Chinese Dynasties — Timeline of Influential Historical Events in Ancient China

Ancient China, from neolithic tribes to the end of the last feudal empire, includes the rises and falls of many empires. 

In this Timeline of Chinese Dynasties page, list all dynasties of ancient China, influential rulers, and important historical events of each kingdom. 

  • About 6000 BC — 5000 BC: Cultivating corn, rice, and pig in scattered primitive tribes. 

  • About 5000 BC — 2000 BC: Appearing and wide utilizing of the wooden building, painted pottery, fishing and hunting, bronze and jade ware. 

 

  • About 5000 BC — 3000 BC: Formation of important primitive cultures, including Yangshao, Hemudu, Dawenkou, Hongshan Cultures.

  • About 3300 BC — 2000 BC: Appearing and developing of Majiayao, Shijiahe, Longshan, Liangzhu Cultures.

 

  • Around 2070 BC: Yu the Great received the throne from King Shun and named his kingdom Xia.

 

  • King Si Qi, the son of Yu the Great, became the second king of the Xia Dynasty. 

This was the starter of the Hereditary System in the history of China, which replaced the previous Abdication System.

 

  • The third King Si Taikang lost the throne, for having been addicted to hunting, alcohol, and beautiful women, and got banished by lord Hou Yi from another state, the new ruler of the Xia Empire.

 

  • Around 1871 BC: Si Shao Kang, grandniece of King Si Taikang, revenged for his clan and regained the throne.

 

  • Around 1600 BC: King Si Jie was defeated by the Lord Tang of Shang, after which the Xia Dynasty was officially ended.

  • 1600 BC: Lord Tang of Shang defeated the last king of Xia, and established the Shang Dynasty. 

 

  • Around 1300 BC: King Pan Geng moved the capital to the City Yin, which solved the internal conflicts among nobles and brought people stable, prosperous lives.

 

The earliest unearthed Oracle Bone Inscriptions appeared after this migration. 

 

  • Around 1250 BC — 1192 BC: King Wu Ding and Queen Fu Hao further flourished the Shang Kingdom and extended the territory. Half of the unearthed Oracle Bone Inscriptions are regarding this era. 

 

  • 1046 BC: King Di Xin was defeated when his main force army was fighting in the east far away. He committed suicide, and the Shang Kingdom perished. 

  • 1046 BC: Lord Ji Fa, King Wu of Zhou, defeated the last king of Shang and established the Zhou Dynasty. 

 

  • 841 BC: Ji Hu the King Li of Zhou implemented a reform that soon caused a big riot. He escaped to a mountain and passed away there. His son ascended to the throne years later, but the kingdom started to decline since then. 

 

  • 781 BC — 771 BC: Ji Gongsheng the King You of Zhou abolished his queen and crown prince and fooled many feudal lords, trying to please his Icy Queen Bao Si. In the end, he was assassinated and his capital city was occupied, by a nomadic regime. 

  • 1046 BC — 771 BC was named the Western Zhou Dynasty when kings of Zhou held the power and authority of the empire. 

 

  • 770 BC — 256 BC: Eastern Zhou Dynasty, the kings of Zhou lost control over vassal states.

 

This period was successively named the Spring and Autumn Period, and the Warring States Period.

 

  • 256 BC: Ji Yan the King Nan of Zhou passed away and left with no sons. The Zhou Dynasty was officially ended. 

  • 707 BC: The king of Zhou was defeated by Lord of the State Zheng, representing that the king of the Zhou Empire officially lost control over the feudatory states.

 

  • 651 BC: Lord Lv Xiaobai of the State Qi gained the hegemony and held a big meeting of all sovereigns, which made him the first overlord in the Spring and Autumn Period. 

 

  • 632 BC: Lord Ji Chonger of the State Jin held another meeting of sovereigns, and became the second overlord in this era. 

 

  • 627 BC: The State Qin lost in a war against the State Jin in the east, so they started to largely extend the territory westward. 

