Shi Jingtang

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Shi Jingtang
Emperor Gaozu of (Later) Jin (more...)
Shi Jingtang scth.jpg
an illustration from Sancai Tuhui (1609)
1st emperor of Later Jin
Reign 28 November 936[1][2] – 28 July 942
Successor Shi Chonggui (Emperor Chu), nephew
Spouse Empress Li
  • Shi Chongying (石重英), son
  • Shi Chongxin (石重信), son
  • Shi Chongyi (石重乂), son
  • Shi Chongjin (石重進), son
  • Shi Chongrui (石重睿), son
  • Daughter (m. Yang Chengzuo)
Full name
Family name: Shí ()
Given name: Jìngtáng ()
Era dates
Tiānfú ()
Year 1: 28 November 936 – 12 February 937
Year 2: 13 February 937 – 1 January 938
Year 3: 2 January 938 – 22 January 939
Year 4: 23 January 939 – 10 February 940
Year 5: 11 February 940 – 29 January 941
Year 6: 30 January 941 – 19 February 942
Year 7: 20 January 942 – 7 February 943
Posthumous name
Short: Never used short
Full: Emperor Shèngwén Zhāngwǔ Míngdé Xiào (皇帝)
Temple name
Gāozǔ (; "High Forefather")
Father Shi Shaoyong (石紹雍)
Mother Lady He (何氏)
Born (892-03-30)30 March 892
Taiyuan, Tang Empire[1] (in today's Yangqu County, Taiyuan, Shanxi)
Died 28 July 942(942-07-28) (aged 50)
Ye, Later Jin Empire (today's Linzhang County, Hebei)
Burial in today's Yiyang County, Henan 34°37′19.86″N 112°5′42.01″E / 34.6221833°N 112.0950028°E / 34.6221833; 112.0950028
Shi Jingtang
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Shi.

Shi Jingtang (石敬瑭) (30 March 892[1] – 28 July 942[3]), also known by his temple name Gaozu (高祖), was the founding emperor of imperial China's short-lived Later Jin during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period, reigning from 936 until his death.

Likely of Shatuo descent ethnically, he was an important military general for the Later Tang before rebelling in 936. To overthrow Later Tang he enlisted the help of the Khitan-ruled Liao state, not only humiliating himself as Emperor Taizong of Liao's son but also yielding the strategically crucial Sixteen Prefectures to Liao after his rise to power — an event that would shape the Chinese political landscape for the next 200 years.

Background and early life[edit]

Shi Jingtang was likely of Shatuo descent. The official history Old History of the Five Dynasties stated that his family was originally descended from Shi Que (石碏), an official of the Spring and Autumn Period state Wey, through the Han prime minister Shi Fen (石奮), and further stated that Shi Fen's descendants fled west when Han fell, settling in what would eventually become Gan Prefecture (甘州, in modern Zhangye, Gansu), apparently in an attempt to try to link Shi with a Han Chinese ancestry despite the Shatuo origin. Under the Old History of the Five Dynasties account, his great-great-grandfather, whose name was given as Shi Jing (石璟), followed the Shatuo chieftain Zhuye Zhiyi (朱邪執宜) in submitting to Tang, and was settled, along with the rest of the Shatuo people under Zhuye, in Tang territory. Shi Jingtang's father Nieliji (臬捩雞), who was referred to by the Han Chinese name Shi Shaoyong (石紹雍), was said to be a successful general under Zhuye Zhiyi's grandson Li Keyong, who was an important late-Tang warlord, and Li Keyong's son Li Cunxu, who ruled the independent state of Jin after Tang's fall.[1] The other official history for the period, the New History of the Five Dynasties, apparently was skeptical of this account of Shi Jingtang's ancestry, and instead merely gave Nieliji's name, further stating that it was unclear when or how he received the surname of Shi.[4]

