Dynasties in Chinese history

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Approximate territories controlled by the various dynasties and states throughout Chinese history.
History of China
History of China
Neolithic c. 8500 – c. 2070 BC
Xia c. 2070 – c. 1600 BC
Shang c. 1600 – c. 1046 BC
Zhou c. 1046 – 256 BC
 Western Zhou
 Eastern Zhou
   Spring and Autumn
   Warring States
Qin 221–207 BC
Han 202 BC – 220 AD
  Western Han
  Eastern Han
Three Kingdoms 220–280
  Wei, Shu and Wu
Jin 266–420
  Western Jin
  Eastern Jin Sixteen Kingdoms
Northern and Southern dynasties
Sui 581–618
Tang 618–907
  (Wu Zhou 690–705)
Five Dynasties and
Ten Kingdoms

Liao 916–1125
Song 960–1279
  Northern Song Western Xia
  Southern Song Jin
Yuan 1271–1368
Ming 1368–1644
Qing 1636–1912
Republic of China 1912–1949
People's Republic of China 1949–present

Prior to the abdication of the Xuantong Emperor on 12 February 1912 in the wake of the Xinhai Revolution, China was ruled by a series of successive dynasties.[a] Dividing the history of China into periods ruled by dynasties is a common method of periodization utilized by scholars.

The following is a non-comprehensive list of the dynasties in Chinese history.


Transition between dynasties[edit]

One might incorrectly infer from viewing historical timelines that transitions between dynasties occurred abruptly and roughly. Rather, new dynasties were often established before the complete overthrow of an existing regime. For example, 1644 CE is frequently cited as the year in which the Qing dynasty succeeded the preceding Ming dynasty in possessing the Mandate of Heaven. However, the Qing dynasty was officially proclaimed in 1636 CE by the Emperor Taizong of Qing through renaming the Later Jin established by his father the Emperor Taizu of Qing in 1616 CE, while the Ming imperial family would rule the Southern Ming until 1662 CE. The Ming loyalist Kingdom of Tungning based in Taiwan continued to oppose the Qing until 1683 CE. Meanwhile, other factions also fought for control over China during the Ming–Qing transition, most notably the Shun and Xi dynasties proclaimed by Li Zicheng and Zhang Xianzhong respectively. This change of ruling houses was a convoluted and prolonged affair, and the Qing took almost two decades to extend their rule over the entirety of China proper.

According to Chinese historiographical tradition, each new dynasty would compose the history of the preceding dynasty, culminating in the Twenty-Four Histories. This cycle was disrupted, however, when the Xinhai Revolution overthrew the Qing dynasty in favor of a republic. Later on, an attempt by the Republicans to draft the history of the Qing was disrupted by the Chinese Civil War, which resulted in the political division of China into the People's Republic of China on mainland China and the Republic of China on Taiwan.[1]

Political legitimacy[edit]

China was divided during multiple periods in its history, with different regions ruled by different dynasties. Examples of such division include the Three Kingdoms, Sixteen Kingdoms, Northern and Southern dynasties, and Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms periods, among others.

Relations between Chinese dynasties during periods of division often revolved around political legitimacy, which was derived from the doctrine of the Mandate of Heaven. Dynasties ruled by ethnic Han Chinese would proclaim rival dynasties founded by other ethnicities as illegitimate, usually justified based on the concept of Hua–Yi distinction. On the other hand, many dynasties of non-Han Chinese origin regarded themselves as the legitimate dynasty of China and saw themselves as the true inheritor of Chinese culture and history. Traditionally, only regimes deemed as "legitimate" or "orthodox" (正統; zhèngtǒng) are termed cháo (; lit. "dynasty"); "illegitimate" regimes are referred to as guó (; usually translated as either "state" or "kingdom"[b]), even if these regimes were dynastic in nature. The political legitimacy status of some of these dynasties remain contentious among modern scholars.

