An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

liushou 留守, resident regents

Feb 14, 2019 © Ulrich Theobald

Resident regent (liushou 留守, liutai 留臺, jushou 居守) was a function applied provisionally to a member of a ruling house or a high dignitary when an emperor had left the capital, for instance, during inspection tours, hunts, or military campaigns. The duties of the resident regent were to "stay back in the capital" (liu 留) to run the day-to-day administration of the central government, and to "defend" (shou 守) the capital should problems arise. Secondary capitals (peidu 陪都) or itinerant capitals (xingdu 行都) had regular resident regent either on a temporary (jianshe liushou 間設留守) or a permanent base (changshe liushou 常設留守). Such were residing, for instance, in the eastern capital of the Tang dynasty 唐 (618-907) in Luoyang 洛陽 (Henan) and the northern capital in Taiyuan 太原 (Shanxi). Resident regents had all rights in administrative, military and financial matters.

The earliest evidence for resident regency dates from the early Former Han period 前漢 (206 BCE-8 CE), when Emperor Gaozu 漢高祖 (r. 206-195 BCE) ordered his consort, Empress Lü 呂后 (died 180 BCE), to act as resident regent as long as he was on campaign against his adversaries. During the inspection tour of Emperor He 漢和帝 (r. 88-105 CE) of the Later Han dynasty, the Defender-in-chief (taiwei 太尉), Zhang Yu 張禹, served as temporary resident regent. The southern campaign of Emperor Gaozu 北魏高祖 (Emperor Xiaowen 北魏孝文帝, r. 471-499) of the Northern Wei dynasty 北魏 北魏 (386-534) required the appointment of Grand Guardian Prince Pi 丕 (422-503) and Yu 羽 (470-501), Prince of Guangling 廣陵王, as temporary resident regents. The term liushou became the regular word for this function during the Sui period 隋 (581-618). Fang Xuanling 房玄齡 (579-648) and Xiao Yu 蕭瑀 (575-648) were temporary resident regents in Chang'an (today's Xi'an, Shaanxi), and Luoyang, respectively, as long as Emperor Taizong 唐太宗 (r. 626-649) of the Tang dynasty waged war against Koryŏ 高麗. When Empress Wu Zetian 武則天 (r. 690-704) moved her residence to Luoyang, the resident regent in Chang’an 長安 became a permanent one.

Tang-period permanent resident regents in Luoyang were concurrently defense commissioners (fangyushi 防御使) of the prefecture of Ruzhou 汝州, that of Taiyuan military commissioners (jiedushi 節度使) of Hedong 河東, and metropolitan magistrates (yin 尹) of Taiyuan. The permanent resident regents of Chang'an, Luoyang, and Taiyuan were collectively termed "regents of the three capitals" (sandu liushou 三都留守).

The Five Dynasties 五代 (907-960) used the same procedure for Luoyang and Kaifeng 開封 (Henan), depending on which of the two cities was the principal capital. While Kaifeng became the principal seat of government in the Song period 宋 (960-1279), permanent resident regents were established in the secondary capitals Daming 大名 (Hebei), Yingtian 應天 (Guide 歸德, today's Shangqiu 商邱, Henan), and Chang'an. The regents were concurrently prefects (zhifu 知府) of these cities and therefore also responsible for the construction of public buildings, the city walls, public security, regulations of markets, taxation, etc. The same accounts for the multiple capitals of the Liao 遼 (907-1125) and Jin 金 (1115-1234) dynasties.

The practice of government conduct under the Mongol Yuan dynasty 元 (1279-1368) required that the capital Dadu 大都 (Beijing) was equipped with a full-fledged imperial household with a corps of no less than five resident regents (Hucker 1985: 3813). The system of multiple capitals was given up during the Ming 明 (1368-1644) period. The only permanent resident regents (rank 2B) were established near the imperial tombs (huangling 皇陵) at Fengyang 鳳陽 (Anhui; called Zhongdu 中都 "Central Capital"; home of the ancestors of the dynastic founder) and Xingdu 興都 (Nanjing 南京, Jiangsu; first capital of the Ming, later made secondary capital). The Manchu capital in Mukden (Shenyang 沈陽, today in Liaoning) was protected by a Banner general who had similar rights as a resident regent.

There was a Resident General's Office of Nanjing (Nanjing liushou fu 南京留守府) in the first months of the Republic, when President (da zongtong 大總統) Yuan Shikai 袁世凱 (1859-1916) decided to make Beijing the capital, and not Nanjing, where the Republic had been founded. The only resident general in Nanjing was Huang Xing 黄興 (1874-1916). According to the respective rules (Nanjing liushou tiaoli 南京留守條例), the resident general was directly subordinated to the President of the Republic and responsible for all military and civilian affairs of the city. He was allowed to launch military campaigns without the former consent of the President. The resident general was assisted by a Chief Consultant (zong canyi 總參議). His Office was divided into a Civilian (zhengwuting 政務廳) and a Military Department (junwuting 軍務廳). The Office was abolished on June 14, 1912.

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