An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Liang Dynasty 梁 (502-557)

Oct 30, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald

The Liang dynasty 梁 (502-557) was the third of the Southern Dynasties 南朝 (420~589). It was founded by Xiao Yan 蕭衍, known as Emperor Wu 梁武帝 (r. 502-549), who is known in history as a famous poet and patron of Buddhism.

As regional inspector (cishi 刺史) of Yongzhou 雍州 at the border to the Northern Wei empire, Xiao Yan 蕭衍 (posthumous title Emperor Wu of the Liang 梁武帝, r. 502-549) was an experienced military leader. Nonetheless, after founding his own dynasty, he switched over to a mild civilian government and spared the old princes of the Song and Qi dynasties. He neither provoked his own princes and local governors by appointing the infamous spies of the document clerks of the central government, nor tried he to prevent the ambitions of the local gentry from obtaining high governmental posts. He replaced the nine-rank system (jiupin 九品) for state officials from the Wei period 魏 (220-265) by sixteen classes (shiliuban 十六班) that could only be entered after graduating from the National University (taixue 太學) where the Confucian Classics constituted the curriculum. Emperor Wu himself was an erudite scholar, he composed poems, wrote essays and patronized writers, poets, and artists. During his long rule, important anthologies (Wenxuan 文選, Yutai xinyong 玉臺新詠) and literary critiques (Shipin 詩品, Wenxin diaolong 文心雕龍) were compiled. He also promoted the spread of Buddhism among the southern aristocracy.

During Emperor Wu's reign the Northern Wei empire disintegrated, and a lot of refugees from the Northern Wei court sought refuge in the south, looking for political support, like Yuan Hao 元顥. A refugee from the Eastern Wei empire 東魏 (534-550), Hou Jing 侯景, supported Emperor Wu in his ambitions to reconquer northern China. Hou Jing later conspired with Xiao Zhengde 蕭正德 to overthrow Emperor Wu and assembled a large army of rebels. The rebels captured the capital Jiankang, and during siege Emperor Wu starved to death. Hou Jing penetrated into the palace and made Xiao Zhengde emperor, then Xiao Wang 蕭網 (posthumous title Emperor Jianwen 梁簡文帝, r. 549-550), afterwards Xiao Dong 蕭棟 (the Prince of Yuzhang 豫章王, r. 551), and finally made himself emperor of a Han dynasty 漢. Since the beginning of the Eastern Jin period, this was the first time that the lower Yangtze area was seriously devastated by military activities.

The power struggles after Hou Jing's death in 552, carried out by the princes Xiao Lun 蕭綸, Xiao Yi 蕭繹 (posthumous title Emperor Yuan 梁元帝, r. 552-554), Xiao Ji 蕭紀 (the Prince of Wuling 武陵王, r. 552), Xiao Yuanming 蕭淵明 (the Marquis of Zhenyang 貞陽侯, r. 555), and Xiao Cha 蕭詧, were finally ended by Chen Baxian 陳霸先 who made Xiao Fangzhi 蕭方智 (posthumous title Emperor Jing 梁敬帝, r. 555-557) emperor. In 557, Chen Baxian deposed Xiao Fangzhi and founded his own dynasty named Chen 陳.

Table 1. Rulers of the Liang Dynasty 梁 (502-557)
Capital: Jiankang 建康 (today's Nanjing 南京, Jiangsu.
dynastic title {temple name} personal name reign-periods
Liang Wudi 梁武帝 {Gaozu 梁高祖} (r. 502-549) Xiao Yan 蕭衍 Tianjian 天監 (502-519)
Putong 普通 (520-526)
Datong 大通 (527-528)
Zhongdatong 中大通 (529-534)
Datong 大同 (535-545)
Zhongdatong 中大同 (546)
Taiqing 太清 (547-549)
Counter-Emperor Lü Gou'er 呂苟兒 (r. 506)
Jianming 建明 (506)
Counter-Emperor Chen Zhan 陳瞻 (r. 506)
Shengming 聖明 (506)
Counter-Emperor Liu Lisheng 劉蠡升 (r. 525-535)
Shenjia 神嘉 (525-535)
Counter-Emperor Xiao Baoyin 蕭寶寅 (r. 527-528)
Longxu 隆緒 (527-528)
Counter-Emperor Xing Gao 邢杲 (r. 528)
Tiantong 天統 (528)
Counter-Emperor Yuan Hao 元顥 (r. 529-530)
Xiaoji 孝基 (529)
Jianwu 建武 (530)
Counter-Emperor Liu Jinggong 劉敬躬 (r. 542)
Yonghan 永漢 (542)
Counter-Emperor Xiao Zhengde 蕭正德 (r. 548-549)
Zhengping 正平 (548-549)
Liang Jianwendi 梁簡文帝 {Taizong 太宗} (r. 549-550) Xiao Wang 蕭網 Dabao 大寶 (550)
The Prince of Yuzhang 豫章王 (r. 551) Xiao Dong 蕭棟 Tianzheng 天正 (I) (551)
Usurper Hou Jing 侯景 (r. 551-552)
Taishi 太始 (551-552)
The Prince of Wuling 武陵王 (r. 552) Xiao Ji 蕭紀 Tianzheng 天正 (II) (551)
Liang Yuandi 梁元帝 {Shizu 世祖} (r. 552-554) Xiao Yi 蕭繹 Chengsheng 承聖 (552-553)
Tianzheng 天正 (resumed) (553)
Chengsheng 承聖 (554)
The Marquis of Zhenyang 貞陽侯 (r. 555) Xiao Yuanming 蕭淵明 Tiancheng 天成 (555)
Liang Jingdi 梁敬帝 (r. 555-557) Xiao Fangzhi 蕭方智 Shaotai 紹泰 (555)
Taiping 太平 (556-557)
The Prince of Yongjia 永嘉王 (r. 557) Xiao Zhuang 蕭莊
557 Liang replaced by Chen 陳.
Later Liang Dynasty 後梁 (555-587)
Capital: Jiangling 江陵 (today's Jingzhou 荊州, Hubei).
Liang Xuandi 梁宣帝 (r. 555-561) Xiao Cha 蕭詧 Dading 大定 (555-561)
Liang Mingdi 梁明帝 (r. 562-585) Xiao Kui 蕭巋 Tianbao 天保 (562-585)
The Last Ruler (Houzhu) of Liang 梁後主 (r. 585-587)
Demoted to Duke of Ju 莒國公.
Xiao Cong 蕭琮 Guangyun 廣運 (586-587)
587 Later Liang conquered by Sui 隋.
Emperor of Liang 梁 (r. 617-621) Xiao Xian 蕭銑 Mingfeng 鳴鳳 (Fengming 鳳鳴) (617-621)
Yang Debing 楊德炳 (1992), "Liang 梁", in: Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 2, pp. 574-576.
Zhonguo lishi da cidian bianzuan weiyuanhui 中國歷史大辭典編纂委員會 (ed. 2000), Zhongguo lishi da cidian 中國歷史大辭典 (Shanghai: Shanghai cishu chubanshe), Vol.2, pp. 3322, 3324, 3326, 3328.