Dynasties in Chinese history
|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|
|Spring and Autumn|
|Qin 221–207 BC|
|Han 202 BC – 220 AD|
|Three Kingdoms 220–280|
|Wei, Shu and Wu|
|Eastern Jin||Sixteen Kingdoms|
|Northern and Southern dynasties|
|(Wu Zhou 690–705)|
|Five Dynasties and
|Northern Song||Western Xia|
|Republic of China on mainland 1912–1949|
|People's Republic of China 1949–present|
|Republic of China on Taiwan 1949–present|
From the inauguration of dynastic rule by Yu the Great in circa 2070 BCE 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.
Start of the Chinese dynastic system
As the founder of China's first dynasty, the Xia dynasty, Yu the Great is conventionally regarded as the inaugurator of dynastic rule in China. In the Chinese dynastic system, the sovereign ruler theoretically possessed absolute power and private ownership of everything within his/her realm. This concept, known as jiā tiānxià (家天下; "All under Heaven belongs to the ruling family"), was in contrast to the pre-Xia notion of gōng tiānxià (公天下; "All under Heaven belongs to the public") whereby leadership succession was non-hereditary.
The rise and fall of dynasties is a prominent feature of Chinese history. Some scholars have attempted to explain this phenomenon by attributing the success and failure of dynasties to the morality of the rulers, while others have focused on the tangible aspects of monarchical rule. This method of explanation has come to be known as the "dynastic cycle".
Dynastic transitions in the history of China occurred primarily through two ways: military conquest and usurpation. The supersession of the Liao dynasty by the Jin dynasty was achieved following a series of successful military campaigns, as was the later unification of China under the Yuan dynasty; on the other hand, the transition from the Eastern Han to the Cao Wei, as well as from the Southern Qi to the Liang dynasty, were cases of usurpation. Oftentimes, usurpers would seek to portray his/her predecessor as having relinquished the throne willingly—in a process called shànràng (禪讓; "voluntary abdication")—as a means to legitimize his/her rule.
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 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.
Similarly, during the earlier Sui–Tang transition, numerous regimes established by rebel forces vied for control and legitimacy as the power of the ruling Sui dynasty weakened. Autonomous regimes that existed during this period of upheaval included, but not limited to, Wei (魏; by Li Mi), Qin (秦; by Xue Ju), Qi (齊; by Gao Tancheng), Xu (許; by Yuwen Huaji), Liang (梁; by Shen Faxing), Liang (梁; by Liang Shidu), Xia (夏; by Dou Jiande), Zheng (鄭; by Wang Shichong), Chu (楚; by Zhu Can), Chu (楚; by Lin Shihong), Yan (燕; by Gao Kaidao), and Song (宋; by Fu Gongshi). The Tang dynasty that superseded the Sui launched a decade-long military campaign to reunify 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 tradition was maintained even after the Xinhai Revolution overthrew the Qing dynasty in favor of a republic. However, the 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.
End of the Chinese dynastic system
Dynastic rule in China collapsed in 1912 CE when the Republic of China superseded the Qing dynasty following the success of the Xinhai Revolution. While there were attempts after the Xinhai Revolution to reinstate dynastic rule in China, such as the Empire of China (1915–1916 CE) and the Manchu Restoration (1917 CE), they were unsuccessful at consolidating their rule and gaining political legitimacy. Similarly, the Manchukuo (1932–1945 CE; monarchy since 1934 CE), 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 dynastic system. Dynastic rule in China lasted almost four millennia.