Shi Jingtang was born in 892, during the reign of Emperor Zhaozong of Tang, in Taiyuan. His mother was stated to be a Lady He, and it was not stated whether she was Shi Shaoyong's wife or concubine.[1] (However, after he later became emperor, Shi Jingtang honored Shi Shaoyong's concubine Lady Liu, first as consort dowager, and then as empress dowager, suggesting the possibility that Lady He was Shi Shaoyong's wife and Shi Jingtang's "legal" mother, but that Lady Liu was his birth mother.)[3] In his youth, Shi Jingtang was said to be quiet and stern. He studied the military strategies and particularly tried to take after Li Mu and Zhou Yafu.[1]

Service during Jin[edit]

The region that Li Keyong ruled subsequently became the state of Jin after Tang's fall in 907 (as Li Keyong carried the Tang-bestowed title of Prince of Jin), and after Li Keyong's death in 908, Li Cunxu succeeded him as the Prince of Jin, in rivalry with Tang's main successor state Later Liang.[5] Li Cunxu subsequently made his adoptive brother (Li Keyong's adoptive son) Li Siyuan, a major general, the prefect of Dai Prefecture (代州, in modern Shuozhou, Shanxi). While Li Siyuan served as the prefect of Dai, he became impressed with Shi Jingtang and gave his Empress Li to Shi in marriage. Shi subsequently served under Li Siyuan in campaigns, becoming one of the two prominent officers under Li Siyuan (along with Li Siyuan's adoptive son Li Congke) due to his battlefield accomplishments.[1] (Despite the familial relationship between Shi and Li Congke and their serving together under Li Siyuan, the two did not like each other and had a rivalry, although not overtly.)[6]

Service during Later Tang[edit]

During Li Cunxu's reign[edit]

In 923, Li Cunxu declared himself emperor of a new state of Later Tang. He subsequently carried out a campaign that destroyed Later Liang later in the year — a campaign in which Li Siyuan played a prominent role.[7] Shi Jingtang and Li Congke both had battlefield accomplishments during the campaign, but Shi did not receive prominent honors as his contributions were not well-known — according to traditional accounts, because he did not like to brag about them. Li Siyuan, however, was aware of his contributions.[1]

By 926, however, Li Cunxu's state, which had also destroyed and annexed Former Shu, was thrown into chaos due to his misrule — as, while a fierce general, he was not a capable ruler, and he had alienated the army by killing two prominent generals, Guo Chongtao and Zhu Youqian. A subsequent mutiny at Yedu (鄴都, in modern Handan, Hebei) was not quickly suppressed. Li Cunxu sent Li Siyuan to suppress it, but Li Siyuan's own soldiers mutinied and forced Li Siyuan to join the Yedu mutineers. While Li Siyuan was subsequently able to escape from Yedu, Shi persuaded him that he could never, after this point, convince Li Cunxu that he was not part of the mutiny from the beginning. With Shi and the others persuading him to act against Li Cunxu, Li Siyuan finally decided to gather his troops and head south, first toward the secondary capital Daliang (Later Liang's former capital) and then the imperial capital Luoyang. During this campaign, both Shi and Li Congke continued to play prominent roles.[8] Before Li Siyuan's and Li Cunxu's armies could engage each other, however, Li Cunxu was killed in a mutiny at Luoyang itself. Li Siyuan subsequently entered the city and claimed the title of regent.[9]

During Li Siyuan's reign[edit]

Li Siyuan appeared to be initially hesitant to take the throne himself, as at that time, Li Cunxu's son Li Jiji the Prince of Wei, who had been the commander of the army that destroyed Former Shu, was returning from the Shu lands and heading toward Luoyang with his army, and he initially signaled support for Li Jiji. However, after apparently concluding that he would not be tolerated if Li Jiji became emperor, he sent Shi Jingtang and Li Congke to take up defensive positions at Shan Prefeture (陝州, in modern Sanmenxia, Henan) and Hezhong Municipality (河中, in modern Yuncheng, Shanxi) respectively, to block Li Jiji. Li Jiji's own soldiers began to desert, and he committed suicide. Li Jiji's subordinate Ren Huan took over command of the remaining army and rendezvoused with Shi, signaling support for Li Siyuan. With Li Jiji dead, Li Siyuan claimed the throne.[9]

