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The grand chancellor, also translated as counselor-in-chief,
chancellor Chancellor ( la, links=no, cancellarius) is a title of various official positions in the governments of many nations. The original chancellors were the '' cancellarii'' of Roman courts of justice—ushers, who sat at the ''cancelli'' or lattice wo ...

chancellor
, chief councillor, chief minister, imperial chancellor, lieutenant chancellor and prime minister, was the highest-ranking executive official in the
imperial Chinese government
imperial Chinese government
. The term was known by many different names throughout Chinese history, and the exact extent of the powers associated with the position fluctuated greatly, even during a particular dynasty. During the Six Dynasties period, the term denoted a number of power-holders serving as chief administrators, including ''zhongshun jian'' (Inspector General of the Secretariat), ''zhongshu ling'' (President of the Secretariat), ''shizhong'' ( Palace Attendant), ''shangshu ling'' and ''puye'' (president and vice-president of the Department of State Affairs).


History

In the
Spring and Autumn period The Spring and Autumn period was a period in Chinese history The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC), during the king Wu Ding's reign, who was men ...
,
Guan Zhong Guan Zhong (; c. 720–645 BC) was a Chinese philosopher and politician. He served as Grand chancellor (China), chancellor and was a reformer of the Qi (state), State of Qi during the Spring and Autumn period of Chinese history. His given name wa ...

Guan Zhong
was the first chancellor in China, who became chancellor under the
state of Qi Qi was a state of the Zhou dynasty The Zhou dynasty ( ) was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also historically known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese dynasty that ruled in the middle and ...
in 685 BC. In
QinQin may refer to: Dynasties and states * Qin (state) (秦), a major state during the Zhou Dynasty of ancient China * Qin dynasty (秦), founded by the Qin state in 221 BC and ended in 206 BC * Daqin (大秦), ancient Chinese name for the Roman Empi ...
, during the
Warring States period The Warring States period () was an era in ancient Chinese history characterized by warfare, as well as bureaucratic and military reforms and consolidation. It followed the Spring and Autumn period and concluded with the Qin wars of conquest ...
, the chancellor was officially established as "the head of all civil service officials." There were sometimes two chancellors, differentiated as being "of the left" (senior) and "of the right" (junior). After emperor
Qin Shi Huang Qin Shi Huang (, ; 259–210 BCE), or Shihuangdi, was the founder of the Qin dynasty, and first Emperor of China, emperor of a unified China. Rather than maintain the title of "Chinese king, king" ( ''wáng'') borne by the previous Shang dynas ...
ended the Warring States period by establishing the Qin dynasty (221–206 BC), the chancellor, together with the imperial secretary, and the grand commandant, were the most important officials in the imperial government, generally referred as the
Three LordsThe Three Ducal Ministers (), also translated as the Three Dukes, Three Excellencies, or the Three Lords, was the collective name for the three highest officials in ancient China. These posts were abolished by Cao Cao in 208 AD and replaced with the ...
. In 1 BC, during the reign of Emperor Ai, the title was changed to ''da si tu'' (大司徒). In the
Eastern Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second imperial dynasty of China (202 BC – 220 AD), established by the rebel leader Liu Bang and ruled by the House of Liu. Preceded by the short-lived Qin dynasty (221–206 BC) and a warring interregnum know ...

Eastern Han dynasty
, the chancellor post was replaced by the
Three ExcellenciesThe Three Ducal Ministers (), also translated as the Three Dukes, Three Excellencies, or the Three Lords, was the collective name for the three highest officials in ancient China. These posts were abolished by Cao Cao in 208 AD and replaced with the ...
: Grand Commandant (太尉),
Minister over the MassesSitu was one of the highest ranking government offices in ancient China. Established in the Western Zhou dynasty, it was originally written as (), meaning Administrator of Land. During the Han dynasty The Han dynasty () was the second Dynas ...
(司徒) and Minister of Works (司空). In 190,
Dong Zhuo Dong Zhuo () (died 22 May 192), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the Sinosphere, including China, Japan, ...

Dong Zhuo
claimed the title "Chancellor of State" (相國) under the powerless
Emperor Xian of Han Emperor Xian of Han (2 April 181 – 21 April 234), personal name Liu Xie (劉協), courtesy name Bohe, was the 14th and last Emperor of China, emperor of the Eastern Han dynasty in China. He reigned from 28 September 189 until 11 December 220. ...
, placing himself above the Three Excellencies. After Dong Zhuo's death in 192, the post was vacant until
Cao Cao Cao Cao (; ; ; – 15 March 220), courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the Sinosphere, including China, Ja ...
restored the position as "imperial chancellor" (丞相) and abolished the Three Excellencies in 208. From then until March 15, 220, the power of chancellor was greater than that of the emperor. Later this often happened when a dynasty became weak, usually some decades before the fall of a dynasty. During the
Sui dynasty The Sui dynasty (, ) was a short-lived imperial dynasty of China of pivotal significance. The Sui unified the Northern and Southern dynasties and reinstalled the rule of ethnic Han in the entirety of China proper, along with sinicization ...
, the executive officials of the three highest departments of the empire were called "chancellors" (真宰相) together. In the
Tang dynasty The Tang dynasty (, ; ), or Tang Empire, was an imperial dynasty of China that ruled from 618 to 907, with an interregnum between 690 and 705. It was preceded by the Sui dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. H ...
, the government was divided into three departments: the
Department of State Affairs The Department of State Affairs or ''Shangshu Sheng'' (尚書省) was one department in the Three Departments and Six Ministries government structure officially established since the Sui dynasty The Sui dynasty (, ) was a short-lived imperia ...
(尚書省), the
Secretariat Secretariat may refer to: * Secretariat (administrative office) The secretariat of an organization is the department that fulfils its central administrative or general secretary duties. The term is especially associated with government ...
(中書省), and the Chancellery (門下省). The head of each department was generally referred to as the ''chancellor''. In the
Song dynasty The Song dynasty (; ; 960–1279) was an imperial dynasty of China that began in 960 and lasted until 1279. The dynasty was founded by Emperor Taizu of Song following his usurpation of the throne of the Later Zhou, ending the Five Dynasties a ...
, the post of chancellor was also known as the "Tongpingzhangshi" (同平章事), in accordance with late-Tang terminology, while the vice-chancellor was known as the ''jijunsi''. Some years later, the post of chancellor was changed to "prime minister" (首相 ''shou xiang'') and the post of vice-chancellor was changed to "second minister" (次相 ''ci xiang''). In the late
Southern Song dynasty The Song dynasty (; ; 960–1279) was an imperial dynasty of China that began in 960 and lasted until 1279. The dynasty was founded by Emperor Taizu of Song following his usurpation of the throne of the Later Zhou, ending the Five Dynasties a ...
, the system changed back to the Tang naming conventions. During the Mongol-founded Yuan dynasty, the chancellor was not the head of the Secretariat, but the
Crown Prince
Crown Prince
(皇太子) was. After the establishment of the
Ming dynasty The Ming dynasty (), officially the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644 following the collapse of the Mongol The Mongols ( mn, Монголчууд, , ''Mongolchuud'', ; ) are an East Asian ethnic group nativ ...

