In 907, the fourth year of Tianyou of Tang Dynasty, Zhu Wen abolished emperor AI of Tang Dynasty and established the regime of the Later Liang Dynasty. The era of Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms was officially opened.
At the same time, Fengxiang (now Baoji, Shaanxi Province), about 300 miles away from Chang’an, is also holding a grand ceremony to ascend the throne.
The man who ascended the throne only called himself king, not emperor. However, in order to show the legitimacy of the regime, he said that on the day of his accession to the throne, the king would become a queen and set up hundreds of officials.
Subsequently, a Qin Qi regime independent of the Five Dynasties and ten states system officially appeared.
Li Maozhen, the last king of Qin in the Tang Dynasty, was the king.
For quite a long time, limaozhen was a loyal minister of the Tang Dynasty.
At that time, his name was songwentong, and he was a small team of Boye army under Zheng fan, the Fengxiang Festival envoy (the team was a post under the Tang Dynasty government soldiers system, and each team led 150 people).
Had it not been for the later Huang Chao uprising, song Wentong would not have thought that he could one day achieve a grass-roots counter attack.
In the second year of Qianfu (875), the Huangchao uprising broke out due to long-term natural and man-made disasters. Led by Huang Chao, the peasant uprising army successively broke through Luoyang and Chang’an. Hearing the news, Emperor Xi Zong of the Tang Dynasty quickly packed up his bags and fled south with father-in-law Tian.
? Huang Chao uprising. Source: Network
As soon as Tang Xizong left Chang’an, Zheng Zhen, the Fengxiang Festival envoy, took people to pick him up and tried every means to serve his majesty.
Perhaps it was because Fengxiang was close to Chang’an that tangxizong, who was in a hurry to escape, did not want to stay. However, in order to stabilize the morale of the army, he still gave Zheng fan chicken blood, gave him the right to “do things conveniently”, and asked him to take Fengxiang town to “cut the thief’s front in the East, comfort the Tibetan in the west, rectify the neighboring roads, and encourage the construction of great honors”.
Zheng Zhen is not a fool. How can he go to battle in person? But his Majesty’s edict has been issued. It’s not good to disobey it openly. Moreover, the Emperor gave him the power equivalent to an imperial envoy. I don’t want to do it myself. Just find someone to replace me. As a result, a hot potato was assigned to songwentong.
Under the attack of the rebel troops from various provinces and towns, Huang Chao had a hard time. In order to relieve Chang’an, Huang Chao asked Shang rang, the No. 2 figure of the rebel army, to attack Fengxiang with 50000 troops, preparing to take this strategic military town in advance.
150 people vs. 50000 people. The great difference in strength between the two sides makes people see songwentong’s dilemma at a glance.
But this is not the worst.
At the same time, Zhengfan arranged his senior general lichangyan to ambush at the key points with thousands of elites to guard the high points, “set up a flag in vain, extend for several miles, more than ten miles away from the thieves, and cut drums in the array”.
It turned out that Zheng fan had used songwentong as a bait to lure the enemy deeper.
Seeing that he had no way out, songwentong had to put all his eggs in one basket.
According to the later unearthed epitaph of Li Maozhen, at that time, song Wentong “showed great kindness to the enemy by throwing ferment and seeking deep reduction of cooking stove”. It is reasonable to believe that he roughly referred to Sun Bin’s way of fighting pangjuan in those years, and relied on a hundred or so people to lead Shang rang into lichangyan’s commanding encirclement.
Surrounded by the two armies, shangrang defeated longweipo (now Qishan County, Shaanxi). More than 20000 peasant troops were beheaded and returned in defeat.
With such meritorious service, songwentong’s social status rose rapidly.
After the rebellion was put down, Emperor Xizong of the Tang Dynasty specially transferred this unknown junior officer to the capital to serve in the Shence army. Songwentong thus became a senior bodyguard around the emperor.
In the late Tang Dynasty, the political situation was erratic, and eunuchs became commonplace. Songwentong, a bodyguard, had boundless scenery on the surface, but in fact, in the late Tang Dynasty, the Shence army was the private army of eunuchs in power.
Just after he took office, Tian Lingzi, his superior and eunuch, accidentally offended Wang chongrong, the provincial governor in the river.
? Tian Lingzi. Source: Network
The reason was that Tian Lingzi asked Wang chongrong to hand over Anyi, Jiexian and other places in his hands so that the imperial court could collect taxes from local governments to support the imperial guards. In the face of such “unreasonable” requirements, how can wangchongrong agree? So he joined forces with the Hedong provincial governor Li Keyong to overthrow Tian Lingzi’s clique.