China was divided during multiple periods in its history, with different regions ruled by different dynasties. Political division existed during the Three Kingdoms, the Sixteen Kingdoms, the Northern and Southern dynasties, and the 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 saw themselves as the legitimate dynasty of China and often sought to portray themselves as the true inheritor of Chinese culture and history. Traditionally, only regimes deemed as "legitimate" or "orthodox" (正統; zhèngtǒng) are termed cháo (朝; "dynasty"); "illegitimate" regimes are referred to as guó (國; 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
- The Cao Wei, the Shu Han, and the Eastern Wu considered themselves as legitimate while simultaneously denouncing the rivaling claims of others
- The Emperor Xian of Han abdicated in favor of the Emperor Wen of Cao Wei, hence the Cao Wei directly succeeded the Eastern Han in the timeline of Chinese history
- The Western Jin accepted the Cao Wei as the legitimate dynasty of the Three Kingdoms period and claimed succession from it
- The Tang dynasty viewed the Cao Wei as the legitimate dynasty during this period, while the Southern Song considered the Shu Han as legitimate
- Eastern Jin and Sixteen Kingdoms
- Northern and Southern dynasties
- All dynasties during this period saw themselves as the legitimate representative of China; the Northern dynasties referred to their southern counterparts as dǎoyí (島夷; "island dwelling barbarians"), while the Southern dynasties called their northern neighbors suǒlǔ (索虜; "barbarians with braids")
- Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms
- Having directly succeeded the Tang dynasty, the Later Liang considered itself to be a legitimate dynasty
- The Later Tang regarded itself as the restorer of the earlier Tang dynasty and rejected the legitimacy of its predecessor, the Later Liang
- The Later Jin accepted the Later Tang as a legitimate regime
- The Southern Tang was, for a period of time, considered the legitimate dynasty during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period
- Modern historiography generally considers the Five Dynasties, as opposed to the contemporary Ten Kingdoms, as legitimate
- Liao, Song, and Jin dynasties
- Following the conquest of the Later Jin, the Liao dynasty claimed legitimacy and succession from it
- Both the Northern Song and Southern Song considered themselves to be the legitimate Chinese dynasty
- The Jin dynasty challenged the Song's claim of legitimacy
- The succeeding Yuan dynasty recognized all three in addition to the Western Liao as legitimate Chinese dynasties, culminating in the composition of the History of Liao, the History of Song, and the History of Jin
- 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 continuously until 1388 CE; Chinese titles were restored on several occasions thereafter for brief periods
- The Mongol historian Rashipunsug argued that the Northern Yuan had succeeded the legitimacy from the Yuan dynasty; the Qing dynasty, which later defeated and annexed the Northern Yuan, inherited this legitimacy, thus rendering the Ming as illegitimate
- 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
- The Joseon dynasty of Korea and the Later Lê dynasty of Vietnam had at various times considered the Southern Ming, instead of the Qing, as legitimate
While periods of disunity often resulted in heated debates among officials and historians over which dynasty could and should be considered orthodox, the Northern Song statesman Ouyang Xiu propounded that such orthodoxy existed in a state of limbo during fragmented periods and was restored after political unification was achieved. From this perspective, the Song dynasty possessed legitimacy by virtue of its ability to end the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period despite not having succeeded the orthodoxy from the Later Zhou. Similarly, Ouyang considered the concept of orthodoxy to be in oblivion during the Three Kingdoms, the Sixteen Kingdoms, and the Northern and Southern dynasties periods.
As most Chinese historiographical sources uphold the idea of unilineal dynastic succession, only one dynasty could be considered orthodox at any given time. Most modern sources consider the legitimate line of succession to be as follows:
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.
Classification of dynasties
Central Plain dynasties
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. This term could refer to dynasties of both Han Chinese and non-Han Chinese origins.
"Unified dynasties" (大一統王朝; dàyītǒng wángcháo) refer to dynasties of China, regardless of their ethnic origin, that achieved the 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". Imperial dynasties that had unified China proper may be known as the "Chinese Empire" or the "Empire of China" (中華帝國; Zhōnghuá Dìguó).
The concept of "great unity" or "grand unification" (大一統; dàyītǒng) was first mentioned in the Chinese classical text Gongyang Commentary on the Spring and Autumn Annals that was supposedly authored by the Qi scholar Gongyang Gao. Other prominent figures like Confucius and Mencius also touched upon this concept in their respective works.
Historians typically consider the following dynasties to have unified China proper: the Qin dynasty, the Western Han, the Xin dynasty, the Eastern Han, the Western Jin, the Sui dynasty, the Tang dynasty, the Wu Zhou, the Northern Song, the Yuan dynasty, the Ming dynasty, and the Qing dynasty. The status of the Northern Song as a unified dynasty is disputed among historians, as the Sixteen Prefectures of Yan and Yun were partially administered by the contemporaneous Liao dynasty, while the Western Xia exercised partial control over Hetao; the Northern Song, in this sense, did not truly achieve the unification of China proper.
"Conquest dynasties" (征服王朝; zhēngfú wángcháo) 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). This term was first coined by the historian and sinologist Karl August Wittfogel and remains a source of controversy among scholars who believe that Chinese history should be analyzed and understood from a multiethnic and multicultural perspective.
Official dynastic name
It was customary for Chinese monarchs to adopt an official name for the realm, known as the guóhào (國號; "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" (漢) subsequently.
