Golden Chinese characters on red Nations Online Logo
One World
Nations Online

All Countries in the World
Home Earth Continents  Asia  Thailand / China  Chinese New Year Photos  Chinese Customs and Traditions Glossary  Chinese Dynasties

see also:  China Country Profile  Map of modern China's Provinces

___ Chinese Dynasties

Timeline of Chinese Imperial and Modern Dynasties.

Chinese civilization, as described in mythology, begins with Pangu, the creator of the universe, and a succession of the legendary sage-emperors Yao and Shun and other culture heroes who taught the ancient Chinese to communicate and to find livelihood, clothing, and shelter.
3 Sovereigns and 5 Emperors
(Chinese: 三皇五帝; pinyin: Sān huáng wǔ dì)
The Wŭ dì jì or Mythic Period of the Five Emperors, the mythological rulers of China during the time preceding the Xia Dynasty.
The Three Sovereigns were said to be god-kings or demigods who used their magical powers to improve the lives of their people.

The Three Sovereigns are ascribed various identities in different Chinese historical texts. The "Records of the Grand Historian" by Sima Qian, in a chapter added by Sima Zhen, states that they were:
The Heavenly Sovereign (天皇; tiānhuáng: Son of Heaven)
The Earthly Sovereign (地皇; dìhuáng: Earth Emperor)
The Human Sovereign (泰皇 or 人皇; tàihuáng: Peaceful Emperor)

The Chunqiu yundou shu (春秋運斗樞) and Chunqiu yuanming bao (春秋元命苞) identify them as:

Fuxi (伏羲)
Nüwa (女媧)
Shennong (神農)
Fuxi and Nüwa are respectively the god and goddess, husband and wife credited with being the ancestors of humankind after a devastating flood. The invention of the Primal Arrangement of the Eight Trigrams (Xian Tian Ba Gua, 先天八卦) is attributed to Fuxi, the mythical creator of fishing, trapping, and writing. Shennong invented farming and was the first to use herbs for medical purposes.

2852 - 2205 BC
Xia Dynasty (Hsia Dynasty)
(夏朝; Xià cháo).
Early Chinese dynasty, mentioned in legends but of undetermined historicity, despite historical records such as 'Records of the Grand Historian' and the 'Bamboo Annals'. According to these records, the founder and first ruler was Yu the Great (Yǔ, 禹).
2100 - 1600 BC
Shang Dynasty
(商朝; Shāng cháo)
or the Yin Era (殷代, Yīn dài)

First recorded Chinese dynasty for which there is both documentary and archaeological evidence.
The latter part of the Shang dynasty, from the reign of P'an-k'ang on, is also called the Yin dynasty.
It was in the Shang period that Chinese writing began to develop.
The dates for the dynasty vary, traditionally
1766 - 1122 BC

Map of Shang Dynasty
Zhou Dynasty (Chou dynasty)
(Chinese: 周朝; pinyin: Zhōu cháo),

The Zhou ruled ancient China for almost a millennium, establishing the distinctive political and cultural characteristics that were to be identified with China for the next 2,000 years. The Zhou coexisted with the Shang for many years, living just west of the Shang territory in what is now Shaanxi province. In mid-11th century the Zhou solidified their reign over all of China. An array of feudal states was created within the empire to maintain order and the emperor's hold on the land.
The latest [proposed] date for the beginning of the Zhou dynasty is 1027 BC

1122 - 256 BC

Map of Zhou Dynasty
The period before 771 BC is usually known as the Western Zhou dynasty
(Chinese: 西周, pinyin: Xī zhōu).
ca. 1122/1027 - 771 BC
The period from 770 is known as the
Eastern Zhou
(Chinese: 東周; pinyin: Dōng zhōu).
The Eastern Zhou is often further subdivided into the

Spring and Autumn Period
( 春秋時代; pinyin: Chūn qiū shí dài),
when China consisted of many small squabbling states, and the

Warring States Period
( 戰國時代; pinyin: Zhàn guó shí dài),
when the small states consolidated into several larger units, which struggled with one another for mastery
The Seven Warring States formed from the weakening of the Zhou Dynasty. They were: Chu (楚), Han (韓/韩), Qi (齊/齐), Qin (秦), Wei (魏), Yan (燕) and Zhao (趙/赵). Finally, one of these small kingdoms, Qin (Ch'in from which derives modern China's name), succeeded in conquering the rest of the other states and established the Qin dynasty.

