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Far East Kingdoms



Continued from China's previous dynasties here.

Tang / T'ang Dynasty
AD 617 - 689

Li Yuan was a rival warlord in north-western China, one of many who had their eyes on the weakening Sui throne. He was supported in his efforts by Khagan Şipi of the Göktürks in Mongolia, a vassal of the Sui until he revolted in 615. Şipi supplied him with two thousand horses and cavalry of five hundred so that the Tang were able to make good progress, especially at the Battle of Huo-i, which virtually finished the Sui as a military force. The emperor was murdered during a coup in 617, which placed Li Yuan in overall command, although he selected to hide that fact for a year with the accession of the puppet Emperor Yang Tong of Sui. Nevertheless, the Tang dynasty is adjudged to have begun in 617.

One of the first great endeavours to be enacted by the Tang was the continuation of the construction of the Grand Canal. Begun in the 600s, it was a vast undertaking which connected together the Yellow River and the Yangtze River towards their eastern reaches, providing a north-south route that suddenly opened up southern China to newfound wealth and expansion as a trading centre. The canal remains a vital part of modern China's industrial efforts. Employing around five million men, around AD 605 the canal reached north to a small town called Beijing (over a thousand years before Europe's industrial revolution). Additionally, by the time of the Tang, a hot drink known for its beneficial effects of health became a mass drink. Tea became a drink for everyone.

(Additional information from The Origin of the Turks and the Turkish Khanate, Gao Yang (Tenth Türk Tarih Kongresi, Ankara 1986), from Türkiye halkının kültür kökenleri: Giriş, beslenme teknikleri, Burhan Oğuz (1976), from The Turks in World History, Carter Vaughin Findley (Oxford University Press 2005), from The Origins of Northern China's Ethnicities, Zhu Xueyuan (Beijing 2004), from Ethnogenesis in the tribal zone: The Shaping of the Turks, Peter Benjamin Golden (2005), from the BBC series, The Story of China, by Michael Wood, first broadcast between 21 January and 25 February 2016, and from Zāwulistān, Kāwulistān and the Land of Bosi, Domenico Agostini & Sören Stark (Studia Iranica, Tome 45, Fascicule 1, 2016).)

617 - 626

Li Yuan / Gaozu / Kao Tsu

Warlord who replaced the Sui.

626 - 649

Taizong / T'ai Tsung / Li Shih-min

627 - 630

During the early years of his reign, Khagan Khieli of the Göktürks makes the mistake of attacking the powerful Tang empire and is defeated by a revolt of the Tiele tribes that is led by the Uyghurs and the Xueyantuo. In 627 he attempts to levy horses from the vassal Tiele tribes after all his livestock are killed during a summer snowstorm. The Tiele revolt as part of a Xueyantuo coalition, and Emperor Taizong wastes no time in allying himself with the Tiele and the Khitans in a joint attack.

Khieli is already facing internal dissent from the Göktürk generals who are jealous of the influence of his Sogdian viziers. Now he is defeated and captured by the Tang (in 630). Emperor Taizong spares his life but he is not allowed to return home. The eastern Göktürks now enter a period of Chinese domination without a khagan of their own. The Western Khagans continue to remain independent.

Map of Central Asia AD 600-700
By the beginning of the seventh century AD, Göktürk power in southern Central Asia was waning while the Sassanids had established a degree of control over the southernmost parts of this region, and various city states had emerged in Sogdiana (click or tap on map to view full sized)

630 - 700

The legendary life of Ti Jen-chieh (Di Renjie), or Judge Dee. In 630 Taizong defeats and imprisons Kara Khieli of the Eastern khagans. Nestorian missionaries arrive in Ch'ang-an in 635. The conquest of the Tarim Basin takes place in 645.

635 - 638

In 635, Raban Abraha, a 'wise man from the west' - perhaps from Persia - decides to bring the Christian scriptures to China, presumably following the Silk Road to the Tang capital at Xi'an. The emperor welcomes him and has the scriptures translated in the imperial library before he considers them in his private apartments. In a culture that welcomes any path to enlightenment, he is deeply convinced of their truthfulness.

Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo
Songtsen Gampo, king of all of Tibet, led a force of mighty horsemen which generally outmatched his Tang Chinese opponents in the seventh century AD

In 638 a stone inscription is created that records the coming of Christianity to China (now one of China's most valuable historical artefacts and national treasures). It records: 'The way for humanity at different times in  different places did not have the same name. And the great sage at different times and different places was not in the same human body. Over history, heaven ordained that true religion would be established in different countries and different climates so that all of humanity may be saved. We have considered the Christian scriptures and have decided that in all their essentials, they are about the core values of humanity, and we decree that they be propagated throughout the empire'.

Marco Polo on the Silk Road
Marco Polo's journey into China along the Silk Road made use of a network of east-west trade routes which had been developed since the time of Greek control of Bactria

639 - 640

A noble of the Eastern Göktürks, Kür Şad, revolts and attacks the Chinese imperial palace with no success. He and his followers flee to the north but are cornered and killed by their pursuers. Following his subjugation of the Göktürks, Emperor Taizong had briefly resettled them within Tang borders, but after a failed Göktürk assassination attempt against him in 639 he changes his mind and decides to move them between the Great Wall and the Gobi Desert, to serve as a buffer between the Tang and the Xueyantuo.

To keep the Göktürks in order he raises Qilibi Khan to the position of khagan of the Göktürks in a weakened recreation of their khaganate. In 640, the protectorate of Anxi is also established in the Tarim Basim, seemingly as a way of finally subjugating and controlling this region.