The formal name of Chinese dynasties was usually derived from one the following sources:
- the name of the ruling tribe or 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 connotations
The official title of several dynasties bore the character dà (大; "great"). In the text Yongzhuang Xiaopin by the Ming historian Zhu Guozhen, it was claimed that the first dynasty to do so was the Yuan dynasty. However, several sources like the History of Liao and the History of Jin compiled by the Yuan historian Toqto'a revealed that the official dynastic name of some earlier dynasties such as the Liao and the Jin also contained the character dà. It was also common for officials, subjects, or vassal states of a particular dynasty to include the term dà (or an equivalent term in other languages) when referring to this dynasty as a form of respect, even if the official dynastic name did not include it. For instance, the Japanese historical text Nihon Shoki referred to the Tang dynasty as "Ōkara" (大唐; "Great Tang") despite its dynastic name being simply "Tang".
Retroactive dynastic name
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" (隋). 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:
- cardinal direction
- surname of the ruling family
- other types of prefixes
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" (朝; 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 major Chinese dynasties
This list includes only major dynasties of China that are typically found in simplified forms of Chinese historical timelines.
|Dynasty||Ruling house||Period of rule||Rulers|
(English / Chinese[d] / Pinyin[e] / Bopomofo)
|Origin of name||Surname
(English / Chinese[d])
|Huaxia||Royal||2070–1600 BCE[h][i]||470 years||Yu of Xia||Jie of Xia||(list)|
|Huaxia||Royal||1600–1046 BCE[h][j]||554 years||Tang of Shang||Zhou of Shang||(list)|
|Huaxia||Royal||1046[h][l]–771 BCE||275 years||Wu of Zhou||You of Zhou||(list)|
|From Zhou dynasty||Ji
|Huaxia||Royal||770–256 BCE||514 years||Ping of Zhou||Nan of Zhou||(list)|
|Early Imperial China[m]|
|221–207 BCE||14 years||Qin Shi Huang||Qin San Shi||(list)|
|Toponym & Noble title||Liu
|Han||Imperial||202 BCE–9 CE||210 years||Gao of Han||Liu Ying||(list)|
|Han||Imperial||9–23 CE||14 years||Wang Mang||Wang Mang||(list)|
|From Han dynasty||Liu
|Han||Imperial||25–220 CE||195 years||Guangwu of Han||Xian of Han||(list)|
|220–280 CE||60 years||(list)|
|Han||Imperial||220–266 CE||46 years||Wen of Cao Wei||Yuan of Cao Wei||(list)|
|From Han dynasty||Liu
|Han||Imperial||221–263 CE||42 years||Zhaolie of Shu Han||Xiaohuai of Shu Han||(list)|
|222–280 CE||58 years||Da of Eastern Wu||Sun Hao||(list)|
|Han||Imperial||266–316 CE||50 years||Wu of Jin||Min of Jin||(list)|
|From Jin dynasty (266–420 CE)||Sima
|Han||Imperial||317–420 CE||103 years||Yuan of Jin||Gong of Jin||(list)|
ㄕˊ ㄌㄧㄡˋ ㄍㄨㄛˊ
|304–439 CE||135 years||(list)|
|Toponym & From Han dynasty||Liu[q]
|304–329 CE||25 years||Guangwen of Han Zhao||Liu Yao||(list)|
|Toponym & From Han dynasty||Li
|304–347 CE||43 years||Wu of Cheng Han||Li Shi||(list)|
|319–351 CE||32 years||Ming of Later Zhao||Shi Zhi||(list)|
(320–354 CE; 355–363 CE)
|320–376 CE||56 years||Cheng of Former Liang||Dao of Former Liang||(list)|
|337–370 CE||33 years||Wenming of Former Yan||You of Former Yan||(list)|
|Di||Imperial||351–394 CE||43 years||Jingming of Former Qin||Fu Chong||(list)|
|From Former Yan||Murong[s][t]
|384–409 CE||25 years||Chengwu of Later Yan||Zhaowen of Later Yan
Huiyi of Yan[u]
|384–417 CE||33 years||Wuzhao of Later Qin||Yao Hong||(list)|
|Xianbei||Princely||385–400 CE; 409–431 CE||37 years[v]||Xuanlie of Western Qin||Qifu Mumo||(list)|
