Dynasties in Chinese history, or Chinese dynasties, were hereditary monarchical regimes
that ruled over China during much of its history
. From the inauguration of dynastic rule by Yu the Great
in circa 2070 BC 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
. Dynasties of China were not limited to those established by ethnic Han
—the dominant Chinese ethnic group—and its predecessor, the Huaxia
tribal confederation, but also included those founded by non-Han peoples.
Dividing Chinese history into periods ruled by dynasties is a common method of periodization
utilized by scholars.
Accordingly, a dynasty may be used to delimit the era during which a family reigned, as well as to describe events, trends, personalities, artistic compositions, and artifacts of that period.
For example, porcelain made during the Ming dynasty
may be referred to as "Ming porcelain".
The word "dynasty" is usually omitted when making such adjectival references.
The longest-reigning orthodox dynasty of China was the Zhou dynasty
, ruling for a total length of 789 years, albeit it is divided into the Western Zhou
and the Eastern Zhou
in Chinese historiography
, and its power was drastically reduced during the latter part of its rule.
The largest orthodox Chinese dynasty in terms of territorial size was either the Yuan dynasty
or the Qing dynasty
, depending on the historical source.
Chinese dynasties often referred to themselves as "" (; "Celestial Dynasty" or "Heavenly Dynasty").
As a form of respect and subordination, Chinese tributary states
referred to Chinese dynasties as "" (; "Celestial Dynasty of the Lofty State") or "" (; "Celestial Dynasty of the Great State").
In the Chinese language, the character "" () originally meant "morning" and "today". Politically, the word is taken to refer to the regime of the incumbent ruler
The following is a list of terms associated with the concept of dynasty in Chinese historiography:
* (): a dynasty
* (): an era corresponding to the rule of a dynasty
* (): while technically referring to royal dynasties, this term is often inaccurately applied to all dynasties, including those whose rulers held non-royal titles
such as emperor
* (): generally used for imperial dynasties
Start of dynastic rule
As the founder of China's debated first dynasty, the Xia dynasty
, Yu the Great
is conventionally regarded as the inaugurator of dynastic rule in China.
In the Chinese dynastic system, sovereign rulers theoretically possessed absolute power
and private ownership of the realm, even though in practice their actual power was dependent on numerous factors.
By tradition, the Chinese throne
was inherited exclusively by members of the male line, but there were numerous cases whereby the consort kin
s came to possess ''de facto'' power at the expense of the monarchs.
This concept, known as (; "All under Heaven
belongs to the ruling family"), was in contrast to the pre-Xia
notion of (; "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, usurper
s would seek to portray their predecessors as having relinquished the throne willingly—a process called (; "voluntary abdication")—as a means to legitimize their 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, AD 1644 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 AD 1636 by the Emperor Taizong of Qing
through renaming the Later Jin
established by his father the Emperor Taizu of Qing
in AD 1616, while the Ming imperial family
would rule the Southern Ming
until AD 1662.
The Ming loyalist Kingdom of Tungning
based in Taiwan continued to oppose the Qing until AD 1683.
Meanwhile, other factions also fought for control over China during the Ming–Qing transition
, most notably the Shun
and the Xi dynasties proclaimed by Li Zicheng
and Zhang Xianzhong
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 (; by Li Mi
), Qin (; by Xue Ju
), Qi (; by Gao Tancheng), Xu (; by Yuwen Huaji
), Liang (; by Shen Faxing
), Liang (; by Liang Shidu
), Xia (; by Dou Jiande
), Zheng (; by Wang Shichong
), Chu (; by Zhu Can
), Chu (; by Lin Shihong
), Yan (; by Gao Kaidao
), and Song (; by Fu Gongshi
). The Tang dynasty
that superseded the Sui launched a decade-long military campaign to reunify China proper.
Frequently, remnants and descendants of previous dynasties were either purged or granted noble titles
in accordance with the (; "two crownings, three respects") system. The latter served as a means for the reigning dynasty to claim legitimate succession from earlier dynasties.
For example, the Emperor Xiaojing of Eastern Wei
was accorded the title "Prince of Zhongshan" by the Emperor Wenxuan of Northern Qi
following the latter's deposition of the former.