On hearing the news, Duke Tian instructed Fengxiang Jiedu envoy lichangfu, Ying Ning Jiedu envoy Zhumei and others to join forces with the imperial guards to resist foreign enemies; At the same time, he privately mobilized his cronies and kidnapped Tang Xizong to go south to Sichuan.
Because of the sudden incident, Tang Xizong lost contact with the outside world for a time. It was not until a few days later that emperor Xi of the Tang Dynasty, at the instigation of Tian Lingzi, ordered all officials to go to Baoji to meet him.
Tian Lingzi’s misdeeds completely upset lichangfu, Zhu Mei and others. They simply switched sides and became “rebels” of the imperial court.
The battle between the two sides was in full swing. No one cared about the life and death of the Tang emperor, so that the little emperor often sighed and claimed that he was not as good as Emperor Xian of the Han Dynasty.
Seeing the emperor as a lost dog, almost all the Shence troops who used to accompany the emperor scattered like birds and beasts. Only song Wentong and other people still stick to their posts.
In such a difficult environment, Tang Yuzong vowed that as long as he had a bite in the future, songwentong would not be hungry!
In order to prevent Tian Lingzi from continuing to hold the emperor to the south, Zhu Mei, lichangfu and other officials instructed Shi junshe, the provincial governor of Shannan, to lead his troops to block the dashanguan pass and block the pace of their southward journey.
? dashangguan ancient battlefield. Figure source: the idea of the figure bug
Later, Zhu Mei ordered Wang Xingyu to go to the front line to “collect his head”.
In view of the outstanding achievements of song Wentong, Tang Xizong asked him to unite his troops and perform meritorious deeds. In front of the Datang peak (now the southeast of Lueyang County, Shaanxi Province), songwentong once again possessed the God of war and defeated the hurried Wang Xingyu department.
Wangxingyu was always uncertain about songwentong. She was scolded by Zhu Mei and was angry. Under the temptation of emperor Xizong of the Tang Dynasty to offer high officials and high salaries, Wang Xingyu directly killed Zhu Mei and quelled the rebellion.
After recounting his previous achievements, Wang Xingyu, the “General of the uprising”, naturally wanted to take the lead and became the governor of the Jingnan army. However, Emperor Xizong of the Tang Dynasty was also very trustworthy, saying that songwentong, a meritorious hero in the fight against the rebellion, was “traveling in the south of the mountain and was the first in his theory of merit”, worshipped him as a military envoy of the Wuding army, and was in charge of the military affairs of foreign, Pengzhou, bizhou and other prefectures.
Tang Xizong also gave song Wentong the name “limaozhen” and the word “Zhengchen” to show his merits.
As a result, songwentong, who was only 31 years old, finally achieved success after years of wandering in the grass-roots level. He became the “Lord of the state name” of the Tang Dynasty and opened the road to the peak of the second half of his life.
Now that he has become the “commander of the war zone” of the Tang Dynasty, Li Maozhen’s way of life can no longer follow the steps of song Wentong.
In that troubled time, it is difficult to settle down without a suitable base area. As a result, the “upright minister” granted by the emperor also gradually embarked on the road of antagonizing the imperial court.
In the third year of Guangqi (887), Emperor Xizong of the Tang Dynasty, who had taken refuge for a long time, was ready to set out to return to Chang’an. Lichangfu, who was appointed Fengxiang’s envoy at that time, suddenly jumped out to intercept, saying that Chang’an’s palace had been burned down in the war. He hoped that Tang Yuzong would stay in Fengxiang and not set off.
? Li Yu, the emperor of Tang Dynasty. Image source: film and television screenshot
Lichangfu worried that the emperor might settle accounts with him after he returned to Beijing.
Seeing that the authority of the emperor of the Tang Dynasty was despised by his officials, Emperor Xi Zong of the Tang Dynasty decided not to be silent. He offered his last trump card: he appointed limaozhen as the recruiting envoy of Longzhou and tried his best to destroy lichangfu.
Without hesitation, Li Maozhen tried her best to win lichangfu with the help of prime minister Du raneng. Under the fierce offensive of Wu Ding army, lichangfu followed in Zhu Mei’s footsteps and was killed by xuezhichip, an assassin of Longzhou Prefecture under his command, and barbarized his family.
When the news came, Tang Xizong was very happy and personally promoted limaozhen to be the festival envoy of Fengxiang and Longyou towns. He thought that as long as he had the protection of limaozhen, he could rest easy and continue to live a happy life.