|386–403 CE||17 years||Yiwu of Later Liang||Lü Long||(list)|
|Xianbei||Princely||397–414 CE||17 years||Wu of Southern Liang||Jing of Southern Liang||(list)|
(397–399 CE; 401–412 CE)
(399–401 CE; 412–439 CE)
|397–439 CE||42 years||Duan Ye||Ai of Northern Liang||(list)|
|From Former Yan||Murong
|398–410 CE||12 years||Xianwu of Southern Yan||Murong Chao||(list)|
|Han||Ducal||400–421 CE||21 years||Wuzhao of Western Liang||Li Xun||(list)|
|From Xia dynasty||Helian[y]
|Xiongnu||Imperial||407–431 CE||24 years||Wulie of Hu Xia||Helian Ding||(list)|
|From Former Yan||Feng[z]
|Han[z]||Imperial||407–436 CE||29 years||Huiyi of Yan[u]
Wencheng of Northern Yan
|Zhaocheng of Northern Yan||(list)|
|386–581 CE||195 years||(list)|
|386–535 CE||149 years||Daowu of Northern Wei||Xiaowu of Northern Wei||(list)|
|From Northern Wei||Yuan
|Xianbei||Imperial||534–550 CE||16 years||Xiaojing of Eastern Wei||Xiaojing of Eastern Wei||(list)|
|From Northern Wei||Yuan[ab]
|Xianbei||Imperial||535–557 CE||22 years||Wen of Western Wei||Gong of Western Wei||(list)|
|Han||Imperial||550–577 CE||27 years||Wenxuan of Northern Qi||Gao Heng||(list)|
|Xianbei||Imperial||557–581 CE||24 years||Xiaomin of Northern Zhou||Jing of Northern Zhou||(list)|
|420–589 CE||169 years||(list)|
|Han||Imperial||420–479 CE||59 years||Wu of Liu Song||Shun of Liu Song||(list)|
|A prophecy on defeating the Liu clan||Xiao
|Han||Imperial||479–502 CE||23 years||Gao of Southern Qi||He of Southern Qi||(list)|
|Han||Imperial||502–557 CE||55 years||Wu of Liang||Jing of Liang||(list)|
|Han||Imperial||557–589 CE||32 years||Wu of Chen||Chen Shubao||(list)|
|Middle Imperial China[m]|
|Noble title ("随" homophone)||Yang[ac]
|Han||Imperial||581–619 CE||38 years||Wen of Sui||Gong of Sui||(list)|
|Han||Imperial||618–690 CE; 705–907 CE||274 years[ad]||Gaozu of Tang||Ai of Tang||(list)|
|From Zhou dynasty||Wu
|Han||Imperial||690–705 CE||15 years||Wu Zhao||Wu Zhao||(list)|
|907–960 CE||53 years||(list)|
|Han||Imperial||907–923 CE||16 years||Taizu of Later Liang||Zhu Youzhen||(list)|
|From Tang dynasty||Li[ae]
|Shatuo||Imperial||923–937 CE||14 years||Zhuangzong of Later Tang||Li Congke||(list)|
|Shatuo||Imperial||936–947 CE||11 years||Gaozu of Later Jin||Chu of Later Jin||(list)|
|From Han dynasty||Liu
|Shatuo||Imperial||947–951 CE||4 years||Gaozu of Later Han||Yin of Later Han||(list)|
|From Zhou dynasty||Guo[ag]
|Han||Imperial||951–960 CE||9 years||Taizu of Later Zhou||Gong of Later Zhou||(list)|
|907–979 CE||62 years||(list)|
|Toponym / Noble title||Wang
|Han||Imperial||907–925 CE||18 years||Gaozu of Former Shu||Wang Yan||(list)|
|907–937 CE||30 years||Liezu of Yang Wu||Rui of Yang Wu||(list)|
|907–951 CE||44 years||Wumu of Ma Chu||Ma Xichong||(list)|
(907–932 CE; 937–978 CE)
|907–978 CE||71 years||Taizu of Wuyue||Zhongyi of Qin||(list)|
(909–933 CE; 944–945 CE)
(933–944 CE; 945 CE)
|909–945 CE||36 years||Taizu of Min||Tiande of Min||(list)|
|From Han dynasty||Liu
|Han||Imperial||917–971 CE||54 years||Gaozu of Southern Han||Liu Chang||(list)|
|Han||Princely||924–963 CE||39 years||Wuxin of Chu||Gao Jichong||(list)|
|Han||Imperial||934–965 CE||31 years||Gaozu of Later Shu||Gongxiao of Chu||(list)|
|From Tang dynasty||Li[ai]
|937–976 CE||37 years||Liezu of Southern Tang||Li Yu||(list)|
|From Later Han||Liu
|Shatuo||Imperial||951–979 CE||28 years||Shizu of Northern Han||Yingwu of Northern Han||(list)|
|"Iron" (Khitan homophone) / Toponym||Yelü
|Khitan||Imperial||916–1125 CE||209 years||Taizu of Liao||Tianzuo of Liao||(list)|
|From Liao dynasty||Yelü[aj]
|1124–1218 CE||94 years||Dezong of Western Liao||Kuchlug||(list)|