Similarly, Chai Yong, a nephew of the Emperor Shizong of Later Zhou
, was conferred the title "Duke of Chongyi" by the Emperor Renzong of Song
; other descendants of the Later Zhou
ruling family came to inherit the noble title thereafter.
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 the Republic of China
. 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
End of dynastic rule
Dynastic rule in China collapsed in AD 1912 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, they were unsuccessful at consolidating their rule and gaining political legitimacy.
During the Xinhai Revolution, there were numerous proposals advocating for the replacement of the Manchu
-led Qing dynasty by a new dynasty of Han ethnicity. Kong Lingyi (), a 76th-generation descendant of Confucius
and the holder of Duke Yansheng
, was identified as a potential candidate for Chinese emperorship by Liang Qichao
Meanwhile, gentry in Anhui
supported a restoration of the Ming dynasty
under Zhu Yuxun (), the Marquis of Extended Grace
Both suggestions were ultimately rejected.
The Empire of China
(AD 1915–1916) proclaimed by Yuan Shikai
sparked the National Protection War
, resulting in the premature collapse of the regime 101 days later.
The Manchu Restoration
(AD 1917) was an unsuccessful attempt at reviving the Qing dynasty, lasting merely 11 days.
Similarly, the Manchukuo
(AD 1932–1945; monarchy since AD 1934), 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 politically divided during multiple periods in its history, with different regions ruled by different dynasties. These dynasties effectively functioned as separate states with their own court
and political institutions. 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 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 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" (; ) are termed (; "dynasty"); "illegitimate" or "unorthodox" regimes are referred to as (; usually translated as either "state" or "kingdom"), even if these regimes were dynastic in nature.
The issue of political legitimacy pertaining to some of these dynasties remains contentious in modern academia.
Such legitimacy dispute existed during the following periods:
* Three Kingdoms
** The Cao Wei
, the Shu Han
, and the Eastern Wu
considered themselves legitimate while simultaneously denounced 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, whereas the Southern Song
scholar Zhu Xi
proposed treating the Shu Han as legitimate
* Eastern Jin
and Sixteen Kingdoms
** The Eastern Jin proclaimed itself to be legitimate
** Several of the Sixteen Kingdoms such as the Han Zhao
, the Later Zhao
, and the Former Qin
also claimed legitimacy
* 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 "" (; "island dwelling barbarians"), while the Southern dynasties
called their northern neighbors "" (; "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
, to be legitimate
* Liao dynasty
, Song dynasty
, and Jin dynasty
** 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
[Brook, Walt van Praag & Boltjes (2018). p. 52.]
* Ming dynasty
and Northern Yuan
** 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 maintained the dynastic name "Great Yuan" and claimed Chinese titles continuously until AD 1388 or AD 1402; 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
[Brook, Walt van Praag & Boltjes (2018). p. 54.]
* Qing dynasty and Southern Ming
** 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 dynasty, as legitimate
** The Tokugawa shogunate
of Japan did not accept the legitimacy of the Qing dynasty and instead saw itself as the rightful representative of (; "China"); this narrative served as the basis of Japanese texts such as ''Chūchō Jijitsu'' and ''Kai Hentai''
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.
There were several groups of Chinese dynasties that were ruled by families with patrilineal relations
, yet due to various reasons these regimes are considered to be separate dynasties and given distinct retroactive names for historiographical purpose. Such conditions as differences in their official dynastic title and fundamental changes having occurred to their rule would create the need for nomenclatural distinction, despite these dynasties sharing common ancestral origins.
Additionally, numerous other dynasties claimed descent from earlier dynasties as a calculated political move to obtain or enhance their legitimacy, even if such claims were unfounded.