Such legitimacy dispute existed during the following periods:

  • Three Kingdoms
  • Eastern Jin and Sixteen Kingdoms
    • The Eastern Jin proclaimed itself as legitimate
    • Several of the Sixteen Kingdoms such as Han Zhao, Later Zhao, and Former Qin also claimed legitimacy
  • Northern and Southern dynasties
    • All dynasties during this period saw themselves as the legitimate representative of China
  • Liao, Song, and Jin dynasties
  • Ming and Northern Yuan dynasties
    • The Ming dynasty recognized the preceding Yuan dynasty as a legitimate Chinese dynasty, but asserted that it had succeeded the Mandate of Heaven from the Yuan, thus considering the Northern Yuan as illegitimate
    • Northern Yuan rulers continued to claim the "Great Yuan" dynastic title and used Chinese imperial titles until 1388 CE; Chinese titles were subsequently restored during several occasions for brief periods
  • Qing and Southern Ming dynasties
    • The Qing dynasty recognized the preceding Ming dynasty as legitimate, but asserted that it had succeeded the Mandate of Heaven from the Ming, thus refuting the claimed legitimacy of the Southern Ming
    • The Southern Ming continued to claim legitimacy until its eventual defeat by the Qing
    • The Ming loyalist Kingdom of Tungning in Taiwan denounced the Qing dynasty as illegitimate

These historical legitimacy disputes are similar to the modern competing claims of legitimacy by the People's Republic of China based in Beijing and the Republic of China based in Taipei. Both regimes formally adhere to the One-China policy and claim to be the sole legitimate representative of the whole of China.

Types of dynasties[edit]

A German map of the Chinese Empire during the height of the Qing dynasty.

Central Plain dynasties[edit]

The Central Plain is a vast area on the lower reaches of the Yellow River which formed the cradle of Chinese civilization. "Central Plain dynasties" (中原王朝; zhōngyuán wángcháo) refer to dynasties of China that had their capital cities situated within the Central Plain. It could either include dynasties of both Han Chinese and non-Han Chinese origins (e.g., Jin dynasty, Yuan dynasty), or limited to only dynasties established by the Han Chinese with Zhongyuan culture as its core element (e.g., Qin dynasty, Tang dynasty).

Unified dynasties[edit]

"Unified dynasties" (大一統王朝; dàyītǒng wángcháo) refer to dynasties of China, regardless of its ethnic origin, that achieved unification of China proper. "China proper" is a region generally regarded as the traditional heartland of the Han Chinese, and is not equivalent to the term "China".

Dynasties usually considered to have unified this region include the Qin dynasty, the Western Han, the Eastern Han, the Western Jin, the Sui dynasty, the Tang dynasty, the Northern Song, the Yuan dynasty, the Ming dynasty, and the Qing dynasty. The status of the Northern Song is disputed among historians, as the contemporaneous Liao dynasty occupied the Sixteen Prefectures of Yan and Yun while the Western Xia exercised control over the northwestern portions of China proper; the Northern Song, in this sense, did not truly achieve unification of China proper.

Conquest dynasties[edit]

"Conquest dynasties" (征服王朝; zhēngfú wángcháo), first coined by historian and sinologist Karl August Wittfogel, refer to dynasties of China founded by non-Han Chinese peoples that ruled parts or all of China proper (e.g., Northern Wei, Qing dynasty). In this regard, dynasties of China established by non-Han Chinese that ruled over areas of "China" outside of "China proper" are not considered to be conquest dynasties (e.g. Western Liao).

Naming convention[edit]

Official dynastic name[edit]

It was customary for Chinese monarchs to adopt an official name for the realm, known as the guóhào (國號; lit. "name of the state"), upon the establishment of a dynasty. During the rule of a dynasty, its guóhào functioned as the formal name of the state, both internally and for diplomatic purposes.

There were instances whereby the official name was changed during the reign of a dynasty. For example, the dynasty known retroactively as Southern Han (南漢) initially used the name "Great Yue" (大越), only to be renamed to "Han" () subsequently.

The formal names of Chinese dynasties were usually derived from the following sources:

  • the name of the ruling tribe or tribal confederation
    • e.g., the Xia dynasty took its name from its ruling class, the Xia tribal confederation
  • the noble title held by the dynastic founder prior to the founding of the dynasty
  • the name of a historical state that occupied the same geographical location as the new dynasty
  • the name of a previous dynasty from which the new dynasty claimed descent or succession from, even if such familial links were questionable
  • a term with auspicious or other significant meanings
    • e.g., the Yuan dynasty was officially the "Great Yuan", a name derived from a clause in the Classic of Changes, "dà zāi Qián Yuán" (大哉乾元; lit. "Great is the Heavenly and Primal")

The adoption of guóhào, as well as the importance assigned to it, had promulgated within the Sinosphere. Notably, rulers of Vietnam and Korea also declared guóhào for their respective realm.

