Liang Wu-ti ascended the throne at the age of thirty-nine and died at eighty-six so he sat on the throne for some forty-eight years. In Chinese history from the time of the Ch'in and Han on there were only nine men who ruled for over forty years and Liang Wu-ti is one of these nine. During these forty-eight years for the most part the country was at peace and the administration was stable. Among the darkness of the Southern Dynasties this stands out as a golden age that history calls the Liang-Wu Restoration. This situation continued until late in life when suddenly he became infatuated with Buddhist doctrine, neglecting the affairs of state and starting the country on a course of decline that finally led gradually to the awesome revolt of Hou Ching (侯景).
The rulers of the two dynasties of Sung and Ch'i were all without education and learning and since they were without any domestic regulations they also had no discipline. Although Hsiao Yen, the Liang ruler Wu-ti was also a militarist who had siezed political power, he in addition had considerable knowledge and education with the histories saying of him, "When young he studied diligently, thoroughly understanding both the ju (儒 Confucianism) and the hsuan (玄 Taoism). although he devoted most of his attention to the ten-thousand affairs, fatigue would still not stop his hands for he would light a candle and with it shining at his side he would often work late into the night...." At the beginning of the T'ien-chien period Wu-ti established ceremonial rites and composed music for them, promoted Confucian statecraft and then in T'ien-chien 4 he established the post of Professors of the Five Classics and a school for the Five Classics with a professor in charge of each of the schools which had up to several hundred students each. Ordinarily they were all given a grain allowance and those who passed the state exams were given posts as officials, a situation similar to that of the professors and students during the Han Dynasty, and under the promotion and encouragement of the government scholars gathered like clouds from the four corners to study. In T'ien-chien 9 Wu-ti personally came to the School of the Sons of the State to expound on the Classics, presided over examinations and sacrificed in the Ming-t'ang (明堂 the Hall of Illumination, used as an audience hall and also to host a ceremony that demonstrated the cosmological position of the emperor). In T'ien-chien 11 by imperial decree Ho T'ung-chih, Ho I, Yen Chih-chih, Ming Shan-pin and others re-edited the Five Rites (fortune, misfortune, military, hospitality and weddings) to produce 8,019 articles in over 100,000 folios and ordered an official to implement them. Thus the government and the people, superiors and inferiors were solemn and sincere for men knew the requirements for civility and the historians said that for the past two-hundred years cultural beauty could only be seen in Chiang-tzuo (the region of the Lower Yangtze). For example, the famous Chao-ming Wen-hsüan ( 文選 the Chao-ming Literary Collection) was edited by Hsiao T'ung, the Imperial Heir Chao-ming and the eldest son of Wu-ti. Hsiao T'ung was a very intelligent youth and it is said that at the age of three he appreciated the Filial Classic and the Analects while at five he had read all of the Five Classics (the Book of Changes, the Book of Odes, the Book of History, the Book of Rites and the Spring and Autumn Annals) and later on whenever he accompanied the Emperor on a journey or to a banquet he was commanded to compose poetry every time he opened his mouth out flowed over ten rhymes of complete stanzas. For twenty years in the Eastern Palace he did nothing but every day feast together with men of letters and exchange poems as the Library of the Eastern Palace reached over 30,000 folios. Wu-ti himself had even more talent and skill, from his poems and compositions to his calligraphy and wei-ch'i (the game known as Go) they were all beautiful and subtle, he had already drawn up a Golden Plan (Chin Tse) of 30 folios and his personal compositions and poetry were numberous. Besides literary studies and classical scholarship, Emperor Wu also promoted historical studies. The Emperor decreed that the entire body of ministers prepare a T'ung-shih (通史 Comprehensive History) of the period from the very beginning of things up to the Ch'i Royal Family and with 620 folios it was one of the great works of the age and marked the first instance of the use of the title T'ung-shih in written works. Under the long guidance, encouragement and leadership of Hsiao Yen and his son, T'ung, the learning and scholarship of the Southern Courts became great and abundant, and great literary scholars appeared one after the other such as Chiang Yen, Shen Yüeh, Ch'iu Ch'ih, Yü Hsin, Ho Sun, Chung Jung, Liu Hsieh and others who were all outstanding products of the age. During the twenty years from T'ien-chien 1 to P'u-t'ung 7 the civil administration was vigorous and society was fixed and content. With regard to the military situation, following the victory of Chung-li they were able to halt the advance of the Wei army and return to the pre-war situation maintaining a long-term equilibrium between north and south.
Although Liang Wu-ti rewarded and encouraged learning, in the area of delegating administrative authority he had a shortcoming and that was an excessively forgiving spirit combined with a lack of courage to see things through; and by no account was he a ruler of courage, talent and great vision. For example, the famous generals of the time such as Han Jui, Ma Hsien-p'i were unable to get important assignments from Wu-ti and on the field of battle he did not allow them to fully bring their power into play, yet he lavished his love on Hsiao Hung King of Lin-ch'uan who fled before engaging the enemy. Hsiao Hung was the emperor's younger brother and when in 506 he was appointed Great Inspector-General of the Northern Expedition advancing his troops to Lo-k'ou, one night in the wind and rain his great army of tens of thousands ran off without a fight, while after this affair Wu-ti did not know what to do about his punishment. In 512 Hsiao Hung was still in office as the Grand Commandant and Galloping Cavalry General often engaging in illegal activities and with an insatiable desire for self-enrichment through commodity speculation. Behind his palace there were one-hundred storerooms that were carefull locked up causing some men to think that they held military weapons secretly informing the emperor of this. The made the emperor fearful and apprehensive so he personally went to the King of Lin-ch'uan's palace to investigate and discovered behind it over thirty storerooms filled to capacity with copper currency with each group of 1 million cash marked with a yellow marker attached while 10 million cash had purple markers attached. And there were still other rooms that he found filled with cloth, silk, loosely woven raw silk, lacquer, honey, wax, ramie and other goods. When the empeoro saw it all he knew it was not armor and weapons so he could not help but smile in relief and say, "Ah-liu, your livelihood has great potential!" and his brotherly feeling became even deeper. It would seem that the utter ruthlessness of the Sung and Ch'i royal families was actually with human reason while the tolearance that Wu-ti showed here also could not avoid vacillation(?). This example is a good indication of the way that the emperor handled the government. Therefore, although the good administration of the T'ein-chien period was stable and prosperous the efficacy of the political process still had its limits and the vitality of the state also had no way to be heightened and could only maintain a precarious peace in Chiang-nan and that was all.
