2009 Volume 118 Issue 4 Pages 513-550
This article examines every aspect of the history of ninth and tenth century northern China based on the recently discovered Zhimo 支謨 Epitaph. During the ninth and tenth centuries, the region of Daibei 代北 (the northern part of what is now Shanxi 山西 province) was politically, militarily and commercially one of the most important regions throughout eastern Eurasia. It was the center of a military clique during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period, and during that time, was the staging ground for repeated campaigns of advancing nomadic tribes. It is no exaggeration that the history of ninth and tenth century Daibei determined the China's historical development during the centuries that followed. Therefore, the task of decoding the Zhimo Epitaph and clarifying the movements of the nomadic powers of Daibei during the last decades of the Tang Dynasty will enable a more systematic understanding of those events occurring in ninth and tenth century northern China that would deeply influence the historical development of East Asia in the centuries to come. The author begins by transcribing the rubbed copy version Zhimo Epitaph into a text, in order to discuss 1) how the Shatuo 沙陀 Turks intended to seize the economic foundations of the Tang Dynasty from the very beginning of their territorial expansion during its last years, 2) how the historiography concerning that expansion was altered considerably as it was transmitted through the regimes formed by the Shatuo Turks during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period, by comparing the Zhimo Epitaph with other extant sources, and 3) the concrete image of the upheaval staged by the Shatuo Turks at the end of the Tang period and how that upheaval influenced the history of East Asia during the following centuries. Therefore, due to the excavation of the Zhimo Epitaph, it has become possible to gain new perspectives on the formation of the Five Kingdoms.