Retroactive dynastic name[edit]

In Chinese historiography, historians generally do not refer to dynasties by their official name. Instead, historiographical names, which were most commonly derived from their guóhào, are used. For instance, the Sui dynasty (隋朝) is known as such because its formal name was "Sui" (). Likewise, the Jin dynasty (金朝) was officially the "Great Jin" (大金).

When more than one dynasty shared the same Chinese character(s) as their formal name, as was common in Chinese history, prefixes are retroactively applied to dynastic names by historians in order to distinguish between these similarly-named regimes. Frequently used prefixes include:

A dynasty could be referred to by more than one retroactive name in Chinese historiography, albeit some are more widely used than others. For instance, the Liu Song (劉宋) is also known as the "Former Song" (前宋), and the Yang Wu (楊吳) is also called the "Southern Wu" (南吳).

Scholars usually make a historiographical distinction for dynasties whose rule were interrupted. For example, the Song dynasty is divided into the Northern Song and the Southern Song, with the Jingkang Incident as the dividing line; the original "Song" founded by the Emperor Taizu of Song was therefore differentiated from the "Song" restored under the Emperor Gaozong of Song. In such cases, the regime had collapsed, only to be re-established; a distinction between the original regime and the new regime is thus necessary for historiographical purpose. Major exceptions to this historiographical practice include the Western Qin and the Tang dynasty, which were interrupted by the Later Qin and the Wu Zhou respectively.

In Chinese sources, the term "dynasty" (; cháo) is usually omitted when referencing dynasties that have prefixes in their historiographical names. Such a practice is sometimes adopted in English usage, even though the inclusion of the word "dynasty" is also widely seen in English scholarly writings. For example, the Northern Zhou is also sometimes referred to as the "Northern Zhou dynasty".

List of Chinese dynasties[edit]

This list includes only major dynasties of China. Due to the large number of dynastic polities in Chinese history, minor and short-lived realms (e.g., Nanyue, Zhai Wei, Shun dynasty) will not be listed.

