their independence, the official year of Former Liang's establishment is up to interpretation, but no earlier than 301, the year when Zhang Gui was appointed Inspector of Liang province. Historiographers refer to the state as the Former Liang to distinguish it from the Di-led Later Liang, founded in 386, along with the other Liang states of the Sixteen Kingdoms, Southern Liang, Northern Liang and Western Liang.

History edit

Background edit

The founding of the Former Liang can be traced back to Zhang Gui. He was a Han Chinese official under the Western Jin dynasty who claimed descent from Zhang Er, the King of Changsha during Emperor Gaozu of Han’s era. Wanting to avoid the War of the Eight Princes (291–306), he requested to be transferred to Liang province in 301, where he served as the provincial inspector.

At the time, Liang was rife with Xianbei rebels and banditry, with many refugees entering from Qin province to flee the civil wars and famines. Zhang Gui campaigned against the Xianbei and bandits, pacifying the region in 305 after defeating the chieftain, Ruoluobaneng. He made Guzang (姑臧, in modern Wuwei, Gansu) his main base and collaborated with the local Chinese gentry families. He also developed the region by promoting agriculture and establishing new schools. Despite his influence in Liang, Zhang Gui never declared independence and remained a Jin official up to his death in 314.

Early years edit

Zhang Gui aided the Western Jin in its war against the Xiongnu-led Han dynasty (renamed to Former Zhao in 319), as did his son and successor Zhang Shi. After Emperor Min of Jin’s capture and execution, Zhang Shi sent envoys to the prince, Sima Rui at Jiankang in the south, urging him to take the throne. The dynasty was re-established as the Eastern Jin in 318, but despite his endorsement, Zhang Shi refused to adopt Sima Rui’s new reign era. Instead, he continued to use Emperor Min’s reign era, Jianxing (建興) within his territory, a practice that was upheld by most of his successors.

After Zhang Shi's assassination in 320, his brother, Zhang Mao took power. He came into conflict with the Former Zhao, who were expanding westward to compete with their rival Later Zhao. In 323, Zhang Mao submitted to the Former Zhao, receiving the title of King of Liang and the nine bestowments, while internally retaining his Jin title of Duke of Xiping.

Reign of Zhang Jun edit

The Former Liang reached its peak under Zhang Jun, who succeeded his uncle Zhang Mao in 324. Taking advantage of the Former Zhao’s collapse to the Later Zhao in 329, his forces marched south of the Yellow River and expanded his territory all the way to Didao. However, fearful of Later Zhao’s presence in the Longxi, he submitted as a vassal but did not accept any government offices from them. He established relations with the Cheng-Han dynasty in Sichuan and invaded the Western Regions, forcing several oasis states like Kucha and Loulan into submitting to him.

Under Zhang Jun, the Former Liang also began imitating a kingdom system. Zhang Jun's subjects began referring to him as a "king", supposedly against his will, and he appointed his son, Zhang Chonghua, as a crown prince. During his later reign, he built palaces and ceremonial buildings, along with handing out Jin-influenced imperial offices to his officials. In 345, he proclaimed himself Acting Prince of Liang, all while still recognizing Jin as his overlord. His rule was praised by traditional historians for being relatively peaceful with an effective administration.

Internal turmoil and decline edit

Zhang Chonghua succeeded his father in 346 and was immediately faced by a Later Zhao invasion. Although he repelled them, he also lost his territory south of the Yellow River. During and after Later Zhao's collapse, he attempted to reclaim lost land and expand eastward, but was met with the Former Qin dynasty. He died in 353, leaving his 10-year-old son Zhang Yaoling to succeed him and beginning many years of internal fighting.