 

  • 597 BC: The State Chu defeated the State Jin in a big war; these two states started to share hegemony since then.

 

  • About 571 BC — 471 BC: Lao Zi/Tzu finished the Tao Te Ching.​

 

 

  • About 545 BC — 470 BC: Sun Zi/Tzu finished The Art of War. 

  • 473 BC: The State Yue perished the State Wu; the King of the State Yue became the last overlord in the Spring and Autumn Period. 

 

  • 403 BC: Three powerful clans carved up the State Jin into three kingdoms: Han, Zhao, and Wei. 

Seven States of this period are Qi, Chu, Yan, Han, Zhao, Wei, and Qin.

 

  • About 479 BC — 381 BC: Mozi established Mohism, one of the most important philosophical schools during this era. 

 

  • 386 BC — 381 BC: Wu Qi’s Reform was implemented, which strengthened the State Chu.

 

  • 359 BC: Shang Yang’s Reform started to be implemented in the State Qin, which made Qin became one of the most powerful kingdoms during this era.

 

  • 307 BC: State Zhao implemented military reform (Riding and Shooting in Nomadic Dress), which largely improved Zhao’s army’s combat effectiveness.

 

  • 284 BC — 278 BC: One of the strongest kingdoms, the State Qi was defeated and largely weakened by the allied army of the other five kingdoms.

 

  • 278 BC: General Bai Qi of the State Qin occupied the capital city of the State Chu.

 

  • 260 BC: The Battle of Changping, an important turning point of the Warring States Period, when General Bai Qi of the State Qin largely diminished State Zhao by perishing over 400,000 of their soldiers.

 

  • 247 BC: Ying Zheng, respected as Qin Shi Huang, ascended to the throne as the King of the State Qin. 

 

  • 230 BC: The State Han was perished by the State Qin.

 

 

  • 225 BC: The State Wei was perished by General Wang Ben (the son of General Wang Jian) of the State Qin.

 

  • 223 BC: The State Chu was perished by General Wang Jian of the State Qin.

 

  • 222 BC: The State Yan was perished by General Wang Ben of the State Qin.

 

  • 221 BC: The State Qi was perished by General Wang Ben of the State Qin.

  • 221 BC: Qin Shi Huang Ying Zheng, the first emperor in the history of China, established the Qin Dynasty and unified language, currency, measurements, roads, and so on.  

 

  • 214 BC: Qin Shi Huang commanded Northern Expedition against the Xiongnu (or the Huns), then connected and constructed the Great Wall of China

 

  • 210 BC: Qin Shi Huang passed away, and his 18th son snatched the throne. 

 

  • 209 BC: Dazexiang Uprising, the first peasant uprising in Chinese history, erupted.

 

  • 207 BC: Qin’s last main force was defeated by Xiang Yu, the King of Western Chu. 

 

  • 207 BC — 202 BC: Chu-Han Contention between Xiang Yu the King of Western Chu and Liu Bang the King of Han.

 

  • 202 BC: Liu Bang defeated Xiang Yu, and established the Han Dynasty. 

 

  • 200 BC: Liu Bang, the Emperor Gaozu of Han, encountered a big military failure against the Xiongnu.  

 

  • 154 BC: Seven feudatory states rebelled and got defeated within three months.

 

 

 

  • 130 BC — 119 BC: Led by great generals General Wei Qing and Huo Qubing, Han Empire achieved a series of military successes that perished the main forces of the Xiongnu.

 

  • 8 AD: Wang Mang snatched the throne, and changed the empire’s name to Xin. 

 

  • 23 AD: The reign of the Xin Dynasty was overthrown, and Emperor Wang Mang was assassinated. 

 

  • 25 AD: Liu Xiu defeated other forces and named his new empire Han again, which started the Eastern Han Dynasty.

 

  • 89 AD: The rest forces of the Xiongnu were defeated and finally disappeared in historical records of ancient China. 