Ming dynasty
, the post became the head of the Zhongshu Sheng again. The post was abolished after the execution of Hu Weiyong, who was accused of treason (though his conviction is still strongly disputed in present times because of a lack of evidence to prove his guilt).
The History of Chancellor of China
'', QQ.com.
Still, appointments of the people who held the highest post in the government were called "appointment of prime minister" (拜相) until 1644.


List of chancellors of China


List of chancellors of Shang dynasty


Zhou dynasty

*
Jiang Ziya Jiang Ziya ( century BC), also known by several other names, was a Chinese noble who helped kings Wen and Wu of Zhou overthrow the Shang in ancient China The earliest known written records of the history of China date fro ...
*
Duke of Zhou Dan, Duke Wen of Zhou (), commonly known as the Duke of Zhou (), was a member of the royal family of the early Zhou dynasty The Zhou dynasty ( ) was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also historical ...
*
Duke Huan of Zheng Duke Huan of Zheng (), was the founder of the state of Zheng (state), Zheng during the early Western Zhou, Zhou Dynasty of ancient China. According to the Records of the Grand Historian, he was the son of King Li of Zhou . His ancestral name was J ...
*
Duke Zhuang of Zheng Duke Zhuang of Zheng (; 757–701 BC) was the third ruler of the State of Zheng during the Spring and Autumn period The Spring and Autumn period was a period in Chinese history The earliest known written records of the history of Chin ...
*
Guan Zhong Guan Zhong (; c. 720–645 BC) was a Chinese philosopher and politician. He served as Grand chancellor (China), chancellor and was a reformer of the Qi (state), State of Qi during the Spring and Autumn period of Chinese history. His given name wa ...

Guan Zhong
of
Qi state ''QI'' (short for ''Quite Interesting'') is a British comedy panel game television game show, quiz show created and co-produced by John Lloyd (writer), John Lloyd, and features permanent panellist Alan Davies. Stephen Fry was host of the show f ...
(died in 645 BC) *
Bao Shuya Bao Shuya (; d.644 BC) was a famous official of the State of Qi under Duke Huan of Qi during the Spring and Autumn period in China. He was a contemporary and friend of Guan Zhong. Though an able administrator in his own right, Bao is best known f ...
of Qi state * Yan Ying of Qi state *
Fan Li Fan Li () from the Spring and Autumn period The Spring and Autumn period was a period in Chinese history The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC) ...
of Qi State and Yue state *
Wu Zixu :''Note: names are in simplified characters followed by traditional and Pinyin transliteration.'' Wu Yun (died 484 BC), better known by his courtesy name Zixu, was a general and politician of the Wu (state), Wu kingdom in the Spring and Autumn per ...
of Wu state * Bo Pi of Wu state * Cheng Dechen of Chu state *
Sunshu Ao Sunshu Ao (孫叔敖, ca. 630, † ca. 593 BCE) was a Chinese hydraulic engineer and politician. He was a court minister serving the administration of King Zhuang of Chu during the Eastern Zhou Dynasty. During his governmental career, Sunshu Ao wa ...
of Chu state *
Wu Qi Wu Qi (, 440–381 BC) was a Chinese military leader, Legalist philosopher, and politician in the Warring States period. Biography Born in the Wey (state), State of Wey (), he was skilled in leading armies and military strategy. He had served i ...

Wu Qi
of Chu state *
Lord Chunshen Lord Chunshen (; died 238 BC), born Huang Xie (), was a nobleman, general, and Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Chu during the late Warring States period of ancient China. He was one of the Four Lords of the Warring States. Lord Chunshen is a ...
of Chu state *
Lord Mengchang Lord Mengchang (; died 279 BC), born Tian Wen, was an aristocrat and statesman of the Qi Kingdom of ancient China, one of the famed Four Lords of the Warring States period The Warring States period () was an era in ancient Chinese history ch ...
of Qi state *
Tian Dan Tian Dan () was a general and nobleman of the major state of Qi during the Warring States period The Warring States period () was an era in ancient Chinese history characterized by warfare, as well as bureaucratic and military reforms and con ...
of Qi state *
Li KuiLi Kui may refer to: *Li Kui (legalist), government minister in the Wei state *Li Kui (chancellor), chancellor of the Tang Dynasty *Li Kui (Water Margin), fictional character in the ''Water Margin'' {{hndis, Li, Kui