But God didn’t plan to let the troubled son of heaven have more time to rest after returning to Chang’an. Just a few months after returning home smoothly, tangxizong, who was only 27, died of illness. Before his death, he passed the throne to his younger brother Li Ye, who was Emperor Zhaozong of Tang Dynasty.
Tang Zhaozong’s accession to the throne did not bring much hope to the surviving Tang Dynasty. In addition to the rebellions of some weaker vassal towns, Zhu Wen and Li Keyong, the two major vassal governors of the Tang Dynasty, also expanded their influence in their respective territories, ready to enter Chang’an at any time and take away the emperor.
In the central court of the Tang Dynasty, eunuch forces still rose one after another. After Tian Lingzi, yangfugong, who assisted tangzhaozong in his ascendancy, showed his power in the court and was good at killing ministers.
The instability of the current situation made it difficult for Li Maozhen to act rashly. Relying on the inherent advantages of Fengxiang, which is close to Liupan Mountain in the West and dashangguan in the south, as well as the danger of Qinling Mountains and the convenience of Weihe River, he built a large-scale infrastructure in Fengxiang area. At the same time, he wantonly solicited talented people and people with lofty ideals in the area under his jurisdiction, and consolidated and renovated Qinzhou (now Tianshui, Gansu) and Longzhou, which Fengxiang town belongs to. Later, he led people to dredge the Huizhong Road, Longshan road and Chencang road connecting the northwest, Sichuan and Guanzhong, making the small Fengxiang town a transportation hub for the Sifang trade.
? Yuanhe square town map. Source: Historical Atlas of China
After years of operation, limaozhen’s influence reached more than 40 prefectures in sidao15 town when it was in its heyday, covering most of today’s Shaanxi, Southern Ningxia, western Gansu and Northern Sichuan, becoming the leading border town in the northwest of the Tang Dynasty.
It is easy to fight the world, but difficult to defend it. Soon, under the influence of tangzhaozong, Li Maozhen’s “good luck” came to an end.
As emperor Zhaozong of Tang Dynasty was eager to take power, the long-term sharp contradiction between the eunuch group and the emperor was directly intensified. Under the control of yangfugong, yangshouliang and other “yangjiaban” children, who were then the governor of Xingyuan, started to revolt one after another, and the Tang Empire fell into the crisis of collapse again.
Taking part in the counter insurgency work has always been an opportunity for Li Maozhen to make a positive performance, and this time is no exception.
As Xingyuan (now Hanzhong, Shaanxi) is located between Guanzhong and Bashu, its geographical location is very important. Therefore, before limaozhen sent troops, Dongchuan Jiedu envoy guyanhui and Xichuan Jiedu envoy Wang Jian came to seize the territory. Seeing that he was about to miss the opportunity to seize the land, limaozhen simply wrote a petition to the imperial court and wrote to Qi Jia to recruit an envoy for Shannan Xidao.
Limaozhen thought that the imperial court would probably seriously consider his request based on his past military achievements. But things backfired. Tangzhaozong probably saw that Li Maozhen had moved his mind and “the imperial edict could not be entrusted for a long time”.
Although there is no imperial edict, he has been away since ancient times, and his orders are not accepted. Limaozhen, a powerful man, was not worried about the settlement of accounts by the Chang’an court in the autumn, and resolutely sent troops to attack Xingyuan. Sending troops from Fengxiang and passing through the Dashan pass can reach Xingyuan. Therefore, Li Maozhen’s troops rushed into Xingyuan before Wang Jian and eradicated the Yangs and their sons.
On the other hand, knowing that limaozhen had sent troops to attack Xingyuan without authorization, tangzhaozong also had a premonition that he might have raised another “white eyed wolf”. However, at this time, he was powerless.
In the face of Li Maozhen, Emperor Zhaozong of Tang Dynasty could only give orders to him with a little imperial power he had just earned. He warned limaozhen not to be a traitor and hurriedly returned to Fengxiang. Otherwise, make him look good!
The warning from Chang’an had no effect on Li Maozhen. The continuous expansion of strength made Li Maozhen gradually see a fact: the emperor can do anything, as long as his surname is Li!
Therefore, after that, Li Maozhen directly sent an “ultimatum” to the imperial court.
In this memorial, Li Maozhen laughed at Tang Zhaozong for being a monarch, both inside and outside her words. As an emperor, “I respect Kyushu, but I can’t kill (Yang) Fu Gong.”. As the successor of emperor Xi Zong of the Tang Dynasty, he “looked at the strong and the weak, regardless of right and wrong” in governing the country. The weak and the powerful of the vassal towns were bound by the national law, and the strong and powerful of the vassal towns tried every means to win them over for their own use. What is the meaning of such an emperor?