Li Siyuan commissioned Shi as the military governor of Baoyi Circuit (保義, headquartered at Shan Prefecture) and created him a count.[1] In 927, he recalled Shi to Luoyang to serve the deputy commander of the imperial guards (with Li Siyuan's biological son Li Conghou serving as the commander).[9] Later in 927, when the general Zhu Shouyin the military governor of Xuanwu Circuit (宣武, headquartered in modern Kaifeng, Henan) rebelled against Li Siyuan's rule, Li Siyuan initially sent a small dispatch of soldiers under Fan Yanguang to attack Xuanwu's capital Daliang, but then followed that dispatch by sending Shi, and then followed Shi there himself. Zhu, finding the situation hopeless, committed suicide. LI Siyuan subsequently made Shi the military governor of Xuanwu. In 928, Li Siyuan made him the defender of Yedu and the military governor of Tianxiong Circuit (天雄, headquartered at Yedu), and gave him the honorary chancellor designation Tong Zhongshu Menxia Pingzhangshi (同中書門下平章事).[10]

In 930, the two main military governors of the Shu lands, both commissioned by Li Cunxu before his death — Meng Zhixiang the military governor of Xichuan Circuit (西川, headquartered in modern Chengdu, Sichuan) and Dong Zhang the military governor of Dongchuan Circuit (東川, headquartered in modern Mianyang, Sichuan) — fearing that Li Siyuan's powerful chief of staff An Chonghui was intending to act against them, rebelled together. Li Siyuan sent Shi to command the army against the two circuits — a commission that Shi accepted despite his misgivings about the campaign. Shi quickly advanced to Jianmen Pass, but, after capturing it, could not advance further easily against the Dongchuan and Xichuan armies. When Li Siyuan subsequently sent An to the front to monitor the campaign, Shi took the opportunity to write Li Siyuan, explaining his misgivings from the campaign, and Li Siyuan began to be convinced. Li Siyuan subsequently forced An into retirement and then killed An, and then recalled Shi's army (although Shi already began to retreat before receiving the retreat orders). Li Siyuan subsequently again made him the deputy commander of the imperial guards (by this point, serving as the deputy to another biological son of Li Siyuan's, Li Congrong the Prince of Qin).[11] He was also given the military governorship of Heyang Circuit (河陽, headquartered in modern Luoyang).[1]

Shi's relationship with Li Congrong was a tense one, as Li Congrong, viewing himself as the natural heir (being older than Li Conghou), was arrogant and violent. Further, Li Congrong and Shi's wife, who at this point carried the title of Princess Yongning, were born of different mothers (Princess Yongning born of Empress Cao while Li Congrong born of Lady Xia, who was deceased by that point) and long despised each other. Shi thus did not want to remain under Li Congrong for long, and repeatedly requested to resign. In late 932, Li Siyuan agreed and sent him to Taiyuan to serve as the defender of Taiyuan and the military governor of Hedong Circuit (河東, headquartered at Taiyuan). He was also given the greater honorary chancellor designation of Shizhong (侍中). Shi entrusted much of the affairs of the circuit to two officers, Liu Zhiyuan and Zhou Gui (周瓌), putting Liu in charge of military matters and Zhou in charge of financial matters.[12]

Li Siyuan became deathly ill in late 933. Li Congrong, believing that Li Siyuan's chiefs of staff Zhu Hongzhao and Feng Yun would try to divert the succession away from him, decided to try to forcibly take power, but his army was defeated by the imperial guards, and he was killed. In the aftermaths, Li Siyuan summoned Li Conghou back from Tianxiong (where Li Conghou was serving as military governor), but died before Li Conghou arrived at Luoyang. Li Conghou subsequently arrived and took the throne.[12]

During Li Conghou's reign[edit]

Upon Li Conghou's assumption of the throne, he gave Shi Jingtang the greater honorary chancellor title of Zhongshu Ling (中書令).[12]