The agnatic relations of the following groups of Chinese dynasties are typically recognized by historians:
* Western Zhou
and Eastern Zhou
** The Western Zhou and the Eastern Zhou are collectively known as the Zhou dynasty
** The founder of the Eastern Zhou, the King Ping of Zhou
, was a son of the last Western Zhou ruler, the King You of Zhou
* Western Han
, Eastern Han
, Shu Han
, and Liu Song
** The Western Han and the Eastern Han are collectively known as the Han dynasty
** The first emperor of the Eastern Han, the Emperor Guangwu of Han
, was a ninth-generation descendant of the Western Han founder, the Emperor Gao of Han
; he was also a seventh-generation descendant of the sixth Western Han monarch, the Emperor Jing of Han
** The founder of the Shu Han, the Emperor Zhaolie of Shu Han
, was also descended from the Emperor Jing of Han
** The ''Book of Song
'' states that the first Liu Song ruler, the Emperor Wu of Liu Song
, was a male-line descendant of a younger brother of the Emperor Gao of Han, the Prince Yuan of Chu
* Western Jin
and Eastern Jin
** The Western Jin and the Eastern Jin are collectively known as the Jin dynasty
** The Eastern Jin founder, the Emperor Yuan of Jin
, was a great-grandson of the Western Jin progenitor, the Emperor Xuan of Jin
; he was also a grandson of the Prince Wu of Langya
and a son of the Prince Gong of Langya
* Han Zhao
and Hu Xia
** The Han Zhao founder, the Emperor Guangwen of Han Zhao
, and the Hu Xia founder, the Emperor Wulie of Hu Xia
, were descended from Liu Qiangqu
and Liu Qubei
respectively; according to the ''History of the Northern Dynasties
'', Liu Qiangqu and Liu Qibei were brothers
* Former Yan
, Later Yan
, and Southern Yan
** The founder of the Later Yan, the Emperor Chengwu of Later Yan
, was a son of the Former Yan founder, the Emperor Wenming of Former Yan
** The first monarch of the Southern Yan, the Emperor Xianwu of Southern Yan
, was also a son of the Emperor Wenming of Former Yan
* Western Liang
and Tang dynasty
** The founder of the Tang dynasty, the Emperor Gaozu of Tang
, was a seventh-generation descendant of the Western Liang founder, the Prince Wuzhao of Western Liang
* Northern Wei
, Eastern Wei
, and Western Wei
** The only ruler of the Eastern Wei, the Emperor Xiaojing of Eastern Wei
, was a great-grandson of the seventh emperor of the Northern Wei, the Emperor Xiaowen of Northern Wei
** The Western Wei founder, the Emperor Wen of Western Wei
, was a grandson of the Emperor Xiaowen of Northern Wei
* Southern Qi
and Liang dynasty
** The founder of the Liang dynasty, the Emperor Wu of Liang
, was a son of the Emperor Wen of Liang who was a distant cousin of the Southern Qi founder, the Emperor Gao of Southern Qi
* Later Han
and Northern Han
** The first ruler of the Northern Han, the Emperor Shizu of Northern Han
, was a younger brother of the Later Han founder, the Emperor Gaozu of Later Han
* Liao dynasty
and Western Liao
** The Western Liao founder, the Emperor Dezong of Western Liao
, was an eighth-generation descendant of the first emperor of the Liao dynasty, the Emperor Taizu of Liao
* Northern Song
and Southern Song
** The Northern Song and the Southern Song are collectively known as the Song dynasty
** The first ruler of the Southern Song, the Emperor Gaozong of Song
, was a son of the eighth Northern Song monarch, the Emperor Huizong of Song
; he was also a younger brother of the last Northern Song emperor, the Emperor Qinzong of Song
* Yuan dynasty
and Northern Yuan
** The Emperor Huizong of Yuan
was both the last emperor of the Yuan dynasty and the first ruler of the Northern Yuan
* Ming dynasty
and Southern Ming
** The Southern Ming founder, the Hongguang Emperor
, was a grandson of the 14th emperor of the Ming dynasty, the Wanli Emperor
* Later Jin
and Qing dynasty
** The Emperor Taizong of Qing
was both the last Later Jin khan and the first emperor of the Qing dynasty
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" (; ) refer to dynasties of China that had their capital cities
situated within the Central Plain.
This term could refer to dynasties of both Han and non-Han ethnic origins.
"Unified dynasties" (; ) 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 people, 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" (; ).
The concept of "great unity" or "grand unification" (; ) 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" (; ) refer to dynasties of China founded by non-Han peoples that ruled parts or all of China proper.
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.
For instance, the Northern Wei
and the Qing dynasty
, established by the Xianbei
and Manchu ethnicities respectively, are considered conquest dynasties of China.
It was customary for Chinese monarchs to adopt an official name for the realm, known as the (; "name of the state"), upon the establishment of a dynasty.