At the end of the memorial, he clearly refused the imperial court’s arrangement to transfer him from Fengxiang, and asked: “where has it been since then?”—— I’m afraid your majesty will escape next time. Where can I escape?
After reading Li Maozhen’s Memorial, Tang Zhaozong was so angry that he waved his hand and asked Prime Minister Du rang to raise troops to overthrow Li Maozhen.
? tangzhaozong. Source: Network
Du rang had rich experience in politics. He knew very well that the Tang Dynasty was like an old tree that had been eaten away and could no longer withstand any random attack from any of the vassal towns. Therefore, he bitterly admonished tangzhaozong: “Your Majesty first ascended the great treasure, the national disaster has not been resolved, and limaozhen is near the gate of the country, so it is not appropriate to quarrel with him. In case he fails, it is difficult to regret.”
I don’t know who gave Tang Zhaozong the courage. He pointed to Du renneng’s nose and shouted: “the royal family is so humble that they can’t go abroad. This is the time when people with lofty ideals are in pain. I can’t sit back and watch the mausoleums and barbarians!” Maybe he was worried that his tone was too heavy to annoy the prime minister. Finally, he calmly added: “Qing, but I send troops for me to lose money. I appoint all kings to use troops. You have nothing to do with your success or failure.”
Since ancient times, emperors have made no mistakes. If they have to correct mistakes, it must be the responsibility of their officials. When Tang Zhaozong said this, Du raneng knew he was dead.
However, after Du Ruhui, the founding father of the country, his family’s mission of loyalty to the monarch made Du rang unable to retreat.
In the end, the historical result was as expected by Du raneng. After the defeat of tangzhaozong, Du raneng became a war criminal and ended up beheaded and abandoned. Because he resisted Li Maozhen, his “fault” also incidentally spread to the whole family of Jingzhao Du. No one in the family was spared death or exile.
Since then, this family, which has been famous for hundreds of years, has never recovered.
After Du raneng’s “loyalty” died, the scholar bureaucrats who had been loyal to the Tang Dynasty left one after another, and Tang Zhaozong was completely alone.
After that, limaozhen almost became a real talker in the imperial court. Whenever he felt unhappy with Tang Zhaozong, he led the army to attack Chang’an and forced the emperor to flee. But even if he was humiliated, Tang Zhaozong dared not do anything. Instead, he had to seal limaozhen as the “king of Qi” to appease him.
However, limaozhen did not expect that she would openly bully the weak Tang emperor and dig a big hole for him to compete in the Central Plains in the future.
Seeing that the emperor of the Tang Dynasty was bullied by Li Maozhen, Zhu Wen, another “loyal minister” of the Tang Dynasty and then the governor of the river, was very happy.
? Zhu Wen, the founding emperor of the Later Liang Dynasty. Source: Network
Like Li Maozhen, Zhu Wen started his career by beating Huang Chao. Over the years, he has been fighting for the Tang Court everywhere. In terms of performance and strength, he is better than Li Maozhen at any point. Under the banner of King Qin, Zhu Wen found another loyal minister, King Li Keyong of Jin. At this time, Li Keyong’s sphere of influence has been active in the north of Fengxiang Town, suppressing Li Maozhen’s northward March.
In the first year of Tianfu (901), under the joint efforts of the two most powerful vassals in the Tang Dynasty, Li Maozhen was completely defeated.
The wall fell and everyone pushed. Wang Jian of Western Shu, who once had a land dispute with Li Maozhen, took advantage of the hot fight between the two sides and stepped in, dividing Li Maozhen’s large territory from the south.
According to historical records, during the Fengxiang siege, there was a snow disaster in Datang. After the heavy snow, no grass grew. The food accumulated before the war was quickly consumed by the people. He who has no food can only eat it in exchange. Even tangzhaozong only had a bowl of millet porridge to fill his stomach every day.
Finally, Li Maozhen, who was really unable to withstand the pressure, had to give in to tangzhaozong, which also made Zhu Wen’s hegemony in the future.
In the fourth year of Tang Tianyou (907), after killing the last eunuch, Zhu Wen kicked the emperor of the Tang Dynasty, ascended the throne and became the emperor of five generations.