 

  • 220: Cao Pi forced Emperor Xian of Han to abdicate the throne, and established the Kingdom Wei in Northern China. 

 

  • 221: Liu Bei established the Kingdom Shu in Southwestern China.

 

  • 229: Sun Quan established Kingdom Wu in Southeastern China.

 

  • 263: The Kingdom Shu was perished by the Kingdom Wei. 

 

  • 280: The Kingdom Wu was perished by the Kingdom Jin.

  • 266: Sima snatched the throne of the King of Wei, and changed the kingdom’s name to Jin. 

 

  • 280: The Kingdom Jin perished the Kingdom Wu, and put an end to the Three Kingdoms.

 

  • 291 — 306: The War of Eight Princes, which caused huge chaos in society. 

 

  • 316: The King of Jin was assassinated.

 

Afterward, there were over 20 regimes that had been established and perished in northern and western China. 

 

  • 317: A royal prince of Jin reestablished the Jin Dynasty in southern China.

 

  • 420: The last King of Jin was abolished, and the Jin Dynasty was officially ended. 

In the South:

 

  • 420: The Liu Song Dynasty was established. 

 

  • 479: The Liu Song Dynasty was replaced by the Southern Qi Dynasty. 

 

  • 502: Xiao Yan snatched the throne of the Southern Qi, and established the Liang Dynasty. 

 

  • 557: Chen Baxian usurped the throne of the Liang Dynasty, and built the Chen Dynasty.

 

In the North:

 

  • 439: The Northern Wei Dynasty was established in Northern China. 

 

  • 471 — 499: Reform of Emperor Xiaowen, which had promoted the national amalgamation and flourished the kingdom. 

 

  • 534: the Northern Wei Dynasty was carved up into two kingdoms, which were replaced by the Northern Zhou and Northern Qi decades later. 

 

  • 577: The Northern Zhou perished the Northern Qi, and unified the northern parts of China. 

  • 581: Northern Zhou's king lost the throne to Yang Jian, who changed the empire's name to Sui.

 

  • 589: The Chen Dynasty in the south was perished by the Sui Dynasty. 

  • 581: Yang Jian snatched the throne from the King of the Northern Zhou, and established the Sui Dynasty. 

 

  • 581: The nomadic regime Tujue invaded the Sui Dynasty. 

 

  • 583: Northern Expedition against Tujue.

 

  • 589: The Sui Dynasty perished the Chen Dynasty in the south, and unified the whole of the nation.

 

  • 599: The East Tujue surrendered to the Sui Dynasty.

 

 

  • 605: Sui built and moved the capital to the City Luoyang. 

 

  • 650 — 610: Construction of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal. 

 

  • 611: The West Tujue complied with the Sui Dynasty. 

 

  • 610 — 618: Nationwide uprisings against the reign of Emperor Yang of Sui. 

 

  • 617: Li Yuan, the Lord of Tang, started military action. He soon occupied Sui's capital city and supported the third grandson of Emperor Yang of Sui to ascend the throne. 

 

  • 618: Emperor Yang of Sui was assassinated. 

 

  • 618: Li Yuan claimed himself the emperor, and established the Tang Dynasty. ​

  • 618: Warlord Li Yuan established the Tang Dynasty, as the Emperor Gaozu of Tang.  

 

  • 620 — 622: Prince Li Shimin, the second son of Li Yuan, led Tang’s army and conquered other military forces nationwide.

 

  • 626: Xuanwu Gate Incident, when Li Shimin ambushed, assassinated his oldest and fourth brother, and took control of the whole empire.

 

His father Li Yuan then announced Li Shimin as the new crown prince, and a few months later abdicated the throne to Li Shimin, now the Emperor Taizong of Tang.

 

  • 629: East Tujue was perished by General Li Jing.