Late in his life Liang Wu-ti acquired a deep faith in Buddhist doctrines and because of it the government was neglected, because of it discipline was destroyed. The year 517 was the turning point in the fortunes of the Liang state. It was in this year that Liang Wu-ti turned 63 and to the north of the Chien-k'ang T'ai-ch'eng (Tower Gate) was built a Buddhist temple named the T'ung-t'ai and the gate in the city wall that opened toward it was called the Ta-t'ung-men. When the emperor visited the temple he took holy vows, when he returned to the palace he ordered a general amnesty and then changed the reign title to Ta-t'ung 1 thus from this moment on his infatuation and blind belief in Buddhism grew deeper with each passing day. After the passing of two years the reign title became Ch'ung-ta-t'ung 1 and during the 9th lunar month the emperor travelled again to T'ung-t'ai Temple and while in the temple established four categories for participation in the panca(varsika-parisad. (In Buddhism a quinquennial assembly for having all things in common, and for confession, penance and forgiveness. The four categories were monk, nun, good men and good women. Wu-ch'e means that it does not distinguish according to the classes of male and female but as equal with any excpetions. It is Buddhist terminology.) The emperor, removing his imperial robes to wear the robes of a Buddhist monk, ascended to a seat at the head of the assembly to lecture the crowd on the Nieh-'pan (nirvana) Classic, and then stayed on to dwell in the Buddhist temple in a quiet ordination. All of the ministers felt that the court could not go a day without the ruler so with 100 million cash they ransomed the emperor who would not return to the palace until after they had asked him three times. After this it became the emperor's habit to often travel to the T'ung-t'ai Temple to discuss the scriptures. By the year T'ai-ch'ing 1 (547) the emperor had three more times become a monk of the T'ung-t'ai Temple and each time the high-ranking officials bought him back with 100 million cash.
Wu-ti was a many with a very humble and frugal nature and after he took up the Buddhist faith he became even more kind and loving. He took up an extremely austere lifestyle becoming a vegatarian and eating a meal only once a day of vegatables, broth and cooked unpolished rice. On his body were the cotton garments of the common people and there was a black cotton curtain around his bed; one cap lasted three years, one bed quilt two years. From the women of the rear palace on down their clothes did not drag in the earth. The emperor was ill disposed to drinking wine so he would not offer sacrifices at the ancestral temple and never enjoyed great banquets of wining and dining. Even though he occupied a dark room he would constantly adjust his cap and down, during the height of summer he would never lift up his robes or throw off a garment to cool off. Although he was personally industrious, frugal and serious because he embraced compassion the law was laxly administered and if a subordinate were to transgress they were granted clemency for with every judgement of death or imprisonment he was then without cheer from morning to night to such an extent that even those who had plotted rebellion or were guilty of major crimes he also forgave or spared. Thus everyone let go of their inhibitions and there was nothing that they feared. The local officials intimidated and exploited the common people there was bribery and then the kings and nobles of the aristocracy became arrogant, high-handed, dissolute and cruel totally devoid of either conscience or repsect for the law. Suddenly within the capital there were men murdered in broad daylight or thievery late at night for the criminals escaped justice by hding in the houses of the kings and nobles so officials did not date to search for and arrest them. The small-minded men of the court all thought it easy to take advantage of the emperor's leniency and so competed with one another in their deceptions. In the later years of this life, because the Emperor Wu devoted himself to Buddhism he wearied of listening to the daily affairs of government and thus political power fell into the hand of obsequious officials.. The Cavalier Palace Attendant Chu ??, the Privy Treasurer Ch'ing Hsü-lien and the Leader of the Right Guard of the Imperial Heir Lu Yen, these three men most abused their powers and men of the time called them the Three Wood Grubs (wood grubs used figuratively for corrupt officials). During this period although the Southern Court gave the appearance of an uneventful peace, politics became increasingly more corrupt and abusive practices even more entrenched. By the year 547 it had already given rise to a situation where the dynasty had only a facade of strength, thus giving birth to the Revolt of Hou Ching.
From the year 534 on the Northern Wei state was divided into eastern and western parts where Kao Huan and Yu-wen T'ai each set up an emperor as their puppet and then attacked one another. Thus, an east-west conflict developed with the Ho, Fen, Chu and Ying area as the battlefield where the two sides struggled for supremacy.
