The Yu Gong (Tribute of Yu) records: "The Sea, Mount Dai (ancient name of Mount Tai), and the Huai River served as the boundaries of Xuzhou." Based on this description, the ancient Xuzhou covered an area that roughly corresponds to the regions in modern southeastern Shandong (south of Mount Tai) and modern northern Jiangsu (north of the Huai River).
In 106 BCE, during the reign of Emperor Wu (r. 141–87 BCE) in the Western Han dynasty (206 BCE – 9 CE), China was divided into 13 administrative divisions or provinces (excluding the capital Chang'an and seven commanderies in its vicinity), each governed by a cishi (刺史; Inspector). 11 of them were named after the Nine Provinces mentioned in the historical texts Classic of History and Rites of Zhou. Xuzhou was one of the 11, and it covered parts of Jiangsu (north of the Yangtze River) and southeastern Shandong. In the Eastern Han dynasty (25–220 CE), Xuzhou's capital was set up at Tan county (郯縣; present-day Tancheng County, Linyi, Shandong).
Three Kingdoms period and Jin dynasty
After the fall of the Western Jin dynasty (265–316) due to the Wu Hu uprising, the Jin remnants fled to southern China and established the Eastern Jin dynasty (317–420) there with its capital in Jiankang (建康; near present-day Nanjing, Jiangsu). In 411, during the reign of Emperor An (r. 397–419), Xuzhou's capital was designated at Jingkou (京口; present-day Zhenjiang, Jiangsu).
Sixteen Kingdoms and Southern and Northern Dynasties period
In the Sixteen Kingdoms period, Xuzhou was divided between, or came under the administration of, various kingdoms:
- The Later Yan kingdom (384–409) set up Xuzhou's capital at Huangjin'gu (黃巾固; present-day Zhangqiu, Shandong), and moved it to Liyang (黎陽; east of present-day Xun County, Henan), and later to Juancheng (鄄城; north of present-day Juancheng County, Shandong).
- The Southern Yan kingdom (398–410) set up Xuzhou's capital at Gecheng (葛城; present-day Ju County, Shandong), which administered parts of southeastern Shandong.
- The Later Qin kingdom (384–417) set up Xuzhou's capital at Xiang County (項縣; south of present-day Shenqiu County, Henan), which administered the regions east of present-day Shangqiu, Taikang County, Shangshui County in Henan province, as well as Bozhou, Woyang County and Mengcheng County in Anhui province.
In 421, during the reign of Emperor Wu (r. 420–422) of the Liu Song dynasty (420–479), the southern part of Xuzhou was renamed "Southern Xuzhou" (南徐州) while the northern part of Xuzhou retained its old name "Xuzhou".
In 433, during the reign of Emperor Taiwu (r. 424–452) of the Northern Wei dynasty (386–535), Xuzhou's capital was established at Jiyang County (濟陽縣; northeast of present-day Lankao County, Henan). It was disbanded in 467 during the reign of Emperor Xianwen (r. 465–471).
Jurchen Jin dynasty
During the reign of Emperor Taizong (r. 1123–1135) of the Jurchen-led Jin dynasty (1115–1234), Xuzhou became known as "Ansu Military Division" (安肅軍置), with its capital at Ansu County (安肅縣; present-day Xushui County, Hebei). It administered the area in present-day eastern Xushui County. It was renamed "Ansuzhou" (安肅州) in 1151 during the reign of Wanyan Liang (r. 1150–1161).
Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties
During the reign of Emperor Huizong (r. 1333–1370) in the Yuan dynasty (1279–1368), Xuzhou became an administrative division known as "Xuzhou Road" (徐州路), with its capital in Pengcheng (彭城; present-day Xuzhou, Jiangsu).
During the reign of the Hongwu Emperor (r. 1368–1398) in the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), the name "Xuzhou" was restored, and the administrative division governed Pei County and Feng County in Jiangsu, and Dangshan County and Xiao County in Anhui.
Xuzhou became "Xuzhou Prefecture" (徐州府) in the Qing dynasty (1644–1912) during the reign of the Yongzheng Emperor (r. 1722–1735) and it administered the modern city of Xuzhou and Suqian in Jiangsu, and Suzhou, Xiao County and Dangshan County in Anhui.
Xuzhou became an administrative division called "Xuzhou Road" (徐州道) in the early Republican period (1912–1949).
- (海、岱及惟徐州：淮、沂其乂，蒙、羽其藝；大野既豬，東原厎平。厥土赤埴墳。草木漸包。厥田惟上中，厥賦中中。厥貢惟土五色，羽畎夏翟，嶧陽孤桐，泗濱浮磬，淮夷蠙珠暨魚；厥篚玄纖縞。浮於淮、泗，達於菏。) Yu Gong.
- English translation of the quoted Chinese text from the Yu Gong.