Three Kingdoms, China Culture

The collapse of the Han dynasty was followed by nearly four centuries of rule by warlords. The age of civil wars and disunity began with the era of the Three Kingdoms (Wei, Shu, and Wu, which had overlapping reigns during the period A.D. 220-80). In later times, fiction and drama greatly romanticized the reputed chivalry of this period. Unity was restored briefly in the early years of the Jin dynasty (A.D. 265-420), but the Jin could not long contain the invasions of the nomadic peoples. In A.D. 317 the Jin court was forced to flee from Luoyang and reestablished.

China Culture

In 9 AD, there was a short break in Han Dynasty control of China. A man named Wang Mang, who was a nephew of the current Han empress, took the throne from the emperor and called his new dynasty the Hsin Dynasty. Wang Mang got into power by promising to take a lot of power and land from the rich people and give it to the poor people.

Three Kingdoms, China

But this turned out to be hard to do. The powerful people defended their land and wouldn't give it up.


Soon everybody hated Wang Mang: the rich people hated him because he tried to take their land, and the poor people hated him because he didn't give them any of the things he had promised.


In 17 AD the poor people in Shandong began a rebellion. They painted their faces red (so they were called the Red Eyebrows) and attacked Wang Mang. Wang Mang's army was defeated, and Wang Mang himself was killed, in 23 AD.


After the revolution, in 25 AD, a Han Dynasty emperor took control of China again. His name was Kuang Wu Ti. Kuang Wu Ti died in 57 AD.


Because the Han were so strong, they were able to fight off the Huns to their north and west. Because of this, the Huns travelled west to Europe, where they were important in the fall of the Roman Empire some hundreds of years later.


In 73 AD, a great general, Pan Ch'ao, went with an army of 70,000 men all the way across Asia to explore. He was gone for 28 years! But when he got back, he was able to tell the emperor all about the Roman Empire.


In the last years of the Han Dynasty, the emperors were not so powerful and so there was a lot of fighting for power between the different parts of the government, and between the government and the poor people in the countryside. The empresses' bodyguards tried to control the government, and so did the rich people who owned a lot of land. So they were always fighting each other. Possibly the first smallpox epidemics in China, about this time, also weakened the country. In 184 AD and 190 AD the poor people rebelled too. The leaders of these rebellions ended up killing more than 2,000 of the bodyguards and destroying the capital city. By 207 AD, the general Ts'ao Ts'ao had managed to get control of northern China for himself. When Ts'ao Ts'ao died in 220 AD, his son decided to remove the last Han emperor, and rule on his own in northern China. Other generals like him took over other parts of China, so China was divided into three kingdoms, called Wei, Shu Han, and Wu.


Kings / Kingdoms

Events In China

Comments / Worldwide Events

Three Kingdoms (220 265 A.D.)

Archeology and Historical Sites
Historical Figures
Maps of Three Kingdoms

Wei Wen Di

(220 227 A.D.)

Cao Pi crowned himself as king of Wei in 220 A.D., and immediately tried to kill his own brothers. Cao Pi forced Cao Zhi to create a poem in seven strides and killed Cao Zhang in a Weiqi game


Wei Ming Di

(227 240 A.D.)

Japan send ambassador to pay tribute to Wei Ming Di.

Wei Fei Di

(240 256 A.D.)

Send ambassador to Japan (240 A.D.). Sima Yi killed Cao Shuang (249 A.D.)

Wei Gao Gui Xian Gong (256 260 A.D.)

Jiang Wei of the Shu kingdom failed in its attack of Wei.

Wei Yuan Di

(260 265 A.D.)

Sima Zhao assassinated king of Wei and instated Wei Yuan Di (260 A.D.). Zhong Hui brought an end to the Shu kingdom (263 A.D.)

Shu (221 263 A.D.)

With the help of Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, Liu Bei crowned himself as king of Shu in 221 A.D. Prime minister Zhuge Kongming conquered the south (225 A.D.). Zhuge Kongming died (234 A.D.) and Fei Wei replaced him as the Prime Minister

Wu (222 280 A.D.)

With the help of talents like Lu Sun, Sun Quan crowned himself as king of Wu in 222 A.D.

itself at Nanjing to the south. The transfer of the capital coincided with China's political fragmentation into a succession of dynasties that was to last from A.D. 304 to 589. During this period the process of sinicization accelerated among the non-Chinese arrivals in the north and among the aboriginal tribesmen in the south. This process was also accompanied by the increasing popularity of Buddhism (introduced into China in the first century A.D.) in both north and south China. Despite the political disunity of the times, there were notable technological advances. The invention of gunpowder (at that time for use only in fireworks) and the wheelbarrow is believed to date from the sixth or seventh century. Advances in medicine, astronomy, and cartography are also noted by historians.

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