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Fanzhen (traditional Chinese: 藩鎮; simplified Chinese: 藩镇; pinyin: fānzhèn) was a governmental system involving administration through regional governors (jiedushi). The term fanzhen literally means "buffer town", and refers to the strategic settlement of troops in locations along the empire's border areas. During the Tang dynasty these settlements came under the control of provincial military commissioners, otherwise known as jiedushi. As control of these fanzhen devolved from central authority into the hands of the local leaders, they at times became powerful enough to threaten the imperial court (618–907 CE), particularly during and after the An Lushan Rebellion. An Lushan, the provincial governor and military commander who started this rebellion against Emperor Xuanzong of Tang, in 755 CE, went so far as to proclaim himself emperor, in 756 CE, but, was killed by his own son in the following year and Tang power was re-established by 763 CE. The An Lushan Rebellion allowed many jiedushi on the periphery of the Tang Empire to gain significant autonomy with many becoming warlords in all but name. Subsequent Tang emperors were met with lukewarm success in curtailing the power of these fanzhen, in particular, Emperor Dezong of Tang (r. 780–805 CE) who was driven from his capital, Chang'n, after an unsuccessful attempt to subjugate them. Subsequent Emperor Xianzong of Tang (r. 805–820 CE) was able to suppress some fanzhen but at the cost of further empowering the eunuchs who had come to dominate the life of the Imperial Court. Xianzong died in 820 CE, possibly as a result of assassination, and his successors were unable to stop the dynasty's decline. The ambitions of the jiedushi, in tandem with the corruption of the Imperial Court eunuchs who dominated the central civil administration and even attained high military command under the later Tang, contributed to the disintegration of the Tang monarchy. A brief resurgence under emperors Wuzong and Xuānzong failed to halt the decentralization of state power, and the Tang collapsed following a further series of major peasant uprisings like the Wang Xianzhi and Huang Chao rebellions.
Parallels have been made between the rise of the fanzhen in Tang China and the rise of feudalism in medieval Europe following the decline of the Carolingian Empire.[who?]
- "Why did the Fanzhen System Fail? (唐朝为何解决不了藩镇割据)" (in Chinese). August 15, 2007. Retrieved January 15, 2011.