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Fire and IceLi Cunxu and the Founding of the Later Tang$
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Richard L. Davis

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9789888208975

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789888208975.001.0001

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The Prodigal Son

The Prodigal Son

(p.1) 1 The Prodigal Son
Fire and Ice

Richard L. Davis

Hong Kong University Press

Footing in two cultures proved a mixed blessing for Li Cunxu (885–926), the object of much envy in his day. Through paternal ties to the Shatuo-Turks of Inner Asia, he projected the martial panache reminiscent of his father, Li Keyong (856–908). Equally impressive was Cunxu’s comfort with the culture of his Chinese mother, Woman Cao, who drew upon a dedicated group of local mentors to prepare the youth for his destiny with history. Cunxu made frequent boast of his facility in the literary language and classical traditions of China. He also made much of his creativity as poet and musician, having composed by his own hand the marching songs for his armies. Conscious of his role as model for future Shatuo emperors, Cunxu needed to strike the right balance in negotiating his two identities. But sadly, fifteen years of almost ceaseless warfare in search of realizing other people’s dreams left little time for second thoughts about the cost of dynasty to own individuality. Would he force change upon the institution of monarchy or would the institution humble him? Tragically, so much constructive energy in his short yet historic reign were consumed by this epic contest of wills.

Keywords:   Later Tang Dynasty, Five Dynasties, China, Shatuo Turks, Military History, Biography, Tenth Century

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