770 - 256 BC

722 - 481 BC

ca. 403 - 256/ 221 BC

Flag of Qin Dynasty
Flag of Imperial China

Qin Dynasty
(Chinese: 秦朝; pinyin: Qín cháo)
also known as the Ch'in dynasty, established the first great Chinese empire. The Ch'in (Qin), from which the name China is derived, established the approximate boundaries and the basic administrative system that all subsequent Chinese dynasties were to follow for the next 2,000 years. They also standardized the writing system, standardized the measurements of length and weight and the width of highways/roads and they built the precursor version of the Great Wall. But under its Emperor Qin Shi Huang and his chief adviser Li Si, the Qin also instituted a rigid, authoritarian government based on the principles of the Legalists: human beings were fundamentally base and selfish and had to be strictly controlled through laws. The Qin abolished all feudal privileges, and in 213, to halt subversive thought, they ordered all books burned.
221 BC - 207 BCQinshihuang
Emperor Qin Shi Huang (秦始皇; Qín Shǐhuáng; 259 BC – September 10, 210 BC) became the first emperor of a unified China in 221 BCE.
Han Dynasty
(Chinese: 漢朝; pinyin: Hàn cháo)
is the second great Chinese Imperial dynasty, considered to be the prototype for all later Chinese dynasties.
The dynasty was founded by Liu Bang, the later Emperor Gaozu of Han (高祖; Gāozǔ), a man of humble birth who led the revolt against the repressive policies of the preceding short-lived Qin dynasty. The Han adapted the highly centralized Qin administrative structure, a country divided into a series of administrative areas ruled by centrally appointed officials. The Han adopted a Confucian ideology that emphasized moderation and virtue and thereby masked the authoritarian policies of the ruling.
Most famous Emperor of the Han dynasty was Emperor Wu of Han (漢武帝; hànwǔdì), (156 BC – March 29, 87 BC), personal name Liu Che (劉徹), he was the seventh emperor of the Han Dynasty, ruling from 141 BC to 87 BC. Under his reign China experienced a vast territorial expansion.
206 BC - 220 AD

Map of the Han Dynasty
Emperor Wu of Han
The period of the Han Dynasty, before Wang Mang's usurpation (Xin Dynasty), when the Han capital was in the western Chinese city of Ch'ang-an, is called the
Former Han Dynasty (前漢; Qián hàn) or the Western Han Dynasty (西漢; xī hàn).
206 BC - 25 AD

Xin Dynasty (or Hsin, 新朝; Xīn cháo), short-lived dynasty in China formed by Wang Mang (王莽; wáng măng), a Han Dynasty official who seized the throne from the Liu family. Wang Mang, with his sucessor Liu Keng-shih, ruled during an interim between the Former Han and Later Han dynastic periods.
09 AD - 25 AD
The period after Wang Mang's Xin Dynasty is called the Eastern or Later Han Dynasty (Chinese: 東漢; Dōng hàn).
Emperor Guangwu (光武帝) reinstated the Han Dynasty with the support of land-holding and merchant families at Luoyang, east of Xi'an.
Han power declined again amidst land acquisitions, invasions, and feuding between consort clans and eunuchs. The Yellow Turban Rebellion (黃巾之亂,黄巾之乱) broke out in 184, ushering in an era of warlords.
25 - 220 AD