[Wilkinson (2000). pp. 13–14.]
During the rule of a dynasty, its functioned as the formal name of the state, both internally and for diplomatic purposes.
The formal name of Chinese dynasties was usually derived from one 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
** e.g., the Emperor Wu of Chen
adopted the dynastic name "Chen" from his pre-imperial title "Prince of Chen" upon the establishment of the Chen dynasty
* The name of a historical state that occupied the same geographical location as the new dynasty
** e.g., the Former Yan
was officially named "Yan" based on the ancient State of Yan
located in the same region
* The name of a previous dynasty from which the new dynasty claimed descent or succession from, even if such familial link was questionable
** e.g., the Emperor Taizu of Later Zhou
officially proclaimed the Later Zhou
with the official title "Zhou" as he claimed ancestry from Guo Shu, a royal of the Zhou dynasty
* A term with auspicious or other significant connotations
** e.g., the Yuan dynasty
was officially the "Great Yuan", a name derived from a clause in the ''Classic of Changes
'', "" (; "Great is the Heavenly and Primal")
There were instances whereby the official name was changed during the reign of a dynasty. For example, the dynasty known retroactively as Southern Han
initially used the name "Yue", only to be renamed to "Han" subsequently.
The official title of several dynasties bore the character "" (; "great"). In ''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 "".
It was also common for officials, subjects, or tributary states of a particular dynasty to include the term "" (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 Chronicles of Japan
'' referred to the Tang dynasty
as "" (; "Great Tang") despite its dynastic name being simply "Tang".
While all dynasties of China sought to associate their respective realm with (; "Central State"; usually translated as "Middle Kingdom" or "China" in English texts), none of these regimes officially used the term as their dynastic name.
Although the Qing dynasty
explicitly identified their state with and employed ""—and its Manchu
equivalent "''Dulimbai Gurun''" ()—in official capacity in numerous international treaties beginning with the Treaty of Nerchinsk
dated AD 1689, its dynastic name had remained the "Great Qing".
"", which has become nearly synonymous with "China" in modern times, is a concept with geographical, political, and cultural connotations.
The adoption of , as well as the importance assigned to it, had promulgated within the Sinosphere
. Notably, rulers of Vietnam
and Korea also declared for their respective realm.
In Chinese historiography, historians generally do not refer to dynasties directly by their official name. Instead, historiographical names, which were most commonly derived from their official name, are used. For instance, the Sui dynasty
is known as such because its formal name was "Sui". Likewise, the Jin dynasty
was officially the "Great Jin".
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
** "Northern" (; ): e.g., Northern Qi
, Northern Yuan
** "Southern" (; ): e.g., Southern Yan
, Southern Tang
** "Eastern" (; ): e.g., Eastern Jin
, Eastern Wei
** "Western" (; ): e.g., Western Liang
, Western Liao
** "Former" (; ): e.g., Former Qin
, Former Shu
** "Later" (; ): e.g., Later Zhao
, Later Han
* Surname of the ruling family
** e.g., Wu Zhou
, Ma Chu
* Other types of prefixes
** e.g., Shu Han
(the prefix "Shu" is a reference to the realm's geographical location at Sichuan
), Hu Xia
(the prefix "Hu", meaning "barbarian
", refers to the dynasty's Xiongnu
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 Western Han
is also known as the "Former Han", and the Yang Wu
is also called the "Southern Wu".
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 nomenclatural 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
In Chinese sources, the term "dynasty" (; ) 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".
Often, scholars would refer to a specific Chinese dynasty by adding the word "China" after the dynastic name. For instance, "Tang China" refers to the Chinese state under the rule of the Tang dynasty and the corresponding historical era.
While the earliest Chinese dynasties were established along the Yellow River and the Yangtze River
in China proper, numerous Chinese dynasties later expanded beyond the region
to encompass other territorial domains.
[Tanner (2009). p. 167.]
At various points in time, Chinese dynasties exercised control over China proper (including Hainan
, and Hong Kong
(both Inner Manchuria
and Outer Manchuria
(both Inner Mongolia
and Outer Mongolia
[Lockard (2020). p. 262.] Tibet
as well as parts of Central Asia
the Korean Peninsula
[Hsu (2012). p. 268.]