Yu-wen T'ai, a Hsien-pei tribesman from Wu-ch'uan in Tai commandery, was a man of extreme intelligence and tact, and was exceptionally gifted at leading an army so when he took advantage of the times to rise up suddenly out of Kuan-chung although he had no real qualifications or experience, he did have a deep hold on the hearts of this men. After he had setu up Pao-chü as the emperor Wen of the Western Wei, he advanced in rank to Chancellor and was enfeoffed as the Duke of An-ting. Using the Han Chinese, Su Ch'o, as his strategist and planner he took part in secret discussions. Su Ch'o was well versed in laws and regualtions and in the historical record had many achievements in the realm of politics establishing a standard for official documents, a tent count (chi-ch'ang, used to levy labor service) system of household registration, stern administration of local officials, setting up military colonies, and also spreading a six-article proclamation throughout the empire. The six-article proclamation was: one, purify the heart; two, deepen the influence of instruction; three exhaust the advantages of a situation; four, select the talented and virtuous; five, relieve law suits; six, equalize tax and labor service, all forming the sound basis of a good administration. It was not long before Su Ch'o died and then Yu-wen T'ai employed the native of Fan-yang, Lu Pien, who carried on the tasks that Su Ch'o had not yet brought to completion, setting up six offices according to the Chou Li (the Rituals of Chou) as the vehicles, garments and utensils used were all according to the ancient style so that all of the cultural products and social institutions could be seen brilliantly. In Kuan-chung under the planning and supervision of Yu-wn T'ai the outline of a state was completed with his power and influence growing with each passing day, but it was the various political institutions built by Su Ch'o that served as the basis of the following Northern Chou political structure while the Northern Chou in turn served as the basis of the Sui and T'ang states that followed.
It was K'o-chu-hui-tao-yuan, who was originally the Prefect of Wei-chou in Kuan-chung and who because he did not submit to Yu-wen T'ai was forced by him to flee into exile in Chin-yang to throw in his lot with Kao Huan, that told Kao Huan since Yu-wen T'ai's power in Kuan-chung was growing if he did not move quickly against him then in the future he would prove difficult to subdue. In the year 535 Kao Huan sent out Ssu-ma Tsu-ju, Tou T'a and others to cross the river at P'u-chin and advance to surprise Hua-chou in Kuan-chung but they were beaten back by the Western Wei Hua-chou Prefect Wang Hsiung. During the 1st lunar month of the next year Kao Huan personally led a force of 10,000 infantry and cavalry across the river and they surprised and took Western Wei Hsia-chou (the same area as T'ung-wan, the capital of the Hsia state, north of the county of Heng-shan) and Ling-chou (now Ling-wu county in Ning-hsia province) while the Prefects of both Ch'in-chou and Pin-chou surrendered to Eastern Wei. In the winter of the same year Kao Huan again sent out an army dividing it into three columns to advance and attack Western Wei. Tou T'ai attacked T'ung-kuan from the front while to the south Kao Ao-ts'ao advnced to assault Shang-lo (Shang county in Shensi) and Kao Huan personally supervised an army that planned to cross the Yellow River at P'u-chin. Yu-wen T'ai himself led an army out that crushed Tou T'ai and the anger and shame drove T'ai to kill himself. He was Kao Huan's fiercest general so as soon as Tou T'ai died the armies to the north and the south were both forced to withdraw. Having beaten back Kao Huan, in the fall of 537 Yu-wen T'ai sent out twelve generals including Li Pi in a major campaign against the east seizing Hung-nung and Shan-ch'eng. When Kao Huan learned of this he immediately set out at the head of an army of 200,000 to cross as P'u-chin and surprise Kuan-chung while he ordered Kao Ao-ts'ao to lead an army in a counter-attack on Hung-nung and since there was famine in Kuan-chung, Yu-wen T'ai was forced to withdraw from the city. Kao Huan's great army had already crossed the Yellow and Wei Rives when it encountered the army of Yu-wen T'ai in a great battle at Wei-ch'u. Huan's army was defeated and withdrew with over 80,000 killed and Kao Ao-ts'ao also withdrew from Hung-nung. Since the Western Wei had smached Kao Huan, they took advantage of the victory to mount a counter-attack and with long, wuick marches took Lo-yang, Ch'ang-she, Ch'en-liu and Ying-yang east of the Pass as well as Hung-t'ung in Chin-chou in Ho-pei thus the Eastern Wei lands between the Yellow and Lo rivers on the Central Plain and the triangular area between the Yellow and Fen Rives was all occupied by the Western Wei. Kao Huan did not give up and in 538 again ordered Hou Ching and Kao Ao-ts'ao to counter-attack Lo-yang and the area from Lo-yang to Hung-nung became the battleground for a fierce struggle with the Western Wei armies with the result that Kao Huan, at first unsuccessful and later victorious, was finally able to recover Lo-yang. However, both sides had suffered heavy losses with the dead bodies and skeletons spread over one-hundred square li as the Lo-yang are became a vast expanse of scorched earth and the histories said, "The provinces and commanderies to the south of the river became filled with lush grasses, the public and the private sectors were weary and exhausted and the majority of the population starved to death."