 

  • 641: Princess Wencheng of Tang married the King of the Tibetan Empire Songtsen Gampo, in the Potala Palace

 

 

 

  • 755 — 763: Destructive An-Shi Rebellion War, the turning point of the Tang Empire. 

 

 

  • 874 — 884: Large-scale peasant uprisings. 

 

 

  • 907: Lord Zhu Wen assassinated the last emperor and almost the entire royal family of the Tang Dynasty.

 

The whole of the nation fell into chaos and separation afterward. 

  • 907: Zhu Wen occupied central China and established the Later Liang Dynasty.

 

  • 923: Li Cunxu reestablished the Tang Dynasty, after having perished the Later Liang Dynasty. 

 

  • 936: The Later Jin Dynasty replaced Li Cunxu's Tang Empire. 

 

  • 938: King of the Later Jin Dynasty ceded 16 prefectures of military importance to the nomadic regime named Liao.

 

  • 946: The Liao Empire perished the Later Jin Dynasty. 

 

  • 947: The Later Han Dynasty was established. 

 

  • 951: The Later Zhou Dynasty replaced the Later Han Dynasty. 

 

  • 960: The throne of the Later Zhou Dynasty was usurped by Zhao Kuangyin.

 

  • 902 —- 979: Ten Kingdoms had been established and perished outside the Central Plain of China.

  • 960: Zhao Kuangyin snatched the throne from the king of the Later Zhou Dynasty, established the Song Dynasty, and was respected as the Emperor Taizu of Song. 

 

  • 960 — 979: The army of the Song Dynasty defeated other kingdoms, and unified the middle kingdom. 

 

 

  • 1038: The Western Xia or Xixia Empire was established in the west of the Song Dynasty. 

 

  • 1115: The nomadic regime Jurchen Jin Dynasty was established in the north and kept expanding. 

 

  • 1125: The Liao Dynasty was perished by the Jurchen Jin Dynasty. 

 

  • 1127: Incident of Jingkang, when the Jurchen Jin Dynasty occupied the capital city of the Song Dynasty, enslaved Song’s Emperor Zhao Ji and Zhao Huan, and tens of thousands of royals and civilians, and put an end to the Song Empire. 

 

  • 1127: Zhao Gou, the ninth son of Emperor Zhao Ji, escaped southward and reestablished the Song Dynasty in southern China as the Emperor Gaozong of Song.

 

His empire was called the Southern Song Dynasty. 

 

  • 1141: Zhao Gou commanded all of the Song’s forces to stop fighting, and signed the Compromise of Shaoxing with the Jurchen Jin Dynasty. 

 

  • 1142: Great General Yue Fei was sentenced to death, which ended Song's possibility to regain its lost northern territories.  

 

  • 1206: Genghis Khan unified the Mongolian Plateau and established the Mongol Empire.

 

  • 1227: The Mongol Empire perished the Western Xia or Xixia Empire. 

 

  • 1234: Southern Song and Mongol Empire allied together, and perish the Jurchen Jin Dynasty.

 

  • 1235: The Mongol Empire started to invade the Song Dynasty. 

 

  • 1271: Kublai Khan changed the name of his empire to Yuan.  

  • 1267 — 1273: Battle of Xiangyang, Yuan Empire won over Song Empire, after which the Southern Song Dynasty started to collapse dramatically. 

 

  • 1279: The last emperor of the Song Dynasty and his people failed and sacrificed in the intense final battle. 

  • 1271: Kublai Khan established the Yuan Dynasty, as the Emperor Shizu of Yuan. 

 

  • 1279: The Yuan Dynasty defeated the last force of the Southern Song Dynasty, and unified the whole of the nation. 

 

  • 1303: The Four Mongol Khanates all respected the Yuan Dynasty as their Suzerain.

 

  • 1351: Outburst of nationwide, large-scale uprisings. 

 

  • 1368: Toghon Temür, the last emperor of the Yuan Dynasty, escaped northward to the outside of the Great Wall when Zhu Yuanzhang's army was arriving. 