As Zhu Hongzhao and Feng Yun considered themselves responsible for Li Conghou's succession to the throne, they retained power as chiefs of staff after he took the throne. As both Shi and Li Congke had great battlefield accomplishments under Li Siyuan, they were apprehensive of both Shi and Li Congke.[12] In spring 934, Zhu and Feng, not wanting Shi to remain long as Hedong and wanting to recall their ally, the eunuch Meng Hanqiong, from Tianxiong (as Meng was left in charge of Tianxiong when Li Conghou was recalled from there), they issued a series of orders — from their Office of the Chiefs of Staff, rather than by imperial edicts — transferring Fan Yanguang, then the military governor of Chengde Circuit (成德, headquartered in modern Shijiazhuang, Hebei), to Tianxiong; Shi from Hedong to Chengde; and Li Congke, then the military governor of Fengxiang Circuit (鳳翔, headquartered in modern Baoji, Shaanxi), to Hedong.[6]

Li Congke, believing that these moves were targeting him, rebelled. Li Conghou sent the imperial army against him, under the command of the general Wang Sitong, but Wang's army collapsed when the officer Yang Siquan (楊思權) led the soldiers under him and defected to Li Congke. Wang was captured, and Li Congke marched quickly toward Luoyang.[6]

With Li Congke approaching Luoyang and the imperial general Kang Yicheng (康義誠), whom Li Conghou sent against Li Congke in a last-ditch attempt to resist Li Congke's advance, also having surrendered to Li Congke, Li Conghou fled the capital with just 50 cavalry soldiers. Meanwhile, Shi was on the way from Taiyuan to Luoyang to pay homage to Li Conghou. They rendezvoused at Wei Prefecture (衛州, in modern Anyang, Henan). Realizing that Li Conghou was now completely without his imperial army, Shi consulted the prefect of Wei, Wang Hongzhi (王弘贄), who advised Shi that Li Conghou's cause was hopeless. When Li Conghou's guards Sha Shourong (沙守榮) and Ben Hongjin (奔弘進) heard of this, they cursed Shi for being faithless, and Sha tried to assassinate Shi, but he and Shi's guard Chen Hui (陳暉) ended up killing each other in mutual combat. Ben committed suicide. Liu Zhiyuan then slaughtered all of Li Conghou's guards, leaving Li Conghou alone at the imperial messenger station at Wei, while Shi himself and his followers continued on to Luoyang (to offer their allegiance to Li Congke). Shi's mother-in-law Empress Dowager Cao issued an edict deposing Li Conghou and ordering Li Congke to take the throne, and Li Congke did. He then sent an emissary to force Li Conghou to commit suicide; when Li Conghou refused, he was strangled to death.[6]

During Li Congke's reign[edit]

Li Congke's quick victory over Li Conghou left Shi Jingtang in a precarious spot - because it was obvious that he was initially intending on supporting Li Conghou and because of the long-standing, if latent, rivalry between him and Li Congke while both served under Li Siyuan. He remained at Luoyang for the funeral of his father-in-law Li Siyuan, and after the funeral, did not dare to personally bring up the idea of returning to Hedong. Empress Dowager Cao and her daughter, Shi's wife, who by this point was carrying the greater title of Princess of Wei (and soon would receive the even greater title of Grand Princess of Jin), repeatedly begged on his behalf, however, but Li Congke's close associates, who accompanied Li Congke from Fengxiang, mostly suggested that Li Congke detain Shi and not allow him to return to Hedong. Li Congke's chief of staff Han Zhaoyin and imperial scholar Li Zhuanmei (李專美), however, believed that keeping Shi at Luoyang would cause apprehension in the minds of another brother-in-law of Li Congke's, Zhao Yanshou the military governor of Xuanwu, and Zhao's father Zhao Dejun the military governor of Lulong Circuit (盧龍, headquartered in modern Beijing). As Shi had recently been ill and appeared frail, Li Congke decided that he needed not be concerned with Shi as a potential threat, and therefore thereafter agreed to let him return to Hedong, stating, "Master Shi is not only a close relative, but had also shared all difficulties of mine when we grew up. Now I am the Son of Heaven; who else can I depend on but Master Shi?"[6] (Shi, and his supporters, would later claim that at this time, Li Congke also made a personal promise to him that he would never be moved away from Hedong for the rest of his life, although historical records, besides Shi's later claim, do not state the such.)[13]