Map of Eastern Han Dynasty
Three Kingdoms period and the Six Dynasties
Three Kingdoms
(三國; Sān guó)
a period in the history of China called the Six Dynasties. An era of disunity, when three kingdoms Wei, Shu, and Wu were competing for control of China. As a result of the disintegration of the society, constant foreign incursions, and alien reign throughout the North, many fundamental changes occurred in China during this period. The Confucian system that had ordered society was in ruins, and the growing influence of Taoism and the importation of Buddhism worked profound changes everywhere.
The period of the Three Kingdoms followed immediately after the loss of the de facto power of the Han Dynasty emperors and the foundation of the Sui Dynasty.
220 - 280 AD The three kingdoms were Wèi (魏), Shǔ (蜀), and Wú (吳).

This time period has been greatly romanticized in works such as the 'Romance of the Three Kingdoms'.
Cao Wei
(曹魏; Cáo wèi) also known as Ts'ao Wei (Wade Gilles),
was one of the empires that competed for control over China during the Three Kingdoms period. The empire was established by Cao Pi with its capital at Luoyang in (today's) Henan province.
220 - 265 AD Six Dynasties (Chinese: 六朝; Pinyin: Liù Cháo) the term denotes the six Chinese dynasties during the periods of the Three Kingdoms, the Jin Dynasty, and Southern and Northern Dynasties.

The six dynasties were:
1. Eastern Wu
2. Jin Dynasty
3. Liu Song Dynasty
4. Qi Dynasty
5. Liang Dynasty
6. Chen Dynasty.

Shu Han
(蜀漢; Shǔ hàn)
The kingdom was based on areas around Sichuan which was then known as Shu.
221 - 263 AD
Wu/ Eastern Wu
(東吳; Dōng wú)
A historical independent state in the Jiangnan (Yangtze Delta) region, in southern and southeastern China.
222 - 280 AD
Jin Dynasty
(晋朝; Jìn cháo) also called Chin Dynasty, comprises two distinct phases — the Western Chin, and the Eastern Chin.
The dynasty was founded by the Sima (司馬, sīmǎ) family.
265 - 420 AD
Western Jin
(Chinese: 西晉; pinyin: Xī jìn) was founded by Emperor Wu of Jin (晉武帝, jìn wǔ dì), better known under his personal name Sima Yan. After Wu had forced Cao Huan, the last of the Cao emperors, to abdicate to him, Wu established the dynasty. He reigned from 265 to 290 AD, and after he had destroyed Eastern Wu in 280 AD he was the emperor of the unified Chinese empire.
265 - 316 AD
Eastern Jin
(Chinese: 東晉; pinyin: Dōng jìn)
supported by prominent local families of Zhu, Gan, Lu, Gu and Zhou, a prince of the Sima family, Prince of Langye the later Emperor Yuan of Jin, established a court in Jiankang, near todays Nanjing (Nanking, Jiangsu Province) in 317 AD, and this dynasty became known as the Eastern Jin, one of the so-called Six Dynasties.
317 - 420 AD
Map of Eastern Jin Dynasty
The Sixteen Kingdoms
(十六國; Shí liù guó) 304 - 439 AD
are numerous short-lived kingdoms in Inner China and its neighboring areas, after the retreat of the Jin Dynasty to South China. Almost all rulers of the kingdoms were of Wu Hu ethnicity, people from the non-Chinese steppe tribes.
Southern & Northern Dynasties
(Chinese: 南北朝; pinyin: Nán běi cháo)
With the collapse of Eastern Jin in 420 AD, China entered the era of the Southern and Northern Dynasties. In north the Northern Wei Dynasty (386–534 AD) of the Xianbei tribe dominated the northern part of China, south of Yangtze River the Chinese dynasty Liu Song (劉宋) ruled the land. Like most of the time in China's history, it was again an age of civil war and political disunity. Despite of this troubles it was also a time of flourishing of arts and culture, advancement in technology. Buddhism, imported from India, and the native religion and philosophy of Taoism were spreading.
420 - 589 AD

