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Nanzhao Tahu Temple, Weibaoshan Mountain, Dali, Yunnan, China. Source: hu/Adobe Stock

Nanzhao: A Lost Kingdom in Southern China (Video)


Nanzhao, situated in the rugged terrain of southern China, flourished as a formidable kingdom between the 8th and 10th centuries. Unified from disparate tribes, it repelled Chinese invasions and expanded its territories, showcasing advanced governance and distinct Buddhist practices. Emerging from the fertile lands surrounding Lake Erhai, Nanzhao's rise was spurred by geopolitical rivalries, notably between the Tang Dynasty and the Tibetan Empire.

Under the leadership of Pillage, later known as Meng Guiyi, Nanzhao consolidated its power, earning recognition as a vassal state of the Tang. Its capital, Taihe, strategically located for defense and agriculture, epitomized its strength. The kingdom's ethnic composition remains debated, with theories suggesting diverse populations including the Bai and Nuosu.

Military victories against the Tang and expansion into neighboring regions marked Nanzhao's zenith. Noteworthy conquests included the Pyu city-states in Burma and the capture of Chengdu in Sichuan. Despite cultural exchanges with China, Nanzhao retained its unique artistic and religious identity, blending Buddhism with indigenous Azhaliism and other faiths.

However, internal strife and external pressures precipitated Nanzhao's decline by the 10th century, culminating in its demise and the rise of successor states like the Kingdom of Dali. Nanzhao's legacy endures in the historical tapestry of southern China, a reminder of its once-mighty presence.

Top image: Nanzhao Tahu Temple, Weibaoshan Mountain, Dali, Yunnan, China. Source: hu/Adobe Stock                         

By Robbie Mitchell

Robbie Mitchell's picture


I’m a graduate of History and Literature from The University of Manchester in England and a total history geek. Since a young age, I’ve been obsessed with history. The weirder the better. I spend my days working as a freelance... Read More

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