Territorially, the largest orthodox Chinese dynasty was either the Yuan dynasty
or the Qing dynasty
, depending on the historical source.
This discrepancy can be mainly attributed to the ambiguous northern border of the Yuan realm: whereas some sources describe the Yuan border as located to the immediate north of the northern shore of Lake Baikal
, others posit that the Yuan dynasty reached as far north as the Arctic
In contrast, the borders of the Qing dynasty were demarcated and reinforced through a series of international treaties, and thus were more well-defined.
Apart from exerting direct control over the Chinese realm, various dynasties of China also maintained hegemony over other states and tribes through the Chinese tributary system
The Chinese tributary system first emerged during the Western Han
and lasted until the 19th century AD when the Sinocentric
order broke down.
The modern territorial claims of both the People's Republic of China and the Republic of China are inherited from the lands once held by the Qing dynasty at the time of its collapse.
[Tanner (2009). p. 419.]
List of major Chinese dynasties
This list includes only the major dynasties of China that are typically found in simplified forms of Chinese historical timelines. This list is neither comprehensive nor representative of Chinese history as a whole.
Timeline of major historical periods
Timeline of major regimes
ImageSize = width:1600 height:auto barincrement:15
PlotArea = top:10 bottom:30 right:210 left:20
AlignBars = early
DateFormat = yyyy
Period = from:-2500 till:2000
TimeAxis = orientation:horizontal
ScaleMajor = unit:year increment:200 start:-2500
Backgroundcolors = canvas:canvas
width:5 align:left fontsize:S shift:(5,-4) anchor:till
from: -2500 till: -2070 color:PD text:"Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors (before 2070 BC)"
from: -2070 till: -1600 color:DY text:"Xia (2070–1600 BC)"
from: -1600 till: -1046 color:DY text:"Shang (1600–1046 BC)"
from: -1046 till: -771 color:DY text:"W. Zhou (1046–771 BC)"
from: -770 till: -256 color:DY text:"E. Zhou (770–256 BC)"
from: -221 till: -207 color:DY text:"Qin (221–207 BC)"
from: -202 till: 9 color:DY text:"W. Han (202 BC–AD 9)"
from: 9 till: 23 color:DY text:"Xin (AD 9–23)"
from: 25 till: 220 color:DY text:"E. Han (AD 25–220)"
from: 220 till: 266 color:DY text:"Cao Wei (AD 220–266)"
from: 221 till: 263 color:DY text:"Shu Han (AD 221–263)"
from: 222 till: 280 color:DY text:"E. Wu (AD 222–280)"
from: 266 till: 316 color:DY text:"W. Jin (AD 266–316)"
from: 304 till: 329 color:DY text:"Han Zhao (AD 304–329)"
from: 304 till: 347 color:DY text:"Cheng Han (AD 304–347)"
from: 317 till: 420 color:DY text:"E. Jin (AD 317–420)"
from: 319 till: 351 color:DY text:"L. Zhao (AD 319–351)"
from: 320 till: 376 color:DY text:"F. Liang (AD 320–376)"
from: 337 till: 370 color:DY text:"F. Yan (AD 337–370)"
from: 351 till: 394 color:DY text:"F. Qin (AD 351–394)"
from: 384 till: 409 color:DY text:"L. Yan (AD 384–409)"
from: 384 till: 417 color:DY text:"L. Qin (AD 384–417)"
from: 385 till: 400 color:DY text:"W. Qin (pre-interregnum; AD 385–400)"
from: 386 till: 403 color:DY text:"L. Liang (AD 386–403)"
from: 386 till: 535 color:DY text:"N. Wei (AD 386–535)"
from: 397 till: 414 color:DY text:"S. Liang (AD 397–414)"
from: 397 till: 439 color:DY text:"N. Liang (AD 397–439)"
from: 398 till: 410 color:DY text:"S. Yan (AD 398–410)"
from: 400 till: 421 color:DY text:"W. Liang (AD 400–421)"