After the great battles of 538 the forces of both Kao Huan and Yu-wen T'ai were exhausted and each devoted himself to the task of recovering from his losses. Huan used Hou Ching as the head of the Grand Mobile Administration of the Ho-nan Circuit, directing the troops at Hu-lao in order to control the area of the Yellow and Lo Rivers. During the five years from 537 to 543 there were no great battles between east and west. In 543 the Eastern Wei Prefect of Northern Yü-chou, Kao Ch'ung-mu, because his wife had been abused by Kao Huan's son Kao Ch'eng, became bitter and surrendered to the Western Wei. Yu-wen T'ai immediately set out at the head of an army to stand by to assist Kao Ch'ung-mi and in addition the Lo-yang area was occupied by the Western Wei which rocked Ho-nan. Kao huan therefore personally led a force across the river and fought a major engagement with Yu-wen T'ai at Mount Mang (Mang-shan) where Yu-wen T'ai was finally forced back into the Pass. Kao Huan likewise led his army back north but still ordered Hou Ching to garrison Hu-lao. Although the battle on the Central Plain had come to a temporary halt the Western Wei still occupied the southern reaches of the Fen River and with Wei Hsiao-k'uan as the Chin-chou Prefect they stationed troops at Yu-pi (Jade Cliff, now Hsian-shan in Shansi) that threatened Chin-yang. Although the Eastern Wei had established their capital at Yeh-ch'eng, kao Huan wanted to use Chin-yang as a base of operations and, therefore, had to recover the lost lands of the Fen River valley. So it was that in 546 Kao Huan personally led an army to assault Yu-pi. Wei Hsiao-k'uan had a firm defense and refused battle to Kao Huan attacked for more than fifty days with losses of over 70,000 men, and in the end the assault failed and the grief and indignation sickened Kao Huan, who returned to Chin-yang and died. As soon as Kao Huan died then the revolt of Hou Ching in Ho-nan suddenly broke out.
hou Ching was a native of Huai-shuo garrison along the Wei northern frontier who began as an official of the garrison's bureau of merit and during the years of upheaval along the northern frontiers he sought refuge with Erh-chu Jung. Later he rose to the office of Ting-chou Prefect and became a good friend of Kao Huan. When Kuan executed the members of the Erh-chu clan, Hou Ching headed a mob that submitted to Huan so Huan made him Minister over the Masses, the General-in-Chief of the lands south of the river, Grand Head of the Mobile Administration of the southern circuits maintaining an army of 100,000 that allowed him to tyrranize the south for ten years. Ching was a secretive, cruel and heartless personality that was combined with a contempt for everything and everyone, such that only Erh-chu Jung and Kao Huan were able to control him. He had once bragged to Kao Huan about himself saying, "would that I had thirty-thousand combat troops, then I could dominate all under heaven, crossing the Yangtze to truss up Hsiao Yen and make the old man the head of the monastery of the Great Peace." Hou Ching was on bad terms with Kao Ch'eng, the son of Kao Huan. When Kao Huan's illness became grave, Kao Ch'eng had already forged an edict summoning Hou Ching but when he learned of this he declined the order to return and subsequently harbored a suspicious fear of Ch'eng. When Kao Huan died and Kao Ch'eng succeeded him as Chancellor to dominate the government, Hou Ching then took over control of the area with the support of his troops to start a revolt and in the 3rd lunar month of 547 Hou sent envoys to submit a request to the Liang emperor to surrender. He claimed that along with him would come all the lands of the thirteen provinces to the east of Han-ku and west of Hsia-ch'iu: Yu, Ying, Ching, Hsiang and other provinces. The Liang emperor Wu-ti conferred with Chu ?? and considered it an opportunity he could not pass up for if he refused to accept it then they cut off their last hope. Liang Wu-ti expediently enfeoffed Hou Ching as General-in-Chief of Ho-nan, Inspector-General of all the military affairs of Ho-nan and also handed down an edict calling for an all-out campaign against the north. He thus dispatched Hsiao Yuan-ming, the South Yu-chou Prefect and Marquis of Chen-yang to lead an army north to attack P'eng-ch'eng and by means of this respond in the east to Hou Ching in the west. When the Eastern Wei Chancellor Kao Ch'eng received information about this he ordered Mu-jung Shao-tsung to lead a force of 100,000 south to relieve P'ang-ch'eng, smashing the Liang forces and capturing Hsiao Yuan-ming with several tens of thousands of his soldiers either dead or missing. Ever since Kao Huan had seized control of the government the Eastern Wei had continuously cultivated good relations with the Southern Dynasty but now diplomatic contacts were broken off because of Hou Ching, therefore, Kao Ch'eng circulated a manifesto that condenmed the men of Liang for their breach of faith in accepting the rebel. Since Mu-jung Shao-tsung had already eliminated the Liang army he moved his army west to strike Hou Ching and also shattered Hou Ching's forces. Hou Ching then led the battered remnants of his army in flight to the south and to Shou-yang, where Liang Wu-ti sought to pacify him even more by handing over to him the post of South Yu-chou Prefect and ordered him to garrison his troops in Shou-yang.