Map of Southern & Northern Dynasties
Bookmark/share this page

Sui Dynasty
(Chinese: 隋朝; pinyin: Suí cháo)
The short-lived dynasty, founded by Emperor Wen (Yang Jian), unified Southern and Northern China after four centuries of fragmentation in which North and South had gone quite different ways. It was a period of great prosperity.
581 - 618 AD

Map of Sui Dynasty
Tang Dynasty
(Chinese: 唐朝; pinyin: Táng cháo)
founded by the Li (李) family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire. The capital of the dynasty was Chang'an (present-day Xi'an), the most populous city in the world at that time. The Tang period is regarded by historians as a high point in Chinese civilization - equal to or surpassing that of the earlier Han Dynasty - as well as a golden age of cosmopolitan culture. Its territory, acquired through the military campaigns of its early rulers, was greater than that of the Han period, and rivaled that of the later Yuan Dynasty and Qing Dynasty. The Tang Dynasty was largely a period of progress and stability, except during the An Shi Rebellion and the decline of the central authority in the latter half of the dynasty.
618 - 907 AD

Map of Tang Dynasty
Second Zhou
Wang xuan (王璿)
The Tang dynasty was interrupted briefly by the Second Zhou Dynasty when Empress Wu Zetian (武則天; Wǔ Zétiān) seized the throne, becoming the first and only Chinese empress regnant, ruling in her own right. Wu began her career at the age of 13 as a junior concubine at the palace of the second Tang emperor Taizong.
October 16, 690 - March 3, 705 AD
Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms
(Chinese: 五代十國; pinyin: Wǔ dài shí guó)
The period was an era of political upheaval in China, beginning in the Tang Dynasty and ending in the Song Dynasty. This period lasted a little more than half a century, and China was scattered in a multi-state nation. Five dynasties quickly succeeded one another in the old Imperial heartland in northern China, and more than 12 independent states were established, mainly in parts of southern and western China. However, only ten are traditionally listed, hence the era's name "Ten Kingdoms".
907 - 960 AD Liao Dynasty
(Chinese: 遼朝; pinyin: Liáo cháo), also known as the Khitan Empire (契丹國), was an empire in northern China that ruled over the regions of Manchuria, Mongolia, and parts of northern China proper.

The empire was founded by Liao's first ruler Emperor Taizu of Liao (Yelü Abaoji) of the Yelu clan (耶律 Yēlǜ), in the same year as the Tang Dynasty collapsed.
907 - 1125 AD
The Five Dynasties of Northern China:
Later Liang Dynasty; 907 – 923 AD
Later Tang Dynasty; 923 – 936 AD
Later Jin Dynasty; 936 – 947 AD
Later Han Dynasty; 947 – 951 AD
Later Zhou Dynasty; 951 – 960 AD

Ten Kingdoms:
Wu; (吳國; Wú) 907 – 937 AD
Wuyue (吳越國; Wúyuè guó) 907 – 978 AD
Min (閩; Mǐn) 909 – 945 AD
Chu (楚; Chǔ) 907 – 960
Southern Han (南漢; Nán hàn) 917 – 971

Foundation of the State of Shu under Tang rule in 903
Former Shu (前蜀, Qián Shú) 907 – 925;
Later Shu (後蜀; Hòu Shú) 934 – 965
Jingnan (荆南; Jīng Nán) 924 – 963
Southern Tang (南唐; Nán Táng) 937 – 975
Northern Han (北漢; Běi Hàn) 951 – 979

Song Dynasty
(Chinese: 宋朝; pinyin: Sòng cháo)
The Song Dynasty was a period in Chinese history often called a "Chinese Renaissance" marked by progress in technology, inventions, and revolutionary new economic concepts, like the development of the banknote (printed paper money), which led to commercial expansion and economic prosperity. Private trade grew and a market economy began to link the coastal provinces with the interior. The Song court upheld foreign relations with Chola India, Fatimid Egypt, Srivijayan Indonesia, and other countries. The enormous growth rate of the populations doubled China's overall population to more than 100 million people due to increased agricultural cultivation in the 10th to 11th century.

