was a governmental system involving administration through regional governors (jiedushi
The Jiedushi were regional military governors in China during the Tang Dynasty and the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. Originally set up to counter external threats, the jiedushi were given enormous power, including the ability to maintain their own armies, collect taxes, and pass their...
. The term fanzhen
literally means "buffer town", and refers to the system of settling troops in strategic locations along the empire's border areas, which during the Tang Dynasty came under the control of provincial military governors, or 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 Chinese central government during the Tang Dynasty, (618–907 CE) particularly during and after the An Shi Rebellion
The An Lushan Rebellion took place in China during the Tang Dynasty from CE December 16, 755 to CE February 17, 763, beginning when general An Lushan declared himself emperor, establishing the rival Yan Dynasty in Northern China...
. This important example of the fanzhen
system in action involved the case of An Lushan
An Lushan was a general who rebelled against the Tang Dynasty in China.His name was also transcribed into Chinese as Āluòshān or Gáluòshān ,...
, the provincial governor and military commander who started this rebellion against Emperor Xuanzong of Tang
Emperor Xuanzong of Tang , also commonly known as Emperor Ming of Tang , personal name Li Longji , known as Wu Longji from 690 to 705, was the seventh emperor of the Tang dynasty in China, reigning from 712 to 756. His reign of 43 years was the longest during the Tang Dynasty...
, in 755 CE. An Lushan 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, when the rebellion was quelled. The An Shi Rebellion allowed many jiedushi
on the periphery of the Tang Empire to gain significant autonomy with many became virtual warlords. Subsequent Tang emperors were unsuccessful in curtailing the power of these fanzhen
, in particular, Emperor Dezong of Tang
Emperor Dezong of Tang , personally name Li Kuo , was an emperor of the Chinese Tang Dynasty and the oldest son of his father Emperor Daizong. His reign of 26 years was the third longest in the Tang dynasty...
(r. 780–805 CE) was driven from his capital, Chang An, after an unsuccessful attempt to subjugate them. Subsequent Emperor Xianzong of Tang
Emperor Xianzong of Tang , personal name Li Chun , né Li Chun , was an emperor of the Chinese Tang Dynasty...
(r. 805–820 CE) experienced some success against the fanzhen
but at the cost of further empowering the eunuch
A eunuch is a person born male most commonly castrated, typically early enough in his life for this change to have major hormonal consequences...
s who had come to dominate the life of the Imperial Court. Xianzong died in 820 CE, possibly as a result of court intrigue, 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 eventual disintegration of the Tang monarchy. A brief resurgence under emperors Wuzong and Xuānzong failed to halt the eventual decline of the dynasty, which collapsed following a further series of revolts that included the Wang Xianzhi and Huang Chao rebellions.
Parallels are evident between the rise of the fanzhen in Tang China and the rise of feudalism in medieval Europe following the decline of the Carolingian Empire.