At the time of the death of Kao Huan in Eastern Wei, Kao Ch'eng did not wish at the same time to deepen the rift with the Southern Court since he had captured Hsiao Yuan-ming, so in addition to favorabel treatment he requested Yuan-ming to explain to Liang Wu-ti that the Northern Court wished to renew their old friendship, and if they would re-establish diplomatic relations then Yuan-ming could immediatly return to his country. Hsiao Yuan-ming was the son of Wu-ti's older brother hsiao I and because of the deep love that the emperor felt for him family when he received this letter tears streamed down his face and he immediately sent envoys to Yeh-ch'eng to offer condolences for the losses and also to discuss peace. When he heard of this Hou ching became very uneasy fearing that he was to become the sacrifice offered up to achieve peace between the two sides, thus, when he offered up a memorial of vigorous opposition and the emperor did not accept it this deepened Hou Ching's suspicion and fear. Opportunists lied to him about the contents of the letter from Yeh-ch'eng saying it contained a request to exchange the Marquis of Chen-yang (Hsiao Yuan-ming) for Hou Ching while the emperor's reply read: "On the day that Chen-yang arrives, that evening Hou Ching will be returned." The news of this drove Hou Ching into a towering rage and from this seed sprant his plans to oppose the Liang emperor. In Shou-yang he recruited troops to increase the resources available to him and with regard to the Imperial court his demands were insatiable. Liang Wu-ti's nephew, Haiao Cheng-te King of Lin-ho, was serving as a Palace Attendant, Controls the Army General who had already been censured by the emperor because of his avaricious activities and for this bore him a grudge, now he secretly supported dead soldiers (?) and wished to plot further transgressions. Learning of this through spys, Hou Ching had the opportunists collaborate with Cheng-te and bided his time before he made his move. With the coming of the year 548 because the Liang court and Eastern Wei were actively proceeding with their discussions in pursuit of peace, Hou Ching could no longer afford to wait and so during the 8th lunar month using as his pretext stamping out the Three Wood Grubs (mentioned previously) he bagan the military takeover of Shou-yang. When Liang Wu-ti heard of Hou Ching's mutiny he at first did not consider its meaning and said laughing, "how can Hou Ching be capable of doing this, I will break off a branch and whip him!" He promptly ordered Hsiao Fan the Ho-chou Prefect, Hsiao Cheng-piao the North Hsü-chou Prefect, Hsiao Lun King of Shao-ling and other to supervise an army which was to advance and assault Shou-yang and deal with the Liang army, personally led a crack force which sped straight to Ho-chou using a shortcut. Chiao-chou and Li-yang fell one after the other. At the same time the state had experienced a long, unbroken span of peaceful days and since the people were unfamiliar with warfare as soon as they got wind of it they fled. hsiao Cheng-te King of Lin-ho secretly sent a boat to meet Ching and ferry him across the river while his military units then arrived at Chin-k'ang after long and fast marches from Ts'ai-shih fighting their way through the Hsuan-yang Gate to besiege Wu-ti in the T'ai-ch'eng. Wu-ti relied on the wall to resist the assault and a bloody battle raged day and night. Hsiao Lun King of Shao-ling led troops to Chung-li but when he heart the Hou Ching had already crossed at T'ai-shih and fought his way into the Chien-k'ang he hurriedly returened with his army to help advancing from Ching-k'ou to halt at Chiang-shan where he joined battle with Hou Ching who smashed his force. At the same time armies to aid the emperor were gradually assembling from every quarter, where was Hsiao Fan King of P'o-yang and son of Hsiao Ssu, Fei Chih-kao the West Yu-chou Prefect, Wei Ts'an the Heng-chou Prefect, Li Chung-li the Ssu-chou Prefect, Yang Ya-jen the former Prefect of Ssu-chou and others who openly put forward Liu Chung-li as their Grand Inspector-General. Hsiao Lun also went about rallying the remnants of his defeated army and then together with Hsiao Ta-lian the East Yang-chou Prefect, Fan Wen-chiao and others once again came to meet in battle. The various units underwent a fierce battle with those of Hou Ching taking very heavy casualties but both sides had their victories and defeats. However, the chain of command of the government forces was complicated and as a result orders were not consistent. Liu Chung-li had a haughty and overbearing personality and was also unable to work together with Hsiao Lun which sapped morale until finally everyone encamped their troops to sit and wait. For a long time Hou Ching's assault against T'ai-ch'eng dragged on without success and the troops had exhausted their provisions for the peasants in the vicinity of Chine-k'ang had all fled and there was nothing for them to requisition. In addition, when he heard that the armies from Ching and Hsiang were about to arrive on the scene Hou Ching became deeply worried and anxious then sent envoys to T'ai-ch'eng to present a request to bring an end to hostilities if he could recieve the lands of the four provinces to the right of Chiang (South Yu, West Yu, Ho-chou and Kuang-chou) then he would withdraw his forces. At the time in T'ai-ch'eng the dead and wounded piled up and the soldiers that defended the city were reduced to boiling rats and grass for their food and there was, in reality, no way they could maintain their position. Liang Wu-ti expediently accepted Hou Ching's request and sent envoys to arrange the agreement instructing that Hou Ching be made the Grand Chancellor at the same time ordering all of the reinforcing armies to withdraw. By the time that these armies had withdrawn Hou Ching had obtained provisions and had a chance to rest so now he unexpectedly went back on his agreement and was unwilling to withdraw his army. In a great rage Liang Wu-ti once again handed down an edict calling for the punishment of this bandit. However, among the troops and the population in T'ai-ch'eng 80% or 90% of them were dead and of the troops that remained there were not fully 4,000 with no way to fight again so this time Hou Ching's attack succeeded. The siege of T'ai-ch'eng lasted for 5 months from the 10th lunar month of 548 to the 3rd lunar month of 549.