After Shi's return to Hedong, there were repeated incursions of Later Tang's northern circuits by Later Tang's northern rival Khitan Empire. Both Shi and Zhao Dejun repeatedly requested reinforcements, and they were allowed to amass troops and supplies at their circuits. As Shi was still apprehensive that Li Congke might be suspicious of him, Shi maintained an information network at Luoyang to keep himself informed of the emperor's actions — the network included two of Shi's own sons, who served in the imperial guards (whose names were variously recorded, and one of whom might have been a brother whom he adopted as a son), and the servants of Empress Dowager Cao. In 935, there was an incident in which, when the imperial envoy was at the front to review Shi's army and to deliver the imperially-bestowed supplies to the army, the soldiers began to chant, "May you live 10,000 years!" at Shi — a chant that should be reserved for the emperor. Shi became fearful, and under the advice of his staff member Duan Xiyao (段希堯), had Liu Zhiyuan behead 36 of the soldiers leading the chant, to try to alleviate the suspicion might be cast on him, but that did not stop Li Congke from suspecting him of having greater ambitions upon receiving the report from the imperial envoy. As Shi was formally the commander of the army to the north, Li Congke commissioned the general Zhang Jingda to serve as his deputy to divide his command.[6]

Rebellion against Li Congke[edit]

During Emperor Fei of Later Tang's reign, internal conflicts arose among the House of Tang. On top of that, the power of the state was declining. Shi decided to take advantage of the situation and prepare for the deposition of Tang.[14]

He moved his possessions in Luoyang to Taiyuan. Using defence against the Khitans as an excuse, he requested expansion of his military power, resulting in the troops of Bing and You being under his command. He sent his sons Shi Zhongyan and Shi Zhongyi to court to gain the positions of youwei shangjun (右衛上軍) and huangcheng fushi (皇城副使) and to use them to bribe Empress Cao's servants, enabling Shi to be notified of everything that Fei did.[14]

On Fei's accession anniversary, Shi did not attend the ball himself. Instead, his wife, the Princess of Jin, went in his place. Jin had to return to Jinyang immediately after the ball; Fei, drunk, commented that Shi could have been plotting against Fei. Shi thought Fei had seen through his conspiracy, so he requested that he move to a different town, to test if Fei had been suspicious of him.[15]

In 936, rumours of Shi's plot were widespread. This fuelled Fei's suspicions. Bi Wenyu, the zhizhigao (知制誥), suggested removing Shi's threat before he had a chance to rise up. Fei took his advice and made him the Jiedushi of Tianping.[15] Shi, who was moved to Yunzhou, asked his courtiers for advice. Liu Zhiyuan advised Shi to take advantage of the geographical features of Jiao, where he was based, and the strength of his army and overthrow the Emperor. Sang Weihan also advised him to do so, and suggested asking for help from the Liao Dynasty should it be necessary during the battle.[16]

When Fei was notified of Shi's rebellion, he ordered his official positions and titles to be revoked, and ordered the siege of Jiao, and deployed Zhang Jingda and Yang Guangyuan. Zhang set up his camp in Jinan and surrounded Shi's troops. Despite Liu's opposition, Shi requested help from the Liao, offering the Sixteen Prefectures and to declare himself son and subject of Emperor Taizong of Liao, who was a decade his junior.[16]

Taizong, who had been planning to expand to the south, promptly agreed. As Tang focussed on defeating Shi, they neglected to protect the state from Liao's forces. Before Zhang could invade Jiao, he had to face the Liao army. Fei ordered troops from all over the state to aid Zhang, and went to the battlefield himself to raise morale. Long Min suggested that Li Zanhua, Taizong's older brother, be crowned the Emperor of Liao and escorted to Liao,[17] although the plan was not implemented due to obstruction from Lu Wenji, the chancellor.[18]