Li Maozhen was embarrassed when the news came. Over the years, under the continuous pressure of several officials in the Tang Dynasty, he was once a powerful man. He had only seven states, such as Fengxiang, and his strength was greatly damaged. It is impossible to lift the storm again.
But the skinny camel was bigger than the horse. He was addicted to the emperor after closing the door. He still had this strength.
? limaozhen. Source: animation screenshot
So, under the witness of Fengxiang’s hundred officials, Li Maozhen opened the court to appoint a member, gave his wife the title of queen, accepted the courtiers’ greetings, worshipped three times and kowtowed nine times.
In order to make a comeback, Li Maozhen did not choose to be emperor with Zhu Wen. On the contrary, after the establishment of political power in the Tang Dynasty, the world-famous rebellious Minister of the Tang Dynasty raised the flag of “loyalty to the emperor” and always used the year of God’s blessing to worship the Tang Dynasty as the new year.
Perhaps because of this, he finally missed the opportunity to be listed among the founders of the Five Dynasties and ten states regime together with Zhu Wen, Li Keyong and Wang Jian.
After Zhu Wen established his capital in Bianliang (now Kaifeng, Henan Province), the political center of the world moved eastward, and Fengxiang lost its strategic position of defending the capital. In the wars in the Central Plains, the competitors gradually excluded Li Maozhen.
Taking advantage of this moment of tranquility, Li Maozhen, who had been fighting for half a life, began to “put down the butcher’s knife and become a Buddha on the spot”. With his strong support, Famen Temple, which once encountered the “Huichang Dharma dilemma” in the late Tang Dynasty, was reborn and became the “national Temple” appointed by the Qin Qi regime.
? Shaanxi Fufeng Famen Temple. Figure source: the idea of the figure bug
In order to encourage the army and the people to believe in Buddhism with one heart, Li Maozhen also set an example by donating his hand-made Buddhist scrolls to Famen Temple many times, and asked his princes and grandchildren to communicate with each other to practice Buddhism. Famen Temple is gradually regaining its former glory. However, limaozhen, who has contributed money and effort, has not been sheltered by the Buddhas and has resumed his king seeking hegemony.
After eating vegetarian food in Fengxiang for more than ten years, limaozhen also tasted the taste of being bullied.
With the rise of Li Cunxu, the son of Li Keyong and the late Tang Zhuangzong, Li Maozhen, who once stood out from the crowd, could only bow down and become a minister. Fortunately, Li Cunxu is not a stingy man. For an old man whose combat power, energy and influence are declining continuously, the new king has no need to worry about it. In order to show the fraternity of the late Tang Dynasty, Li Cunxu honored Li Maozhen as the “king of Qin” and asked him to spend his old age in Fengxiang mansion.
In the second year of Tongguang reign of Zhuang Zong of the late Tang Dynasty (924), shortly after receiving a new gift, Li Maozhen, 69, died of illness at home, ending his legendary life.
Throughout his life, he has experienced ups and downs, opened high and walked low. Although he is committed to building a hegemony, he has been humiliated by the hands of heroes all over the world. It is a pity. However, as an owl in troubled times, it is rare for him to resist pressure, hold the emperor to order the princes, and abandon his ambition at the critical moment, insist on not being emperor, protect the peace of the people under his jurisdiction, and do something or not.
? the tomb of King Qin of the Tang Dynasty. Figure source: the idea of the figure bug
Perhaps because of this, after the death of Li Maozhen, his son, Li Congli, was able to continue guarding Fengxiang and protecting the people.
Until AD 960, more than ten years after the Li family and their son ended their rule over Fengxiang, a man named zhaokuangyin finally put an end to the chaos of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms. As a reflection on the chaotic politics of the martial people, in the great song dynasty founded by zhaokuangyin, advocating literature eventually defeated Chongwu. Since then, there has been no such person as Li Maozhen in the world.
[later Jin Dynasty] Liu Xu: the old book of Tang Dynasty, Zhonghua Book Company, 2000
[song] Sima Guang: Zizhi Tongjian, Zhonghua Book Company, 2009
[song] xuejuzheng: history of the Old Five Dynasties, Zhonghua Book Company, 2019
[song] Ouyangxiu: history of the new Five Dynasties, China Social Sciences Press, 2020
Liujunshe: limaozhen and the mausoleum of the Qin Dynasty, Sanqin publishing house, 2006
Wangfengxiang: a textual research on Li Maozhen’s separatist regions in the late Tang and Five Dynasties, Lanzhou academic journal, 2011, issue 7
Wuyi: a glimpse of the rise and fall of Qi Qin regime, humanities journal, 2009, issue 3