After Hou Ching captured T'ai-ch'eng he allowed his troops to plunder the palace while Hsiao Lun King of Shao-ling fled to Hui-ch'i then Liu Chung-li went over to Hou Ching who proclaimed himself the Chancellor with a promotion to Grand Inspector-General and Inspector-General of Inner and Outer Military Affairs. Although Hou Ching did not yet dare to injure Liang Wu-ti he still placed him under house arrest in the palace and as was the same with prisoners in general food and drink were not continued so Wu-ti sad and angry became ill. On the day ping-ch'en during the 5th lunar month of 549 while the emperor was sleeping in the Ching-chü Palace he thirstily demanded honey to no avail and died crying out "ho ho." (Note: this is a sound attributed to a grunt of either resentment or hatred.) This happened only two months after the fall of T'ai-ch'eng. With the death of Liang Wu-ti, Hou Ching set up the Imperial Heir Hsiao Kang who became Liang Chien-wen-ti. Prior to the capture of T'ai-ch'eng Hou Ching had already supported Hsiao Cheng-te King of Lin-ho as emperor but with the fall of T'ai-ch'eng he was demoted to the post of Commander-in-Chief. Cheng-te resented Hou Ching's selfserving action and secretly wrote to Hsiao Fan King of P'o-yang summoning him to come and punish Hou Ching but when Hou Ching learned of it he had Cheng-te hanged. Hou Ching was lewd, vicious, cruel and heartless and his death penalties were cruel and sadistic, every execution he regarded as an obscene sport. In addition, if the condemned prisoner should by chance cry out then the culprit would have all of his relatives killed as well. Whenever he went out to battle he would destroy palisades and level walls in a slaughter that left no survivors. At the time Chiang-nan was afflicted by locusts and drought and with the addition of the military disturbances the peasantry wandered over the lands fleeing into the mountains and marshes to gather grass, roots, trees and leaves in order to fill their stomachs, the bones of the dead multiplied with the dead covering the land, and outside the walls of Chien-k'ang for a thousand li the smokey plumes of cooking fires were absent and there were few signs of people. In time all of the provinces and garrisons of Chiang-nan one after the other maintained troops to defend themselves and Hou Ching's commands only reached the lands to the west of Wu-chu, east of Ku-shu, south of Kuang-ling and north of Nan-ling. Of the senior officials of the numerous provinces and commanderies north of the Yangtze some fled while others rebelled with many of the communities being lost to the Eastern Wei and the three very important garrison towns of Huai-nan, Shou-yang, Chung-li and Huai-yin were all taken by the Eastern Wei. In the area in the upper reaches of the Yangtze this also triggered disorders in Ching and Hsiang.
Liang Wu-ti' seventh son was Hsiao I King of Hsiang-tung, who later became the Prefect of Ching-chou with a garrison at Chiang-ling. While Hou Ching besieged T'ai-ch'eng, Hsiao I had already united with Hsiao Yu King of Ho-tung and Hsiang-chou Prefect. Hsiao Ch'a King of Yueh-yang and Yung-chou Prefect, Hsiao Ta-hsin King of Tang-yang and Chiang-chou Prefect, Hsiao K'o King of Nan-p'ing and Ying-chou Prefect with others to jointly raise troops to go to the aid of the emperor. Later when Liang Wu-ti and Hou Ching were negotiating peace and the reinforcing armies were instructed to withdraw, the King of Hsiang-tun and the others all returned their troops to their garrisons. The King of Hsiang-tung had been in the west of twenty years was Inspector-General for the Military Affairs of the nine provinces of Ching-chou, Yung-chou, Hsiang-chou, Ssu-chou, Ying-chou, Ning-chou, South Ch'ing-chou, North Ch'in-chou and another, had a suspicion born of dislike toward Hsiao Yu and Hsiao Ch'a. These two were brothers, the grandsons of Liang Wu-ti and the sons of the Chao-ming Imperial Heir Hsiao T'ung. Originally the two provinces of Hsiang and Yung were controlled by the King of Hsiang-tun, however, the several times that he had tried to requisition troops and supplies from these two provinces to aid in the effort against Hou Ching he was always refused by Yu and Ch'a. Hsiao I considered them to have publicly disobeyed orders and therefore sent out his son, Hsiao Fang, at the head of a force to go out and punish Hsiao Yu but Fang's troops were defeated and he drowned. The so enraged Hsiao I that he ordered the Ching-ling Grand Administrator Wang Seng-pien to take troops out to punish Hsiao Yü and they encircled and attacked Ch'ang-sha. Hsiao Yü, therefore, requested aid from the Yung-chou Prefect Hsiao Ch'a (at this time the Yung-chou garrison was at Hsiang-yang) but when Ch'a dispatched troops from Hsiang-yang which were to go south to surprise Chiang-ling while they were still on the road a mutiny broke out in the rear and it became necessary to return to Hsiang-yang after reaching the half-way point of their journey with heavy casualties. Hsiao Ch'a was very aware of his isolation and of the difficulty of opposing the King of Hsiang-tung when suddenly without regard for the consequences he sent envoys to request aid from the Western Wei. This pleased Yu-wen T'ai to no end and he then sent General Yang Chung south to garrision Jang-ch'eng (Tung-hsien in Ho-nan) to aid Hsiao Ch'a. When the King of Hsiang-tung heard of this he dispatched a force to advance and surprise Hsiang-yang where they were defeated by Yang Chung, and thus the An-ling region (to the northwest of Wu-han) was completely lost to the Western Wei. In the 4th lunar month of 550 Wang Seng-pien stormed Ch'ang-sha and killed Hsiao Yü King of Ho-tung. Having already annexed Hsiang-chou, Hsiao I then was informed of the death of Liang Wu-ti and issued a call to arms across the land for a decisive move to subjugate Hou Ching.
Having already stabilized the Ch'ien-t'ang, Hui-ch'i area in the east, Hou Ching then sent his bannered troops into the west, sending General Jen Yüeh at the head of a force upstream by boat with the Chiang-chou Prefect, Hsiao Ta-hsin surrendering without a struggle. Jen Yueh then went forward and confronted Hsu Wen-sheng at Wu-ch'ang, who had been sent there by the King of Hsiang-tun. With this Hou Ching personally led out an army to reinforce Jen ordering him to lead a force of elite cavalry and infantry to launch a surprise attack that took Ying-chou (the administrative seat is at Hsia-k'ou which is west of Wu-ch'ang in Hun-nan). Now with Ying-chou taken Hou Ching then directed and led a major force that bypassed Hsu Wen-sheng's fortified camp to advance westward causing Wen-sheng's military units to collapse without a fight. When Hsiao I heard the Hou Ching was advancing up into the west with a large army he ordered Wang Seng-pien to lead out a force that was to hold and defend Pa-ling (Yueh-yang) against this advance. Hou Ching's assault failed to carry Pa-ling and then in the army sickness broke out and in addition Ching's officer, Jen Yueh, who had gone west to surprise Chiang-ling with an army that was defeated and he himself was captured. The situation left Hou Ching no other choice so he burned his camp and withdrew his army back into the east. King Hsiao I took advantage of this to order Wang Seng-pien, Hu Seng-yu and others to use the victory to launch a counter-attack and following the current downstream they retook Ying-chou. At this time there was a fresh force that entered into the military action surrounding the counter-attack and this was the force led by the Shih-hsing Grand Administrator Ch'en Pa-hsien. Pa-hsien's army had come up north from Ling-nan to aid the emperor and when he arrived King I appointed him the Prefect of Chiang-chou and then combined forces with Seng-pien to take Shou-yang. Thus, the power and influence of the King became grand and magnificent and this brought about a change in the balance of power. This was during the fall of the year 551.