Dynasty Ruling house Period of rule Rulers
(English / Chinese[d] / Pinyin[e] / Bopomofo)
Origin of name Surname
(English / Chinese[d])
Ethnicity Start End Term Founder[f] Last monarch List
Xia dynasty
Xià Cháo
ㄒㄧㄚˋ ㄔㄠˊ
Tribe name Si
Huaxia 2070 BCE[g] 1600 BCE[g] 470 years Yu of Xia Jie of Xia (list)
Ancient China
Shang dynasty
Shāng Cháo
ㄕㄤ ㄔㄠˊ
Toponym Zi
Huaxia 1600 BCE[g] 1046 BCE[g] 554 years Tang of Shang Zhou of Shang (list)
Western Zhou[h]
Xī Zhōu
ㄒㄧ ㄓㄡ
Toponym Ji
Huaxia 1046 BCE[g] 771 BCE 275 years Wu of Zhou You of Zhou (list)
Eastern Zhou[h]
Dōng Zhōu
ㄉㄨㄥ ㄓㄡ
From Zhou dynasty Ji
Huaxia 770 BCE 256 BCE 514 years Ping of Zhou Nan of Zhou (list)
Early Imperial China
Qin dynasty
Qín Cháo
ㄑㄧㄣˊ ㄔㄠˊ
Toponym Ying
Huaxia 221 BCE 207 BCE 14 years Qin Shi Huang Qin San Shi (list)
Western Han[i]
Xī Hàn
ㄒㄧ ㄏㄢˋ
Toponym & Noble title Liu
Han 202 BCE 9 CE 210 years Gao of Han Liu Ying (list)
Xin dynasty
Xīn Cháo
ㄒㄧㄣ ㄔㄠˊ
"New" Wang
Han 9 CE 23 CE 14 years Wang Mang Wang Mang (list)
Eastern Han[i]
Dōng Hàn
ㄉㄨㄥ ㄏㄢˋ
From Han dynasty Liu
Han 25 CE 220 CE 195 years Guangwu of Han Xian of Han (list)
Three Kingdoms
Sān Guó
ㄙㄢ ㄍㄨㄛˊ
220 CE 280 CE 60 years (list)
Cao Wei
Cáo Wèi
ㄘㄠˊ ㄨㄟˋ
Noble title Cao
Han 220 CE 266 CE 46 years Wen of Cao Wei Yuan of Cao Wei (list)
Shu Han
Shǔ Hàn
ㄕㄨˇ ㄏㄢˋ
From Han dynasty Liu
Han 221 CE 263 CE 42 years Zhaolie of Shu Han Liu Shan (list)
Eastern Wu
Dōng Wú
ㄉㄨㄥ ㄨˊ
Noble title Sun
Han 222 CE 280 CE 58 years Da of Eastern Wu Sun Hao (list)
Western Jin[j][k]
Xī Jìn
ㄒㄧ ㄐㄧㄣˋ
Noble title Sima
Han 266 CE 316 CE 50 years Wu of Jin Min of Jin (list)
Eastern Jin[j][k]
Dōng Jìn
ㄉㄨㄥ ㄐㄧㄣˋ
From Jin dynasty (266–420 CE) Sima
Han 317 CE 420 CE 103 years Yuan of Jin Gong of Jin (list)
Sixteen Kingdoms
Shíliù Guó
ㄕˊ ㄌㄧㄡˋ ㄍㄨㄛˊ
304 CE 439 CE 135 years (list)
Han Zhao
Hàn Zhào
ㄏㄢˋ ㄓㄠˋ
Toponym & From Han dynasty Liu
Xiongnu 304 CE 329 CE 25 years Guangwen of Han Zhao Liu Yao (list)
Cheng Han
Chéng Hàn
ㄔㄥˊ ㄏㄢˋ
Toponym & From Han dynasty Li
Di 304 CE 347 CE 43 years Wu of Cheng Han Li Shi (list)
Former Liang
Qián Liáng
ㄑㄧㄢˊ ㄌㄧㄤˊ
Toponym Zhang
Han 314 CE 376 CE 62 years Ming of Former Liang Zhang Tianxi (list)
Later Zhao
Hòu Zhào
ㄏㄡˋ ㄓㄠˋ
Noble title Shi
Jie 319 CE 351 CE 32 years Ming of Later Zhao Shi Zhi (list)
Former Yan
Qián Yān
ㄑㄧㄢˊ ㄧㄢ
Toponym Murong
Xianbei 337 CE 370 CE 33 years Wenming of Former Yan You of Former Yan (list)
Former Qin
Qián Qín
ㄑㄧㄢˊ ㄑㄧㄣˊ
Toponym Fu
Di 351 CE 394 CE 43 years Jingming of Former Qin Fu Chong (list)
Later Qin
Hòu Qín
ㄏㄡˋ ㄑㄧㄣˊ
Toponym Yao
Qiang 384 CE 417 CE 33 years Wuzhao of Later Qin Yao Hong (list)
Later Yan
Hòu Yān
ㄏㄡˋ ㄧㄢ
From Former Yan Murong[l]
Xianbei[l] 384 CE 407 CE 23 years Chengwu of Later Yan Zhaowen of Later Yan
Huiyi of Yan[m]
Western Qin
Xī Qín
ㄒㄧ ㄑㄧㄣˊ
Toponym Qifu
Xianbei 385 CE 431 CE 37 years[n] Xuanlie of Western Qin Qifu Mumo (list)
Later Liang[o]
Hòu Liáng
ㄏㄡˋ ㄌㄧㄤˊ
Di 386 CE 403 CE 17 years Yiwu of Later Liang Lü Long (list)
Southern Liang
Nán Liáng
ㄋㄢˊ ㄌㄧㄤˊ
Toponym Tufa
Xianbei 397 CE 414 CE 17 years Wu of Southern Liang Jing of Southern Liang (list)
Northern Liang
Běi Liáng
ㄅㄟˇ ㄌㄧㄤˊ
Toponym Juqu[p]
Xiongnu[p] 397 CE 439 CE 42 years Duan Ye Ai of Northern Liang (list)
Southern Yan
