1. Education

Periods of Ancient China

Three Kingdoms and Chin Dynasty of Ancient China


....continued from Neolithic, Xia, Shang, Zhou, Qin and Han Dynasties of Ancient China

Six Dynasties

Three Kingdoms

After the Han Dynasty of ancient China there was a period of constant civil war. The period from 220 to 589 is often called the period of 6 dynasties, which covers the Three Kingdoms, Chin Dynasty, and Southern and Northern Dynasties. At the start, the three leading economic centers of the Han Dynasty (the Three kingdoms) tried to unify the land:

    1. The Cao-Wei Empire (220-265) from northern China
    2. The Shu-Han Empire (221-263) from the west, and
    3. The Wu Empire (222-280) from the east, the most powerful of the three, based on a system of confederation of powerful families, which conquered the Shu in A.D. 263.

    During the period of the three kingdoms, tea was discovered, Buddhism spread, Buddhist pagodas were built, and porcelain was created.

    Chin Dynasty

    Also known as the Jin Dynasty (A.D. 265-420), the dynasty was started by Ssu-ma Yen (Sima Yan), who ruled as Emperor Wu Ti from A.D. 265-289. He reunified China in 280 by conquering the Wu kingdom. After reuniting, he ordered the disbanding of the armies, but this order was not uniformly obeyed.

    The Huns eventually defeated the Chin, but were never very strong. The Chin fled their capital, in Luoyang, ruling from 317-420, in Jiankan (modern Nanking), as the Eastern Chin (Dongjin). The earlier Chin period (265-316) is known as the Western Chin (Xijin). The culture of the Eastern Chin, remote from the Yellow River plains, developed a different culture from that of northern China. The Eastern Chin were the first of the Southern dynasties.

    Northern and Southern Dynasties

    Another period of disunity, the period of the Northern and Southern dynasties lasted from 317-589. The Northern Dynasties were

    • The Northern Wei (386-533)
    • The Eastern Wei (534-540)
    • The Western Wei (535-557)
    • The Northern Qi (550-577)
    • The Northern Zhou (557-588)
    The Southern Dynasties were
    • The Song (420-478)
    • The Qi (479-501)
    • The Liang (502-556)
    • The Chen (557-588)
    The remaining dynasties are clearly medieval or modern and so are beyond the scope of this site:


    • Classical Imperial China
      • Sui 580-618 A.D.
        This short dynasty had two emperors Yang Chien (Emperor Wen Ti), an official of the northern Zhou, and his son Emperor Yang. They built canals and fortified the Great Wall on the northern frontier and began expensive military campaigns.
      • T'ang 618-907 A.D.
        The Tang composed a penal code and started a land distribution project to help the peasants, and expanded the empire into Iran, Manchuria, and Korea. White, true porcelain was developed.
      • Five Dynasties 907-960 A.D.
        • 907-923 -- Later Liang
        • 923-936 -- Later Tang
        • 936-946 -- Later Jin
        • 947-950 -- Later Han
        • 951-960 -- Later Zhou
      • Ten Kingdoms A.D. 907-979
      • Song A.D. 960-1279
        Gunpowder was used in siege warfare. Foreign trade expanded. Neo-Confucianism developed.
        • 960-1125 -- Northern Song
        • 1127-1279 -- Southern Song
      • Liao A.D. 916-1125
      • Western Xia A.D. 1038-1227
      • Jin A.D. 1115-1234
    • Later Imperial China
      • Yuan A.D. 1279-1368
        China was ruled by Mongols
      • Ming A.D. 1368-1644
        A peasant, Hongwu, led the revolt against the Mongolians to form this dynasty, which improved conditions for peasants. Most of the Great Wall known today was built or repaired during the Ming Dynasty.
      • Qing A.D. 1644-1911
        The Manchu (from Manchuria) ruled China. They instituted dress and hair policies for Chinese men. They unsuccessfully outlawed footbinding.

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