When Hou Ching returned to Chien-k'ang from Pa-ling after his setback there the majority of his officers and men had either been killed or injured so his strategist Wang Wei advised him to set up a new emperor in order to establish his own authority. Thus it was that Hou Ching found it convenient to depose Chien-wen-ti and enthrone Tung King of Yu-chang (and grandson of Hsiao T'ung) while at the same time slaughtering over twenty men (all of Chien-wen-ti's sons and the Kings) and it was not long before Chien-wen-ti was also killed with poison. Only two months after Hsiao Tung had ascended the throne he was forced to abdicate and then Hou Ching became the emperor of a state that he called Han. When the King of Hsiang-tung heard in Ching-chou that Hou Ching had usurped the imperial throne he immediately ordered all of his armies to be mobilized for a decisive eastern campaign. At this time the military strength of Wang Seng-pien, Ch'en Pa-hsien and the others was at its peak so as they descended on the east from Shou-yang the line of their ships extended for several thousand li (a very large flotilla) and with long and swift moves they conquered Wu-hu and then advanced up to Chien-k'ang. When they arrived Hou Ching himself led out iron cavalry to meet them in battle. The result was a major defeat for his as his troops broke ranks and fled. Ching did not dare go into T'ai-ch'eng so he led the remnants of his army to flee east where he planned to board a ship and sail into the ocean but he was killed by some of his subordinates and they sent his corpse to Chien-k'ang. There Wang Seng-pien sent his head on to Chiang-ling while the body was exhibited in the city market in Chien-k'ang. There was not a one of the common people who did not bitterly hate Hou Ching so they butchered his flesh. As soon as Hou Ching had been destroyed then Seng-pien stationed troops in Chien-k'ang and ordered Ch'en Pa-hsien to garrison Ching-k'ou. Altogether the revolt of Hou Ching lasted three years and eight months, fomr the 8th lunar month of 548 to the 4th lunar month of 552. These three years and eight months of upheaval are an event that marks an historical watershed that had three very important effects: 1). It spurred on the dissolution and destruction of the Royal House of the Liang State, and at the same time the cavalry of the barbarians came down south to destroy the north-south balance that had lasted for over two-hundred years since the Eastern Chin. 2). It reulsted in the singular catastrophe for the livelihood of the people and for culture since the inhabitants of Chiang-nan were reduced to dire poverty while the books and cultural artifacts of the south were also suddenly reduced to ashes and embers. (Note: In the Biography of Hou Ching in the 80th folios of the Nan Shu it is recorded, "Fire completely destroyed the buildings of the eastern palace and several hundred cases of land charts and census records that had been gathered there were all burnt to ashes." Also "the Palace of the Cosmic Ultimate (T'ai-ch'i Tien) was set ablaze and all of the buildings to the east and west of it were completely destroyed.") 3). It resulted in a one-time blending of peoples and cultures as Hu (a general term for northern barbarians) influences began to penetrate into Chiang-nanm and in addition Hou Ching also distributed to the barbarian cavalry children from the Wu region (the area of the Yangtze delta) and by this brought about a mixing of the racial bloodlines.
After the chastizing of Hou Ching, Hsiao I King of Hsiang-tung was appropriately proclaimed emperor in Chiang-ling to become the ruler Liang Yuan-ti. At the same time that this happened I's younger brother Hsiao Chi King of Wu-ling and I-chou Prefect was also proclaimed emperor in Ch'eng-tu, while Hsiao Ch'a King of Yueh-yang and Yung-chou Prefect was proclaimed King of Liang in Hsiang-yang with each organizing a court and establishing a bureaucracy. Moreover, Wang Seng-pien as Minister of the Masses controlled the Chien-k'ang garrison and was also in a position of respect. Thus, although Hou Ching had been eliminated there still emerged from this two emperors and one king, and four independent governments. By this time the Liang Dynasty existed in name only and had in reality fallen into a situation of complete disintegration, moreover, the lands to the north of the Yangtze were almost completely occupied by the Northern Dynasties.