The Song Dynasty is divided into two distinct periods:
the Northern Song and Southern Song.

960 - 1279 AD
Northern Song
(Chinese: 北宋; pinyin: Běi sòng)
Emperor Taizu of Song (r. 960–976) unified China through military conquest during his reign, ending the upheaval of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. With a strong central government the dynasty controlled most of inner China. The Song capital was in the northern city of Bianjing (today Kaifeng, eastern Henan province).
960 - 1127 AD Western Xia Dynasty
(Chinese: 西夏; pinyin: Xī Xià)
The Empire was established by Tangut tribes and existed almost 200 years in what are now the northwestern Chinese provinces of Gansu, Shaanxi, and Ningxia.
1038 - 1227 AD

 Map of the Song Dynasty
the Liao Dynasty and
the Western Xia Dynasty 1000 AD
Southern Song
(Chinese: 南宋; pinyin: Nán sòng)
refers to the period after the Song lost control of northern China to the Jin Dynasty. The Song court retreated and established its capital at Lin'an located in the Yangtze River Delta (today Hangzhou, Zhejiang province).
Although weakened and pushed south along the Huai River, the Southern Song found new ways to bolster their already strong economy and to defend their state against the Jin Dynasty. The government sponsored massive shipbuilding and harbor improvement projects, to protect and support the multitudes of ships sailing for maritime interests. With this the Song Dynasty established China's first permanent navy in 1132.
1127 (1131) - 1279 AD
Jin Dynasty
(Chinese: 金朝; pinyin: Jīn cháo)
The Jin Dynasty (also called Gold Dynasty) was founded by a nomadic Manchu tribe known as the Jurchens (女眞; nǚzhēn) who originated from the Manchuria region. In 1115, one of the Jurchen leaders, Wanyan Aguda, unified the whole Jurchen group and established the Jin Dynasty in Huining Fu (today Acheng, Heilongjiang Province). Later, the capital city was moved to Yanjing (today Beijing) and finally settled in Bianjing (currently Kaifeng, eastern Henan province).
1115 - 1234 AD
 Map of the Southern Song
and the Jin Dynasty 1200 AD
The Yuan Dynasty
(Chinese: 元朝; pinyin: Yuán cháo)
The dynasty's official title 'Da Yuan' (Chinese: 大元, "Great Yuan") originates from 'I Ching'. It was the first non-Han dynasty to rule all of China. It was a khanate of the Mongol Empire, a political entity ruled by a Khan, namely Kublai Khan (Chinese: 忽必烈; pinyin: Hū bì liè). He became the first Yuan emperor, his reign dominated over Mongolia, Inner China, and some adjacent areas. Kublai Khan proclaimed the capital to be at Dadu (today Beijing). After some years of hard work, he finally defeated the Han-Dynasty of Southern Song in 1279. As emperor he also worked hard to minimize the influences of regional lords who had held immense power before and during the Song Dynasty. Almost all important central posts were monopolized now by Mongols. Unlike his predecessors Kublai Khan had decided to become the first absolute monarch.
1271 - 1368 AD
 Map of the Yuan Dynasty 1300 AD
Ming Dynasty
(Chinese: 明朝; pinyin: Míng cháo)
The Empire of the Great Ming followed the collapse of the Mongol Yuan Dynasty. Rivalry among the Mongol imperial heirs, natural disasters, and uprisings of Han Chinese groups against the Yuan Dynasty led to its collapse.
The Ming dynasty was founded by the Han Chinese Zhu Yuanzhang, a former Buddhist monk from a peasant family.
In 1356 Zhu Yuanzhang's rebel force captured the city of Yingtian (Nanjing), where he established his own military base.
In 1368, after Zhu Yuanzhang's army captured the Yuan capital Dadu (today Beijing), Zhu Yuanzhang officially proclaimed himself Emperor of China and founded the Ming Dynasty.