Yang persuaded Zhang to surrender to Taizong. Zhang was reproached and furious at the suggestion. Yang murdered Zhang and surrendered to Taizong, ending the battle. Taizong crowned Shi Emperor Gaozu of Great Jin, known historically as Later Jin, in Jinyang,[18] to which he left his nephew Shi Zhonggui before going south with Taizong. Fei and loyal Tang soldiers fled to Luoyang, where they killed Li. Not longer afterwards, Fei, the Empress Dowager and the Empress Consort took all the treasure to Xuanwu Tower (玄武樓), where they burnt themselves, ending the Tang Dynasty.[19]

Reign as Later Jin emperor[edit]

Gaozu moved the capital to Bian, now known as Kaifeng (Henan). The Later Jin is often derided as being a puppet of the Khitans. Following the agreement between him and Taizong, he ceded the strategically crucial Sixteen Prefectures to Liao, as well as agreeing to give tribute and even to acknowledging Taizong - who was ten years his junior - as his godfather.[20]

An Chongrong, the Jiedushi of Chengde, advised him to take advantage of Liao's internal conflicts and attack it. Gaozu refused. Taizong criticised Gaozu for his inability to control An[21] An later rebelled, but was defeated.[15] Gaozu gave Taizong An's head, but Taizong did not forgive him and frequently condemned Gaozu.

Shi died of natural causes[22] in 942.[23]

Personal information[edit]


  • Father
    • Shi Shaoyong (石紹雍), né Nieleiji (臬捩雞), posthumously honored Emperor Xiaoyuan with the temple name of Xianzu
  • Mother
    • Lady He, posthumously honored Empress Xiaoyuan
  • Wife
  • Children
    • Shi Chongying (石重英) (killed by Li Congke 936), posthumously created the Prince of Guo (created 939)
    • Shi Chongxin (石重信) (killed by Zhang Congbin 937), posthumously created the Prince of Yi (created 942) and then the Prince of Chu (created 943)
    • Shi Chongyi (石重乂) (killed by Zhang Congbin 937), posthumously created the Prince of Shou
    • Shi Chongjin (石重進), posthumously created the Prince of Kui (created 942)
    • Shi Chonggao (石重杲), name posthumously bestowed, né Fengliu (馮六), posthumously created the Prince of Chen
    • Shi Chongrui (石重睿)

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Old History of the Five Dynasties, vol. 75.
  2. ^ Academia Sinica Chinese-Western Calendar Converter.
  3. ^ a b Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 283.
  4. ^ New History of the Five Dynasties, vol. 8.
  5. ^ Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 266.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 279.
  7. ^ Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 272.
  8. ^ Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 274.
  9. ^ a b c Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 275.
  10. ^ Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 276.
  11. ^ Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 277.
  12. ^ a b c d Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 278.
  13. ^ Cite error: The named reference ZZTJ280 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  14. ^ a b Tian, p. 31
  15. ^ a b c Tian, p. 32
  16. ^ a b Tian, p. 33
  17. ^ Tian, p. 34
  18. ^ a b Tian, p. 36
  19. ^ Tian, p. 37
  20. ^ Tian, p. 38
  21. ^ Tian, p. 39
  22. ^ Tian, p.43
  23. ^
  24. ^ Considering the father was originally called Nieliji without a surname, the fact that his patrilineal ancestors all had Chinese names here indicates that these names were probably all created posthumously after Shi Jingtang became a "Chinese" emperor. Shi Jingtang actually claimed to be a descendant of Chinese historical figures Shi Que and Shi Fen, and insisted that his ancestors went westwards towards non-Han Chinese area during the political chaos at the end of the Han Dynasty in early 3rd century.


Shi Jingtang
House of Shi (936–947)
Born: 892 Died: 942
Regnal titles
Preceded by
None (dynasty founded)
Emperor of Later Jin
Succeeded by
Shi Chonggui
Preceded by
Li Congke of Later Tang
Emperor of China (Shanxi)
Emperor of China (Central)
Sovereign of China (Zhejiang) (de jure)
Succeeded by
Qian Yuanguan of Wuyue