Dynasties in Chinese history

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History of China
History of China
Neolithic c. 8500–c. 2100 BC
Xia dynasty c. 2100–c. 1600 BC
Shang dynasty c. 1600–c. 1046 BC
Zhou dynasty c. 1045–256 BC
 Western Zhou
 Eastern Zhou
   Spring and Autumn
   Warring States
Qin dynasty 221–206 BC
Han dynasty 206 BC – 220 AD
  Western Han
  Xin dynasty
  Eastern Han
Three Kingdoms 220–280
  Wei, Shu and Wu
Jin dynasty 265–420
  Western Jin
  Eastern Jin 16 Kingdoms
Southern and Northern Dynasties
Sui dynasty 581–618
Tang dynasty 618–907
  (Second Zhou 690–705)
5 Dynasties and
10 Kingdoms

Liao dynasty
Song dynasty
  Northern Song W. Xia
  Southern Song Jin
Yuan dynasty 1271–1368
Ming dynasty 1368–1644
Qing dynasty 1644–1911
Republic of China 1912–1949
People's Republic
of China

Republic of
China on Taiwan

Approximate territories occupied by the various dynasties and states throughout the history of China

The following is a chronology of the dynasties in Chinese history.


It was rare for one dynasty to change peacefully into the next (as is said in ancient stories), since dynasties were often established before the overthrow of an existing reign, or continued for a time after they had been defeated. For example, the conventional date 1644 marks the year in which the Qing dynasty armies completely subjugated loyalists of the preceding Ming dynasty. However, the Qing dynasty itself was established in 1636 (or even 1616, albeit under a different name), while the last Ming dynasty pretender was not deposed until 1662. This change of ruling houses was a messy and prolonged affair, and the Qing took almost twenty years to extend their control over the whole of China. It is therefore inaccurate to assume China changed suddenly and all at once in the year 1644.

In addition, China was divided for long periods of its history, with different regions being ruled by different groups. At times like these, there was not any single dynasty ruling a unified China. As a case in point, there is much dispute about times in and after the Western Zhou period. In the Chinese historiographical tradition, each new dynasty would write the history of the dynasty which preceded it. This cycle was disrupted, however, when the Xinhai Revolution overthrew the Qing dynasty in favor of a republic. Even an attempt by Republicans to draft the history of the Qing was disrupted by the Chinese Civil War, which resulted in the division of China into the People's Republic of China on mainland China and the Republic of China on Taiwan.[1]


Dynasty Rulers Ruling House or clan of houses Years
Name Chinese Pinyin Meaning
Xia dynasty Xià Summer (list) Sì (姒) 2070–1600 BC 470
Shang dynasty Shāng Toponym (list) Zǐ (子) 1600–1050 BC 571
Western Zhou dynasty 西周 Xī Zhōu Toponym (list) (姬) 1050-770 BC 275
Eastern Zhou dynasty 東周 / 东周 Dōng Zhōu Toponym (list) (姬) 770–250 BC 514
Spring and Autumn period 春秋 Chūn Qiū As English 770-479 BC 295
Warring States period 戰國 / 战国 Zhàn Guó As English 476-221 BC 255
Qin dynasty Qín Toponym (list) Yíng (嬴) 221–206 BC 15
Western Han dynasty 西漢 / 西汉 Xī Hàn Toponym (list) Liú (劉 / 刘) 206 or 202 BC–9 AD, 23–25 AD 215
Xin dynasty Xīn "New" (list) Wáng (王) 9–23 AD 14
Eastern Han dynasty 東漢 / 东汉 Dōng Hàn Toponym (list) Liú (劉 / 刘) 25–220 195
Three Kingdoms 三國 / 三国 Sān Guó As English (list) Cáo (曹)
Liú (劉 / 刘)
Sūn (孫 / 孙)
220–265 or 280 45
Western Jin dynasty 西晉 / 西晋 Xī Jìn Ducal title (list) Sīmǎ (司馬 / 司马) 265–317 52
Eastern Jin dynasty 東晉 / 东晋 Dōng Jìn Ducal title (list) Sīmǎ (司馬 / 司马) 317–420 103
Southern and Northern Dynasties 南北朝 Nán Běi Cháo As English (list) various 386 or 420–589 169
Sui dynasty Suí Ducal title
(随 homophone)
(list) Yáng (楊 / 杨) 581–618 37
Tang dynasty Táng Ducal title (list) (李) 618–907 289
Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Traditional: 五代十國 / Simplified: 五代十国 Wǔ Dài Shí Guó As English (list) various 907–960 53
Kingdom of Dali 大理国 Dà Lǐ Guó Toponym (list) Duan (段) 937–1253 316
Northern Song dynasty 北宋 Běi Sòng Toponym (list) Zhào (趙 / 赵) 960–1127 167
Southern Song dynasty 南宋 Nán Sòng Toponym (list) Zhào (趙 / 赵) 1127–1279 152
Liao dynasty 遼 / 辽 Liáo "Vast" or "Iron"
(Khitan homophone)
(list) Yelü (Ei.ra.u.ud.svg; 耶律) 907 or 916–1125 209
Jin dynasty Jīn "Gold" (list) Wanggiyan
(Wo-on gia-an.png; 完顏 / 完颜)
1115–1234 119
Western Xia 西夏 Xī Xià Toponym (list) Li (Tangut Lie.png; 李) 1038–1227 189
Yuan dynasty Yuán "Great" or "Primacy" (list) Borjigin
(ᠪᠣᠷᠵᠢᠭᠢᠨ; 孛兒只斤 / 孛儿只斤)
1271–1368 97
Ming dynasty Míng "Bright" (list) Zhū (朱) 1368–1644 or 1662 276
Qing dynasty Qīng "Pure" (list) Aisin Gioro
( ᠠᡳᠰᡳᠨ ᡤᡳᠣᡵᠣ}; 愛新覺羅 / 爱新觉罗)
1636 or 1644–1911 268
Timeline graph

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Chiang Kai-shek and retrocession". Taiwan: China Post. November 5, 2012. p. 2. Retrieved December 2, 2012. 


  • China Handbook Editorial Committee, China Handbook Series: History (trans., Dun J. Li), Beijing, 1982, 188-89; and Shao Chang Lee, "China Cultural Development" (wall chart), East Lansing, 1984.

External links[edit]

  • Columbia University. Dynasties song sung to the tune of "Frère Jacques" that repeats the major Chinese dynasties in chronological order.