|Han||Imperial||960–1127 CE||167 years||Taizu of Song||Qinzong of Song||(list)|
|From Song dynasty||Zhao
|Han||Imperial||1127–1279 CE||152 years||Gaozong of Song||Zhao Bing||(list)|
|Tangut||Imperial||1038–1227 CE||189 years||Jingzong of Western Xia||Li Xian||(list)|
|Jurchen||Imperial||1115–1234 CE||119 years||Taizu of Jin||Wanyan Chenglin||(list)|
|Late Imperial China[m]|
|"Great" / "Primacy"||Borjigin
|Mongol||Imperial||1271–1368 CE||97 years||Shizu of Yuan||Huizong of Yuan||(list)|
|From Yuan dynasty||Borjigin[am]
|Mongol[am]||Imperial||1368–1635[an] CE||267 years||Huizong of Yuan||Tianyuan of Northern Yuan
Borjigin Ejei Khongghor
|Han||Imperial||1368–1644 CE||276 years||Hongwu||Chongzhen||(list)|
|From Ming dynasty||Zhu
|Han||Imperial||1644–1662 CE||18 years||Hongguang||Yongli
|From Jin dynasty (1115–1234 CE)||Aisin Gioro
|Jurchen[ap]||Royal||1616–1636 CE||20 years||Tianming||Taizong of Qing||(list)|
|Manchu||Imperial||1636–1912[aq] CE||276 years||Taizong of Qing||Xuantong||(list)|
Timeline of major historical periods
Timeline of major dynasties and regimes
- Ancient Chinese states
- China proper
- Chinese historiography
- Chinese imperialism
- Chinese sovereign
- Conquest dynasty
- Dragon Throne
- Dynastic cycle
- East Asian cultural sphere
- Eighteen Kingdoms
- Emperor at home, king abroad
- Emperor of China
- Family tree of ancient Chinese emperors
- Family tree of Chinese monarchs (early)
- Family tree of Chinese monarchs (late)
- Family tree of Chinese monarchs (middle)
- Golden ages of China
- Head of the former Chinese imperial clan
- Head of the House of Aisin Gioro
- Historical capitals of China
- History of China
- Hua–Yi distinction
- List of Chinese leaders
- List of Chinese monarchs
- List of dynasties
- List of recipients of tribute from China
- List of tributary states of China
- Mandate of Heaven
- Monarchy of China
- Names of China
- Pax Sinica
- Six Dynasties
- Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors
- Timeline of Chinese history
- Tributary system of China
- Twenty-Four Histories
- Xia–Shang–Zhou Chronology Project
- Xinhai Revolution
- Zhonghua minzu
- All attempts at restoring monarchical and dynastic rule in China after the success of the Xinhai Revolution ended in failure. Hence, the abdication of the Xuantong Emperor in 1912 CE is typically regarded as the formal end of the Chinese monarchy.
- The term "kingdom" is potentially misleading as not all rulers held the title of king. For example, sovereigns of the Eastern Wu held the title huángdì (皇帝; "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 (王; usually translated as "prince").
- The English and Chinese names stated are historiographical nomenclature. These should not be confused with the guóhào officially proclaimed by each dynasty.
- 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.
- 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.
- The status of a dynasty was dependent upon the chief title bore by its monarch at any given time.
- 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).
- The dates given for the Xia dynasty, the Shang dynasty, and the Western Zhou prior to the start of the Gonghe Regency in 841 BCE are derived from the Xia–Shang–Zhou Chronology Project.
- The rule of the Xia dynasty was traditionally dated 2205–1766 BCE as per the calculations made by the historian Liu Xin.
- The rule of the Shang dynasty was traditionally dated 1766–1122 BCE as per the calculations made by the historian Liu Xin.
- The Western Zhou (西周) and the Eastern Zhou (東周) are collectively known as the Zhou dynasty (周朝; Zhōu Cháo).
