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Period of Disunity

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Subject: Three Kingdoms, Foreign relations of imperial China, Ruan Ji
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Period of Disunity

"Age of Fragmentation" redirects here. It is not to be confused with Era of Fragmentation.
History of China
3 Sovereigns and 5 Emperors
Xia Dynasty c. 2100–c. 1600 BC
Shang Dynasty c. 1600–c. 1046 BC
Zhou Dynasty c. 1045–256 BC
 Western Zhou
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   Spring and Autumn period
   Warring States period
Qin Dynasty 221 BC–206 BC
Han Dynasty 206 BC–220 AD
  Western Han
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  Eastern Han
Three Kingdoms 220–280
  Wei, Shu and Wu
Jin Dynasty 265–420
  Western Jin 16 Kingdoms
  Eastern Jin
Southern and Northern Dynasties
Sui Dynasty 581–618
Tang Dynasty 618–907
  (Second Zhou 690–705)
5 Dynasties and
10 Kingdoms

Liao Dynasty
Song Dynasty
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  Southern Song Jin
Yuan Dynasty 1271–1368
Ming Dynasty 1368–1644
Qing Dynasty 1644–1911
Republic of China 1912–1949
People's Republic
of China

Republic of
China on Taiwan


Six Dynasties (Chinese: 六朝; Pinyin: Liù Cháo; 220 or 222 - 589[1]) is a collective noun for six Chinese dynasties during the periods of the Three Kingdoms (220–280 AD), Jin Dynasty (265–420), and Southern and Northern Dynasties (420–589).

This era immediately followed the fall of the Han Dynasty in 220 AD, and was an era of disunity, instability and warfare. The era ended when Emperor Wen of Sui reunified Southern and Northern China and the Sui Dynasty began.

The term generally refers to two groupings of dynasties during that period:

  • Six dynasties with capitals in Jiankang (the modern day Nanjing), and
  • Six dynasties with legitimate lineage.

Six Dynasties with capitals in Jiankang

The six dynasties were:

  1. Eastern Wu (222–280)
  2. Jin Dynasty (265–420)
  3. Liu Song Dynasty (420–479)
  4. Southern Qi (479–502)
  5. Liang Dynasty (502–557)
  6. Chen Dynasty (557–589)

This listing is based on the states that maintained national capitals at Jiankang near the Yangtze River (Chang Jiang ). Xu Song (许嵩, Xǔ Sōng) in Tang Dynasty wrote a book, Jiankang Shilu (建康实录, Jiànkāng Shílù), that provides a historical account of Jiankang, which gave rise to this scheme of naming.

Six Dynasties with legitimate lineage

These six dynasties were:

  1. Cao Wei (220–265)
  2. Jin Dynasty (265–420)
  3. Liu Song Dynasty (420–479)
  4. Qi Dynasty (479–502)
  5. Liang Dynasty (502–557)
  6. Chen Dynasty (557–589)

Sima Guang, in his book Zizhi Tongjian, used the era names of these six dynasties as the timeline to describe this period of history. Later Chinese called this period the Six Dynasties period, or Wei Jin Southern and Northern Dynasties (魏晋南北朝, Wèi Jìn NánběiCháo).

Poetry in the Six Dynasties

Main article: Six dynasties poetry

The Six Dynasties was an important era in the history of Chinese poetry, especially remarkable for its frank (for Classical Chinese poetry) descriptions of love and beauty. Especially important, and frequently translated into English, is the anthology New Songs from the Jade Terrace, compiled by Xu Ling (507-83), under the patronage of Crown Prince Xiao Gang (Later Emperor Jien Wen) of the Liang Dynasty.[2] Also significant, is the Zi Ye, or "Lady Midnight" style, supposedly originating with an eponymously named fourth-century professional singer of the Jin dynasty.[3]


As the first time in history that major political center of China being located to the south, with surge in population and continual development of economy and culture, this transformed southern China from being remote territories to the economic center that can rival the north from Tang Dynasty onward.

Buddhism, which first reached China in Eastern Han Dynasty, flourished in the Six Dynasties (and simultaneously in the Northern Dynasties) and became a major religion in China since then.

See also


  • Watson, Burton (1971). CHINESE LYRICISM: Shih Poetry from the Second to the Twelfth Century. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-03464-4
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