from: 407 till: 431 color:DY text:"Hu Xia (AD 407–431)"
from: 407 till: 436 color:DY text:"N. Yan (AD 407–436)"
from: 409 till: 431 color:DY text:"W. Qin (restored; AD 409–431)"
from: 420 till: 479 color:DY text:"Liu Song (AD 420–479)"
from: 479 till: 502 color:DY text:"S. Qi (AD 479–502)"
from: 502 till: 557 color:DY text:"Liang (AD 502–557)"
from: 534 till: 550 color:DY text:"E. Wei (AD 534–550)"
from: 535 till: 557 color:DY text:"W. Wei (AD 535–557)"
from: 550 till: 577 color:DY text:"N. Qi (AD 550–577)"
from: 557 till: 581 color:DY text:"N. Zhou (AD 557–581)"
from: 557 till: 589 color:DY text:"Chen (AD 557–589)"
from: 581 till: 619 color:DY text:"Sui (AD 581–619)"
from: 618 till: 690 color:DY text:"Tang (pre-interregnum; AD 618–690)"
from: 690 till: 705 color:DY text:"Wu Zhou (AD 690–705)"
from: 705 till: 907 color:DY text:"Tang (restored; AD 705–907)"
from: 907 till: 923 color:DY text:"L. Liang (AD 907–923)"
from: 907 till: 925 color:DY text:"F. Shu (AD 907–925)"
from: 907 till: 937 color:DY text:"Yang Wu (AD 907–937)"
from: 907 till: 951 color:DY text:"Ma Chu (AD 907–951)"
from: 907 till: 978 color:DY text:"Wuyue (AD 907–978)"
from: 909 till: 945 color:DY text:"Min (AD 909–945)"
from: 916 till: 1125 color:DY text:"Liao (AD 916–1125)"
from: 917 till: 971 color:DY text:"S. Han (AD 917–971)"
from: 923 till: 937 color:DY text:"L. Tang (AD 923–937)"
from: 924 till: 963 color:DY text:"Jingnan (AD 924–963)"
from: 934 till: 965 color:DY text:"L. Shu (AD 934–965)"
from: 936 till: 947 color:DY text:"L. Jin (AD 936–947)"
from: 937 till: 976 color:DY text:"S. Tang (AD 937–976)"
from: 947 till: 951 color:DY text:"L. Han (AD 947–951)"
from: 951 till: 960 color:DY text:"L. Zhou (AD 951–960)"
from: 951 till: 979 color:DY text:"N. Han (AD 951–979)"
from: 960 till: 1127 color:DY text:"N. Song (AD 960–1127)"
from: 1038 till: 1227 color:DY text:"W. Xia (AD 1038–1227)"
from: 1115 till: 1234 color:DY text:"Jin (AD 1115–1234)"
from: 1124 till: 1218 color:DY text:"W. Liao (AD 1124–1218)"
from: 1127 till: 1279 color:DY text:"S. Song (AD 1127–1279)"
from: 1271 till: 1368 color:DY text:"Yuan (AD 1271–1368)"
from: 1368 till: 1635 color:DY text:"N. Yuan (AD 1368–1635)"
from: 1368 till: 1644 color:DY text:"Ming (AD 1368–1644)"
from: 1616 till: 1636 color:DY text:"L. Jin (AD 1616–1636)"
from: 1636 till: 1912 color:DY text:"Qing (AD 1636–1912)"
from: 1644 till: 1662 color:DY text:"S. Ming (AD 1644–1662)"
from: 1912 till: 2000 color:ND text:"R.O. China (AD 1912–present)"
from: 1949 till: 2000 color:ND text:"P.R. China (AD 1949–present)"
* 1911 Revolution
* Ancient Chinese states
* 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 Chinese monarchs (ancient)
* Family tree of Chinese monarchs (early)
* Family tree of Chinese monarchs (late)
* Family tree of Chinese monarchs (middle)
* Family tree of Chinese monarchs (Warring States period)
* Golden ages of China
* Head of the former Chinese imperial clan
* Head of the House of Aisin Gioro
* Historical capitals of China
* Jimi system
* List of Chinese monarchs
* List of Confucian states and 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
* ''Zhonghua minzu
* China Handbook Editorial Committee, ''China Handbook Series: History'' (trans., Dun J. Li), Beijing, 1982, 188–189; and Shao Chang Lee, "China Cultural Development" (wall chart), East Lansing, 1984.
* Columbia University''The Dynasties Song''
* Tan Qixiang''The Historical Atlas of China''
Category:History of China