In 552 Hsiao Chi King of Wu-ling led an army down into the east to advance and attack Chiang-ling, and at the same time that this was happening Hsiao I, the ruler Liang Yuan-ti, was requesting aid from the Western Wei. Using as a pretext offering aid to the Liang, Western Wei quickly sent a capable general Yü-ch'ih Hui to take advantage of the vacuum and go down south to seize Ch'eng-tu. The outcome of this warfare between the brothers Hsiao I anc Hsiao Chi was that the latter was defeated in battle and killed but the men of Liang still lost half of the lands of I-chou. In the following year (553) the Western Wei acceded to the requests of Hsiao Ch'a King of Liang and sent generals Yü Chin, Yang Chung and others at the head of a major force to punish Ching-chou. Yuan-ti was defeated in battle and Chiang-ling was undefended. Yuan-ti was in the habit of collecting books and during the night before the city fell he gathered together all of the 140,000 odd folios of books and charts that he had collected and burned them all. Using a double-edged sword to chap a pillar he said, "the way of wen and wu on this evening is ended." Following the upheavals of Hou ching this represents yet another one-time catastrophe for the culture of Chiang-nan. When Chiang-ling fell to the assault of the Wei army, Hsiao I, Yuan-ti, was killed and Hsiao Ch'a was set up as the King of Liang with his throne in Chinag-ling and he reigned over Ching-chou and other lands within 300 li of the city. The Wei General Yü Chin emptied the treasuries and storehouses of the Liang of all of their jewels and valuables and also took captive several tens of thousands of men and women of Liang to become slaves to be divided among the soldiers as a reward, and then they all returned to the north with quick and long marches. Over the two-hundred years since the Esatern Chin ruler Yuan-ti set up his capital on the left bank of the Yangtze the exuberance of the people and things coming out of Chiang-ling were comparable to those of Chien-k'ang. These two centers of administration and culture on the upper and lower Yangtze suddenly within the space of a few years had become wastelands. When Hsiao Ch'a ascended the throne in Chiang-ling he became the ruler Liang Hsüan-ti and Hsüan-ti the became Lord of Liang (Liang Chu) proclaiming his submission to the Northern Court, and from this time on this corner of Ching-chou became a protectorate of first the Western Wei and then of the Northern Chou, known in history as either the Western Liang of the Latter Liang. The state of Latter Liang continued for thirty-three years with two rulers until it finally came to an end under the Sui Dynasty.
While there was a confused melee upstream in Ching-chou, downstream in the Chine-k'ang area there was also a situation of confused fighting. When Liang Wu-ti was being destroyed by the Western Wei, in Chien-k'ang Ch'en Pa-hsien and Wand Seng-pieb set Yuan-ti's young son, Hsiao Fang-shih King of Chin-an, on the throne as emperor. During the time of Liang Chien-wen-ti the Eastern Wei had already been overthrown by the Kao clan to form the Northern Ch'i state. Now when the Northern ch'i heard it said that in Chiang-ling the Western Wei had set up Hsiao Ch'a as a vassal they wished to do the same and so sent troops to escort Hsiao Yuan-ming the Marquis of Chen-yang back south to Chien-k'ang to become the Lord of Liang. Fearing the men of Ch'i, Wang Seng-pien unexpectedly welcomed Yuan-ming into the capital to assume the throne while he made the King of Chin-an the Imperial Heir. With his army stationed at Ching-k'ou, Ch'en Pa-hsien firmly opposed these political measures by Wang Seng-pien. Following the elimination of Hou Ching, Pa-hsien and Seng-pein were fighting each other both openly and in secret and soon developed a suspicious dislike, and then with the problem of the welcome of the Marquis of Chen-yang there was a complete split between the two. Just then there was a man with a report that there was a Ch'i army on the borders poised for an invasion, therefore, Pa-hsien set out from Ching-k'ou with an army which he claimed was to be used to guard against the Ch'i incusrion but instead entered Chien-k'ang by surprise, killing Wang Seng-pien. It was then announced throughout the land that Hsiao Yuan-ming was to be deposed so that the King of Chin-an could return to the throne and the reign title was changed to Shao-t'ai with the King becoming the ruler Liang Ching-ti. Ch'en pa-hsien was promoted from Chariots and Cavalry General to Prefect of the Masters of Writing and Inspector-General of Inner and Outer Military Affairs.
Aften Ch'en Pa-hsien had murdered Wang Seng-pien, Wang's younger brother the Wu-chun Grand Administrator Wang Seng-chih and his son-in-law the Wu-hsing Grand Administrator Tu K'an took possession of the walled cities and refused to obey orders. In addition to this both the Prefect of Ch'iao-chou Hsu Ssu-hui and the Prefect of South Yu-chou Jen Yueh invited the Ch'i armies to advance and surprise Chien-k'ang but they were all defeated by Ch'en Pa-hsien. Tu K'an was killed while Wang Seng-chih, Jen Yueh and Hsu Ssu-hui all fled into exile in Ch'i. In the 3rd lunar month of 556 Ch'i dispatched the capable general Hsiao Kuei to join forces with Hsu Ssu-hui and Jen Yueh to form an army of 100,000 in a large-scale crossing of the Yangtze to again advance to take Chien-k'ang. After a fierce battle they were finally thrown back by Ch'en Pa-hsien with the Ch'i troops suffering heavy casualties with their floating corpses littering the river. Having quelled the three Wu's, smashed a Ch'i army and stabilized Chien-k'ang Ch'en Pa-hsien's prestige rose. In the 7th lunar month of 557 he ascended to the rank of Chancellor and Grand Tutor, in the 9th lunar month he advanced to the post of Minister of State and was enfeoffed as the Duke of Ch'en, in the 10th lunar month he became a king and then shortly after that Ching-ti was compelled to abdicate so that Ch'en Pa-hsien could ascend the imperial throne as the ruler Ch'en Wu-ti. This happened in 557 only five years after the fall of Hou Ching. After four consecutive rulers and fifty-six years the Liang Dynasty came to an end. In the year prior to Ch'en Pa-hsien usurping the Liang Dynasty, in the north Yu-wen Chueh had also usurped the Western Wei to establish the Northern Chou, and from this moment on appropriately entered into the tripartitie situation of Ch'i, Chou and Ch'en.