Under Zhu Yuanzhang the Chinese government established a standing army of 1,000,000 warriors and ordered the construction of a vast navy.
The era saw enormous projects of construction, including the restoration of the Grand Canal, the Great Wall and the construction of the Imperial Palace (Forbidden City) in Beijing.
The Ming was the last imperial dynasty in China ruled by ethnic Hans.
1368 - 1644 AD
Yongle Emperor (永樂; Yǒnglè); May 2, 1360 – August 12, 1424), third emperor of the Ming Dynasty of China from 1402 to 1424.
 Map of Ming Dynasty 1400 AD  
Qing Dynasty
(Chinese: 清朝; pinyin: Qīng cháo)
The Great Qing (also called the Later Jin) was the last ruling dynasty of China. The dynasty was founded by Manchus (Jurchen tribes), who are today an ethnic minority in northeast China. By 1646 the Manchus ruled over most of present-day China.
The dynasty was founded by Nurhaci (Chin.: 努尔哈赤 pinyin: Nǔ ěr hā chì) a former vassal of the Ming emperors. In 1616 he proclaimed himself Khan of "Great Jin", after he had consolidated the Jianzhou region to unify the Jianzhou Jurchen tribes. Two years later Nurhaci openly renounced the sovereignty of Ming overlordship. Under his command he united the loosely joined Jurchen tribes into a nation. He also confederated with various Mongol tribes. After Nurhaci's dead his son Hung Taiji (皇太極) continued to fight the Ming dynysty. He laid the groundwork for the conquering of the Ming in China, although he died before this was accomplished.
In June 1644 the Manchus seized control of Beijing and proclaimed the Qing dynasty to be the legitimate successor to the Ming Dynasty. Its first emperor Shunzhi Emperor was the second emperor of the Manchu Qing dynasty, and the first Qing emperor to rule all over China from 1644 to 1661. In the course of time under Emperor Kangxi, the Qing dynasty defeated Taiwan and Tzarist Russia. The dynasty lasted until 1911 after its decline in the mid-19th century. Following the Xinhai Revolution the Qing Dynasty was overthrown.
1644 - 1911 ADCixi's_Official_Portrait
Empress Dowager Cixi (Chinese: 慈禧太后; pinyin: Cíxǐ Tàihòu) de facto ruler of the Manchu Qing Dynasty, ruling over China for 48 years from her husband's death in 1861 to her own death in 1908.
Republic of China 1912 - 1949 AD
People's Republic of China 1949 - present Republic of China on Taiwan/ Taiwan Post War Era 1945 - present)
The Mao Era 1949-1976 AD
Era of Reconstruction 1976-1989 AD
A Rising Power 1989-2002 AD
China Today 2002-present
Sources: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Wikipedia and others
Country information: China | Bhutan | Hong Kong | India | Japan | Korea | Mongolia | Taiwan | Thailand | Vietnam

More about China:

Great Wall of China
Three Gorges Dam
 Map of the Purple Forbidden City

Cities - City description with a searchable map and satellite view of:
Chongqing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Tianjin, Lhasa (Tibet),
Hong Kong (SAR), Macau (SAR)
Most Populated Cities in China

Searchable map and satellite view of China
Administrative Map of China
China Country Profile
Hong Kong Profile
Macau Profile
 Tibet Profile
China in Figures
China key statistical data.

 History of China

Map of Asia
 Map of Southeast Asia
Flags of Asia
Capital Cities of Asia

Back to the index of Chinese Customs and Traditions Glossary

back       Back one page


One World - Nations Online .:. let's care for this planet

To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders. 老子
Site Map | Information Sources | Advertise with OWNO | Disclaimer: Privacy Policy, etc. | Contact: [email protected] | Copyright © 1998-2016 ::