Shortly after ascending, Yaoling was deposed by his uncle and regent, Zhang Zuo. In 354, Zhang Zuo declared himself emperor (or king), being the only Former Liang ruler to fully reject Jin's suzerainty. In 355, a distant relative, Zhang Guan, overthrew him and installed Zhang Chonghua's five-year-old son, Zhang Xuanjing, to take the throne. Zhang Guan acted as regent, exercising paramountcy and even considered usurping the throne before he was killed by Song Hun. Song Hun and his brother, Song Cheng, were members of the prominent Song clan of Dunhuang and served as Xuanjing's regents in succession, during which they discarded Zhang Zuo's imperial title. In 361, Song Cheng was assassinated by the general, Zhang Yong, who soon suffered the same fate at the hands of his co-regent and Xuanjing's uncle, Zhang Tianxi. Tianxi was the last of Xuanjing's regents, as in 363, he deposed his nephew and assumed power.

Fall and aftermath edit

Infighting within the Former Liang left the state severely weakened. Several pro-Eastern Jin rebellions broke out in 356 and they once more lost their territory south of the Yellow River. Faced with pressure from the Former Qin, they were also forced to submit to them as vassals. During his regency and reign, Zhang Tianxi finally discarded the Jianxing reign era and adopted the Eastern Jin's reign eras, thus fully recognizing their sovereignty. Later, he attempted to coordinate a campaign against Former Qin with the Jin commander, Huan Wen, but was ignored. In 376, the Former Qin invaded Former Liang, prompting Tianxi to surrender and ending the state.

Zhang Tianxi served as a mid-level official under the Former Qin, but in the aftermath of the Battle of Fei River in 383, he managed to escape to the Eastern Jin. He became a Jin official and was restored to his family's title of Duke of Xiping before dying in 406. His son, Zhang Dayu attempted to restore his family's state in 386, but was killed in 387 by Lü Guang, the founder of Later Liang.

Despite the chaos that plagued Former Liang during the later parts of its existence, it also saw the emergence of the Mogao Caves, as these Buddhist grottoes were first constructed near Dunhuang in 353 or 366.

Rulers of the Former Liang edit

Posthumous names Family names and given name Durations of reigns Era names and their according durations
Wu Zhang Gui 301–314
Ming Zhang Shi 314–320 Jianxing 建興 318–320[b]
Cheng Zhang Mao 320–324 Jianxing 建興 or Yongyuan 永元 320–324
Zhongcheng Zhang Jun 324–346 Jianxing 建興 or Taiyuan 太元 324–346
Huan Zhang Chonghua 346–353 Jianxing 建興 or Yongle 永樂 346–353
Zhang Yaoling 353 Jianxing 建興 353
King Wei Zhang Zuo 353–355 Heping 和平 354–355
Jingdao Zhang Xuanjing 355–363 Jianxing 建興 355–361

Shengping 升平 361–363[c]

Dao Zhang Tianxi 364–376 Shengping 升平 363–372

Xian'an 咸安 372–376[d]

Rulers family tree edit

Former Liang rulers family tree
Zhang Gui 张轨 (255–314)
Wǔwáng 武王
(r. 301–314)
Zhang Shi 张寔 (d. 320)
Míngwáng 明王 / Zhāowáng 昭王
(r. 314–320)
Zhang Mao 張茂 (276–324)
Chenglie 成烈 / Cheng 成
r. (320–)323–324
Zhang Jun 張駿 (307–346)
Wen 文 / Zhongcheng 忠成
r. 324–346
Zhang Zuo 张祚 (d. 355)
(r. 353–355)
Zhang Chonghua 張重華 (327–353)
Jinglie 敬烈 / Huan 桓
r. 346–353
Zhang Tianxi 張天錫 (346–406)
Dao 悼
(r. 363–376)
Zhang Yaoling 張曜靈 (344–355)
Ai 哀
(r. 353–355)
Zhang Xuanjing 張玄靖 (350–363)
Jingdao 敬悼 / Chong 沖
r. 355–363
Zhang Dayu 张大豫
d. 387; r. 386–387

See also edit

Note edit

  1. ^ Earliest possible interpretation of Former Liang's year of establishment. Other interpretations include 318, 323, 345 and 354.
  2. ^ Emperor Min of Jin's reign era.
  3. ^ Emperor Mu of Jin's reign era.
  4. ^ Emperor Jianwen of Jin's reign era.

References edit

  1. ^ "中央研究院網站".
  2. ^ Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 104.