- The start of the Western Zhou was traditionally dated 1122 BCE as per the calculations made by the historian Liu Xin.
- The terms "Chinese Empire" and "Empire of China" refer to the Chinese state under the rule of various imperial dynasties, particularly those that had achieved the unification of China proper.
- The Western Han (西漢) and the Eastern Han (東漢) are collectively known as the Han dynasty (漢朝; Hàn Cháo).
- The Western Jin (西晉) and the Eastern Jin (東晉) are collectively known as the Jin dynasty (晉朝; Jìn Cháo).
- 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".
- The ruling house of the Han Zhao initially bore the surname Luandi (攣鞮). Liu (劉) was subsequently adopted as the surname prior to the establishment of the Han Zhao.
- The ruling house of the Former Qin initially bore the surname Pu (蒲). Fu (苻) was subsequently adopted as the surname by the Emperor Huiwu of Former Qin prior to the establishment of the Former Qin.
- As Lan Han was not a member of the Murong (慕容) clan by birth, his enthronement was not a typical dynastic succession.
- The Emperor Huiyi of Yan was of Goguryeo descent. Originally surnamed Gao (高), he was an adopted member of the Murong (慕容) clan. His enthronement was therefore not a typical dynastic succession.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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".
- Duan Ye was of Han Chinese descent. The enthronement of the Prince Wuxuan of Northern Liang was therefore not a typical dynastic succession.
- The ruling house of the Hu Xia initially bore the surname Liu (劉). The Emperor Wulie of Hu Xia subsequently adopted Helian (赫連) as the surname.
- The Emperor Huiyi of Yan was of Goguryeo descent. Originally surnamed Gao (高), he was an adopted member of the Murong (慕容) clan. The enthronement of the Emperor Wencheng of Northern Yan was therefore not a typical dynastic succession.
- The ruling house of the Northern Wei initially bore the surname Tuoba (拓跋). The Emperor Xiaowen of Northern Wei subsequently adopted Yuan (元) as the surname.
- The ruling house of the Western Wei initially bore the surname Yuan (元). The Emperor Gong of Western Wei subsequently adopted Tuoba (拓跋) as the surname.
- The ruling house of the Sui dynasty initially bore the surname Yang (楊). The Western Wei later bestowed the family the surname Puliuru (普六茹). The Emperor Wen of Sui subsequently restored Yang as the surname.
- 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.
- The ruling house of the Later Tang initially bore the surname Zhuye (朱邪). Li (李) was subsequently adopted as the surname by the Emperor Xianzu of Later Tang prior to the establishment of the Later Tang.
- 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".
- The Emperor Shizong of Later Zhou, originally surnamed Chai (柴), was an adopted member of the Guo (郭) clan. His enthronement was therefore not a typical dynastic succession.
- As Zhu Wenjin was not a member of the Wang (王) clan by birth, his enthronement was not a typical dynastic succession.
- The ruling house of the Southern Tang initially bore the surname Xu (徐). The Emperor Liezu of Southern Tang subsequently adopted Li (李) as the surname.
- Kuchlug was of Naiman descent. As he was not a member of the Yelü (耶律) clan by birth, his enthronement was not a typical dynastic succession.
- The Northern Song (北宋) and the Southern Song (南宋) are collectively known as the Song dynasty (宋朝; Sòng Cháo).
- The ruling house of the Western Xia initially bore the surname Tuoba (拓跋). The Tang dynasty and the Song dynasty later bestowed the family the surnames Li (李) and Zhao (趙) respectively. The Emperor Jingzong of Western Xia subsequently adopted Weiming (嵬名) as the surname.
- Choros Esen was of Oirat descent. As he was not a member of the Borjigin (孛兒只斤) clan by birth, his enthronement was not a typical dynastic succession.
- The Northern Yuan is considered to have ended in either 1388 CE or 1402 CE by traditional Chinese historiography. However, some historians regard the Mongol regime that existed from 1388 CE or 1402 CE up to 1635 CE—referred to in the History of Ming as "Dada" (韃靼)—as a direct continuation of the Northern Yuan.
- 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.
- The name of the Jurchen ethnic group was changed to "Manchu" in 1635 CE by the Emperor Taizong of Qing.
- 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.
- As proposed by scholars such as Tan Qixiang, the geographical extent covered in the study of Chinese historical geography largely corresponds with the territories ruled by the Qing dynasty during its territorial peak between the 1750s and the 1840s, prior to the outbreak of the First Opium War.
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