  • 1368: Zhu Yuanzhang, the Hongwu Emperor, or Emperor Taizu of Ming, established the Ming Dynasty in Nanjing City. 

 

  • 1388: General Lan Yu of the Ming Dynasty defeated the last main force (around 100,000 soldiers) of the former Yuan Dynasty, and achieved big success in the final battle. 

 

  • 1399 — 1402: Prince Zhu Di rebelled, and snatched the throne through the Incident of Jingnan. 

 

He claimed the throne as the Yongle Emperor or Emperor Chengzu of Ming, after having won the war. 

 

  • 1405: Great explorer Zheng He started his unprecedented voyages.

 

 

  • 1407: Publication of the world’s largest known Encyclopedia, the Yongle Da Dian. 

 

  • 1421: The Ming Dynasty moved its capital to Beijing City.

 

  • 1449: Zhu Qizhen, the Zhengtong Emperor or Emperor Yingzong of Ming, led his army to march northward to fight against the invasive Oriats Mongols but got captured.

 

The main force of the Ming Dynasty has perished in this big failure, and the Oriats Mongols besieged Beijing City. 

  • 1449: Hero Yu Qian led Ming’s people successfully defended Beijing City, and expelled the Oriats Mongols. 

 

  • 1506: Wang Yangming formed the new branch of Neo-Confucianism in ancient China, the School of the Mind. 

 

  • 1578: Li Shizhen finished the masterpiece Compendium of Materia Medica (Ben Cao Gang Mu), the most complete and comprehensive medical book in the history of traditional Chinese medicine. 

 

  • 1573 — 1582: Prime Minister Zhang Juzheng implemented a series of reforms that prospered the Ming Dynasty. 

 

  • 1592 — 1600: Three Great Military Campaigns of Wanli Emperor, in which the Ming Dynasty successfully defeated the domestic rebellions in the north and southwest China, and the Japanese that invaded the Joseon Dynasty.

 

Ming Empire achieved big military success but also had depleted a great deal of money. 

 

  • 1616: Manchu Lord Nurhaci established the Jin Kingdom in northeast China, and started to fight against the Ming Dynasty.

 

  • 1628: A large-scale peasant rebellion burst out, led by Li Zicheng. 

 

  • 1636: Manchu Lord Huang Taiji changed his empire’s name to Qing. 

 

  • 1642: General Hong Chengchou of the Ming Dynasty lost a big battle, and then complied with the Qing Empire.

 

  • 1644: Zhu Youjian, the Chongzhen Emperor or the Emperor Sizing of Ming, committed suicide after King Li Zicheng led his peasant uprising army broke into the Beijing City.

  • 1636: Lord Huang Taiji established the Qing Dynasty

 

 

  • 1644 — 1683: The Qing Dynasty defeated all the forces that were trying to recover the Ming Dynasty, and then unified the whole of China.  

 

 

  • 1840 — 1842: Losing of the Opium War and signing of the Treaty of Nanjing with England.

 

  • 1851 — 1872: The largest peasant uprising in ancient China, the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom. 

 

  • 1856 — 1860: Losing of the Second Opium War, and signing of the Treaty of Peking with England and France. 

 

  • 1861 — 1895: Self-Strengthening Movement.

 

  • 1894 — 1895: Losing of the First Sino-Japanese War and signing of the Treaty of Shimonoseki.

 

 

  • 1899: Bursting out of the Boxers Movement.

 

  • 1900 — 1901: Eight-Nation Alliance occupied Beijing City, and signed the Boxer Protocol with the Qing Dynasty. The Boxers Movement was failed since then. 

 

  • 1911: Breaking of the Xinhai Revolution, many provinces announced independence from Qing's reign.  

 

  • 1912: Pu Yi,  the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty, was forced to announce the abdication of the throne, which ended Qing, the last feudal empire in ancient China.