Nán Yān
ㄋㄢˊ ㄧㄢ
From Former Yan Murong
Xianbei 398 CE 410 CE 12 years Xianwu of Southern Yan Murong Chao (list)
Western Liang
Xī Liáng
ㄒㄧ ㄌㄧㄤˊ
Toponym Li
Han 400 CE 421 CE 21 years Wuzhao of Western Liang Li Xun (list)
Hu Xia
Hú Xià
ㄏㄨˊ ㄒㄧㄚˋ
From Xia dynasty Helian[q]
Xiongnu 407 CE 431 CE 24 years Wulie of Hu Xia Helian Ding (list)
Northern Yan
Běi Yān
ㄅㄟˇ ㄧㄢ
From Former Yan Feng[r]
Han[r] 407 CE 436 CE 29 years Huiyi of Yan[m]
Wencheng of Northern Yan
Zhaocheng of Northern Yan (list)
Northern dynasties
Běi Cháo
ㄅㄟˇ ㄔㄠˊ
386 CE 581 CE 195 years (list)
Northern Wei
Běi Wèi
ㄅㄟˇ ㄨㄟˋ
Toponym Tuoba[s]
Xianbei 386 CE 534 CE 148 years Daowu of Northern Wei Xiaowu of Northern Wei (list)
Eastern Wei
Dōng Wèi
ㄉㄨㄥ ㄨㄟˋ
From Northern Wei Yuan
Xianbei 534 CE 550 CE 16 years Xiaojing of Eastern Wei Xiaojing of Eastern Wei (list)
Western Wei
Xī Wèi
ㄒㄧ ㄨㄟˋ
From Northern Wei Yuan[t]
Xianbei 535 CE 557 CE 22 years Wen of Western Wei Gong of Western Wei (list)
Northern Qi
Běi Qí
ㄅㄟˇ ㄑㄧˊ
Noble title Gao
Han 550 CE 577 CE 27 years Wenxuan of Northern Qi Gao Heng (list)
Northern Zhou
Běi Zhōu
ㄅㄟˇ ㄓㄡ
Noble title Yuwen
Xianbei 557 CE 581 CE 24 years Xiaomin of Northern Zhou Jing of Northern Zhou (list)
Southern dynasties
Nán Cháo
ㄋㄢˊ ㄔㄠˊ
420 CE 589 CE 169 years (list)
Liu Song
Liú Sòng
ㄌㄧㄡˊ ㄙㄨㄥˋ
Noble title Liu
Han 420 CE 479 CE 59 years Wu of Liu Song Shun of Liu Song (list)
Southern Qi
Nán Qí
ㄋㄢˊ ㄑㄧˊ
A prophecy on defeating the Liu clan Xiao
Han 479 CE 502 CE 23 years Gao of Southern Qi He of Southern Qi (list)
Liang dynasty
Liáng Cháo
ㄌㄧㄤˊ ㄔㄠˊ
Toponym Xiao
Han 502 CE 557 CE 55 years Wu of Liang Jing of Liang (list)
Chen dynasty
Chén Cháo
ㄔㄣˊ ㄔㄠˊ
Noble title Chen
Han 557 CE 589 CE 32 years Wu of Chen Chen Shubao (list)
Middle Imperial China
Sui dynasty
Suí Cháo
ㄙㄨㄟˊ ㄔㄠˊ
Noble title ("" homophone) Yang[u]
Han 581 CE 618 CE 37 years Wen of Sui Gong of Sui (list)
Tang dynasty
Táng Cháo
ㄊㄤˊ ㄔㄠˊ
Noble title Li
Han 618 CE 907 CE 274 years[v] Gaozu of Tang Ai of Tang (list)
Wu Zhou
Wǔ Zhōu
ㄨˇ ㄓㄡ
From Zhou dynasty Wu
Han 690 CE 705 CE 15 years Wu Zhao Wu Zhao (list)
Five Dynasties
Wǔ Dài
ㄨˇ ㄉㄞˋ
907 CE 960 CE 53 years (list)
Later Liang[o]
Hòu Liáng
ㄏㄡˋ ㄌㄧㄤˊ
Noble title Zhu
Han 907 CE 923 CE 16 years Taizu of Later Liang Zhu Youzhen (list)
Later Tang
Hòu Táng
ㄏㄡˋ ㄊㄤˊ
From Tang dynasty Li[w]
Shatuo 923 CE 937 CE 14 years Zhuangzong of Later Tang Li Congke (list)
Later Jin[x]
Hòu Jìn
ㄏㄡˋ ㄐㄧㄣˋ
Toponym Shi
Shatuo 936 CE 947 CE 11 years Gaozu of Later Jin Chu of Later Jin (list)
Later Han
Hòu Hàn
ㄏㄡˋ ㄏㄢˋ
From Han dynasty Liu
Shatuo 947 CE 951 CE 4 years Gaozu of Later Han Yin of Later Han (list)
Later Zhou
Hòu Zhōu
ㄏㄡˋ ㄓㄡ
From Zhou dynasty Guo[y]
Han 951 CE 960 CE 9 years Taizu of Later Zhou Gong of Later Zhou (list)
Ten Kingdoms
Shí Guó
ㄕˊ ㄍㄨㄛˊ
907 CE 979 CE 62 years (list)
ㄨˊ ㄩㄝˋ
Toponym Qian
Han 907 CE 978 CE 71 years Taizu of Wuyue Zhongyi of Qin (list)
Ma Chu
Mǎ Chǔ
ㄇㄚˇ ㄔㄨˇ
Toponym Ma
Han 907 CE 951 CE 44 years Wumu of Ma Chu Ma Xichong (list)
Yang Wu
Yáng Wú
ㄧㄤˊ ㄨˊ
Toponym Yang
Han 907 CE 937 CE 30 years Liezu of Yang Wu Rui of Yang Wu (list)
Former Shu
Qián Shǔ
ㄑㄧㄢˊ ㄕㄨˇ
Toponym / Noble title Wang
Han 907 CE 925 CE 18 years Gaozu of Former Shu Wang Yan (list)

Toponym Wang
Han 909 CE 945 CE 36 years Taizu of Min Tiande of Min (list)
Southern Han
Nán Hàn
ㄋㄢˊ ㄏㄢˋ
From Han dynasty Liu
Han 917 CE 971 CE 54 years Gaozu of Southern Han Liu Chang (list)
ㄐㄧㄥ ㄋㄢˊ
Toponym Gao
Han 924 CE 963 CE 39 years Wuxin of Chu Gao Jichong (list)
Later Shu
Hòu Shǔ
ㄏㄡˋ ㄕㄨˇ
Toponym Meng
Han 934 CE 965 CE 31 years Gaozu of Later Shu Gongxiao of Chu (list)
Southern Tang
Nán Táng
ㄋㄢˊ ㄊㄤˊ
From Tang dynasty Li
Han 937 CE 975 CE 36 years Liezu of Southern Tang Li Yu (list)
Northern Han
Běi Hàn
ㄅㄟˇ ㄏㄢˋ
From Later Han Liu
Shatuo 951 CE 979 CE 28 years Shizu of Northern Han Yingwu of Northern Han (list)
Northern Song[z]
Běi Sòng
ㄅㄟˇ ㄙㄨㄥˋ
Toponym Zhao
Han 960 CE 1127 CE 167 years Taizu of Song Qinzong of Song (list)
Southern Song[z]
Nán Sòng
ㄋㄢˊ ㄙㄨㄥˋ
From Song dynasty Zhao
Han 1127 CE 1279 CE 152 years Gaozong of Song Zhao Bing (list)
Liao dynasty
Liáo Cháo
ㄌㄧㄠˊ ㄔㄠˊ
"Iron" (Khitan homophone) / Toponym Yelü
Khitan 916 CE 1125 CE 209 years Taizu of Liao Tianzuo of Liao (list)
Western Liao
Xī Liáo
ㄒㄧ ㄌㄧㄠˊ
From Liao dynasty Yelü[aa]
Khitan[aa] 1124 CE 1218 CE 94 years Dezong of Western Liao Kuchlug (list)
Western Xia
Xī Xià
ㄒㄧ ㄒㄧㄚˋ
Toponym Weiming[ab]
Tangut 1038 CE 1227 CE 189 years Jingzong of Western Xia Li Xian (list)
Jin dynasty[k]
Jīn Cháo
ㄐㄧㄣ ㄔㄠˊ
"Gold" Wanyan
Wo-on gia-an.png
Jurchen 1115 CE 1234 CE 119 years Taizu of Jin Wanyan Chenglin (list)
Late Imperial China
Yuan dynasty
Yuán Cháo
ㄩㄢˊ ㄔㄠˊ
"Great" / "Primacy" Borjigin
Mongol 1271 CE 1368 CE 97 years Shizu of Yuan Huizong of Yuan (list)
Northern Yuan
Běi Yuán
ㄅㄟˇ ㄩㄢˊ
From Yuan dynasty Borjigin
Mongol 1368 CE 1635 CE[ac] 267 years Huizong of Yuan Tianyuan of Northern Yuan
Ejei Khongghor
Ming dynasty
Míng Cháo
ㄇㄧㄥˊ ㄔㄠˊ
"Bright" Zhu
Han 1368 CE 1644 CE 276 years Hongwu Chongzhen (list)
Southern Ming
Nán Míng
ㄋㄢˊ ㄇㄧㄥˊ
From Ming dynasty Zhu
Han 1644 CE 1662 CE 18 years Hongguang Yongli
Later Jin[x]
Hòu Jīn
ㄏㄡˋ ㄐㄧㄣ
From Jin dynasty (1115–1234 CE) Aisin Gioro
ᠠᡳᠰᡳᠨ ᡤᡳᠣᡵᠣ
Jurchen[ae] 1616 CE 1636 CE 20 years Tianming Taizong of Qing (list)

Qing dynasty
Qīng Cháo
ㄑㄧㄥ ㄔㄠˊ
"Pure" Aisin Gioro
ᠠᡳᠰᡳᠨ ᡤᡳᠣᡵᠣ
Manchu 1636 CE 1912 CE[af] 276 years Taizong of Qing Xuantong (list)


  • Orange denotes dynasties counted among the "Three Kingdoms"
  • Blue denotes dynasties counted among the "Sixteen Kingdoms"
  • Green denotes dynasties counted among the "Northern dynasties" within the broader "Northern and Southern dynasties"
  • Purple denotes dynasties counted among the "Southern dynasties" within the broader "Northern and Southern dynasties"
  • Yellow denotes dynasties counted among the "Five Dynasties" within the broader "Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms"
  • Pink denotes dynasties counted among the "Ten Kingdoms" within the broader "Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms"

Timeline of major Chinese dynasties and states

See also[edit]


  1. ^ While there were attempts after the success of the Xinhai Revolution to reinstate monarchical and dynastic rule in China, such as the Empire of China and Manchu Restoration, they failed to consolidate their rule and gain political legitimacy. Similarly, the Manchukuo, a puppet state of the Empire of Japan during World War II with limited diplomatic recognition, is not regarded as a legitimate regime. Ergo, historians usually consider the abdication of the Xuantong Emperor on 12 February 1912 as the end of the Chinese monarchy.
  2. ^ The term "kingdom" is potentially misleading as not all rulers held the title of king. For example, sovereigns of the Eastern Wu used the title huángdì (皇帝; lit. "emperor") despite the realm being considered as one of the "Three Kingdoms". Similarly, monarchs of the Western Qin, one of the "Sixteen Kingdoms", bore the title wáng (; usually translated as "prince").
  3. ^ The English and Chinese names stated are historiographical nomenclature. These should not be confused with the guóhào officially proclaimed by each dynasty.
  4. ^ a b The Chinese characters shown are in Traditional Chinese. Some characters may have simplified versions that are currently used in Mainland China. For instance, the characters for the Eastern Han are written as "東漢" in Traditional Chinese and "东汉" in Simplified Chinese.
  5. ^ While Hanyu Pinyin is the most common form of romanization currently in adoption, some scholarly works utilize the Wade–Giles system, which may differ drastically in the spelling of certain words. For instance, the Qing dynasty is rendered as "Ch'ing dynasty" in Wade–Giles.
  6. ^ The monarchs listed were the de facto founders of dynasties. However, it was common for Chinese monarchs to posthumously honor earlier members of the family as monarchs. For instance, while the Later Jin was officially established by the Emperor Gaozu of Later Jin, four earlier members of the ruling house were posthumously accorded imperial titles, the most senior of which was Shi Jing who was conferred the temple name Jingzu (靖祖) and the posthumous name Emperor Xiao'an (孝安皇帝).
  7. ^ a b c d e The dates given for the Xia dynasty, the Shang dynasty, and the Western Zhou prior to 841 BCE are derived from the Xia–Shang–Zhou Chronology Project.
  8. ^ a b The Western Zhou (西周) and Eastern Zhou (東周) are collectively known as the Zhou dynasty (周朝).
  9. ^ a b The Western Han (西漢) and Eastern Han (東漢) are collectively known as the Han dynasty (漢朝).
  10. ^ a b The Western Jin (西晉) and Eastern Jin (東晉) are collectively known as the Jin dynasty (晉朝).
  11. ^ a b c The names of the Jin dynasty (晉朝) of the Sima clan and the Jin dynasty (金朝) of the Wanyan clan are rendered similarly using the Hanyu Pinyin system, even though they do not share the same Chinese character for "Jin".
  12. ^ a b The Emperor Huiyi of Yan was of Goguryeo descent. Originally surnamed Gao (), he was an adopted member of the Murong (慕容) clan. His enthronement as monarch was therefore not a typical dynastic succession.
  13. ^ a b The Emperor Huiyi of Yan could either be the last Later Yan monarch or the founder of the Northern Yan depending on the historian's characterization.
  14. ^ The Western Qin was interrupted by the Later Qin between 400 CE and 409 CE. Chinese historiography does not make a distinction between the realm that existed before 400 CE and the restored realm. The Prince Wuyuan of Western Qin was both the last ruler before the interregnum and the first ruler after the interregnum.
  15. ^ a b The names of the Later Liang (後涼) of the Lü clan and the Later Liang (後梁) of the Zhu clan are rendered similarly using the Hanyu Pinyin system, even though they do not share the same Chinese character for "Liang".
  16. ^ a b Duan Ye was of Han Chinese descent. The enthronement of the Prince Wuxuan of Northern Liang as monarch was therefore not a typical dynastic succession.
  17. ^ The ruling house of the Hu Xia initially bore the surname Liu (). The Emperor Wulie of Hu Xia subsequently adopted Helian (赫連) as the surname.
  18. ^ a b The Emperor Huiyi of Yan was of Goguryeo descent. Originally surnamed Gao (), he was an adopted member of the Murong (慕容) clan. The enthronement of the Emperor Wencheng of Northern Yan as monarch was therefore not a typical dynastic succession.
  19. ^ The ruling house of the Northern Wei initially bore the surname Tuoba (拓跋). The Emperor Xiaowen of Northern Wei subsequently adopted Yuan () as the surname.
  20. ^ The ruling house of the Western Wei initially bore the surname Yuan (). The Emperor Gong of Western Wei subsequently adopted Tuoba (拓跋) as the surname.
  21. ^ The ruling house of the Sui dynasty initially bore the surname Puliuru (普六茹). The Emperor Wen of Sui subsequently adopted Yang () as the surname.
  22. ^ The Tang dynasty was interrupted by the Wu Zhou between 690 CE and 705 CE. Chinese historiography does not make a distinction between the realm that existed before 690 CE and the restored realm. The Emperor Ruizong of Tang was the last ruler before the interregnum. The Emperor Zhongzong of Tang was the first ruler after the interregnum.
  23. ^ The ruling house of the Later Tang initially bore the surname Zhuye (朱邪). The Emperor Xianzu of Later Tang subsequently adopted Li () as the surname.
  24. ^ a b The names of the Later Jin (後晉) of the Shi clan and the Later Jin (後金) of the Aisin Gioro clan are rendered similarly using the Hanyu Pinyin system, even though they do not share the same Chinese character for "Jin".
  25. ^ The Emperor Shizong of Later Zhou, originally surnamed Chai (), was an adopted member of the Guo () clan. His enthronement as monarch was therefore not a typical dynastic succession.
  26. ^ a b The Northern Song (北宋) and Southern Song (南宋) are collectively known as the Song dynasty (宋朝).
  27. ^ a b Kuchlug was of Naiman descent. As he was not a member of the Yelü (耶律) clan by birth, his enthronement as monarch was not a typical dynastic succession.
  28. ^ The ruling house of the Western Xia initially bore the surname Tuoba (拓跋). The Tang dynasty and Song dynasty later bestowed the family the surname Li () and Zhao () respectively. The Emperor Jingzong of Western Xia subsequently adopted Weiming (嵬名) as the surname.
  29. ^ The Northern Yuan is considered to have ended in 1388 CE by traditional Chinese historiography. However, some historians regard the Mongol regime that existed between 1388 CE and 1635 CE—referred to in the History of Ming as "Dada" (韃靼)—as a continuation of the Northern Yuan.
  30. ^ The existence and identity of the Dingwu Emperor, supposedly reigned from 1646 CE to 1664 CE, are disputed. Hence, most historians regard the Yongli Emperor as the final monarch of the Southern Ming.
  31. ^ The name of the Jurchen ethnic group was changed to "Manchu" in 1635 CE by the Emperor Taizong of Qing.
  32. ^ The Qing dynasty was briefly restored between 1 July 1917 and 12 July 1917. The movement was led by Zhang Xun who reinstalled the Xuantong Emperor to the Chinese throne. Due to the abortive nature of the event, it is usually excluded from the Qing history.



  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.

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