645 - 647

The Tang invade Koguryo, with Emperor Taizong determined to succeed where the Sui had failed. A number north-western border fortresses are captured and several large armies are defeated. Then a siege against the last fortress in the region - Ansi City - turns into anything but a quick victory. Instead, with winter biting and supplies exhausted, the Tang are forced to withdraw, relinquishing their prizes. Further invasions in 647 and 648 are beaten back.


The emperor sends an emissary to the Indian kingdom of Thaneshwar expecting it to meet Harsha Vardhana but finding a usurper, Arjuna, on the throne.

Tang dynasty goods via the Silk Road
The Tang dynasty prospered greatly from the flow of goods which came in via the burgeoning Silk Road, and some of that prosperity would have reached conquered and occupied Koguryo, despite the unwillingness of the former kingdom's people to be dominated

649 - 683

Gaozong / Kao Tsung


651 - 662

The son and heir-apparent of the last of the Sassanids, Peroz (Pērōz), flees eastwards when his father's kingdom falls. He reaches the yabgu, the Göktürk viceroy in Tokharistan. From there he soon turns for support to the Tang court. The date of his first embassy to the Tang is before 661, before the formal submission of the yabgu to the Tang after the downfall of the western Göktürks. A second embassy is received shortly after April 661. According to the Chinese sources, during the same period - in 653 - the Chinese emperor formally installs Ghar-ilchi as king of Jibin (Kabul).

As a result of the 661 embassy, during the largely nominal reorganisation of the former Göktürk dominions into 'area commands' by the Tang in the same year, Peroz is appointed head of the 'Persia area command' which exists on paper only, with a seat that is claimed to be in Zaranj in Sakastan. Finally, in 662, Peroz is formally invested as 'king of Bosi' by the Tang.

659 - 665

Transoxiana (to the north-east of Persia) is occupied for a short period around the same time as the Islamic empire is conquering Persia itself and setting up the Islamic emirate of Khorasan within parts of the same vast region. The occupation is part of the extended protectorate of Anxi to encompass, partially or totally, the Pamir region, Ferghana, Sogdiana, and Tokharistan, plus Herat in post-Sassanid Aria.

In 661 the Chinese protectorate of the 'Western Regions' is formed which includes Jibin (Kabul), and the Tang emperor confirms Ghar-Ilchi him as Kabul's ruler. However, a local Turkic dynasty soon reigns in Zabulistan, apparently seizing power in Kabulistan from Ghar-ilchi, the last Nezak king to be known by name.


Gaozong invades and conquers the Korean kingdom of Baekje as part of his efforts to weaken Koguryo. Empress Saimei of Baekje's close ally and trading partner in Asuka Japan fully intends to launch an invasion of the rival Silla kingdom which is assisting the Chinese in order to support Baekje's nobility. An army that is made up of Japanese and Baekje troops is assembled and departs soon after the unexpected death of the aging empress.


With Koguryo's defences having crumbled and the Tang and Silla having grabbed the remnants, the conflicts do not end. Chinese occupation of the north is resisted, with the result that forced migrations are imposed on large numbers of people, shifting them to regions around the Yangtze River in China. Silla moves as much of Koguryo's wealth and nobility south into its own core territory.

Tang control of the north is temporarily perpetuated through its 'Protectorate General to Pacify the East', first under a Tang general, and then under Bojang, the final, puppet, king of Koguryo. He is removed in 681 for fomenting rebellion, however.

675 - 677

The Tang attack Silla, defeating its forces in battle. Munmu sends a notice of apology to the Chinese imperial court, which buys him some relief. Almost immediately the Tang are diverted into moving troops to the west to deal with a threat from Tibet, and Silla is able to go back on the offensive. The Tang, stretched on two fronts, are forced to relocate the protectorate's capital in 676, moving it away from Silla to the city of Liaoyang. It is moved again in 677.

679 - 682

In the same year that the occupied Viet state is partially reorganised into the protectorate of Annam, a descendant of the defeated Eastern khagans manages to organise a successful revolt against Chinese rule in 679.

He reunites the tribes with a mixture of diplomacy and war and re-establishes the state. He is given the names İl Teriş and Kutlug, and is aided by Tonyukuk (vizier in 682-721). The Chinese are defeated in 681 and the khaganate is restored in Mongolia.

683 - 689

Chung Tsung

Son of Kao Tsung.

Chou / Zhou Dynasty
AD 689 - 705

Empress regnant of the Tang dynasty, Wu Zetian, claimed ancestry from King Ping of the Eastern Zhou (around fourteen hundred years earlier), through his son Prince Wu. She alters the Tang dynasty name to Zhou, although the change does not survive her death. The Tang are quickly restored.

689 - 705

Empress Wu Zhao / Wu Zetian

Empress regnant.


The Korean General Dae Jung-sang is dead, as is his ally, the Mohe leader Geolsa Biu. Both had been attempting to achieve full independence from Empress Wu Zhou and the creation of an independent state of their own, initially in the Dongmo Mountain area to the north of former Koguryo.

The general's able son, General Dae Joyeong, combines the Mohe forces with his own Koguryo exiles, along with some Malgal tribes to defeat Wu Zhou's forces at the battle of Tianmenling while the Chinese are partially distracted by a Khitan uprising. Dongmo Mountain becomes the capital of his now-independent state of Barhae.

Wei Dynasty
AD 705 - 710

The Wei dynasty is not to be confused with many other usages of the same name in Chinese history, including the Wei who were conquered by the Xia of Bronze Age China around 1766 BC, the Wei state of the 'Warring Sates' era, the Cao Wei dynasty of the 'Three Kingdoms' period, the Northern Wei dynasty of the 'Five Barbarians' period, or the Eastern Wei and Western Wei which were later divisions of the northern kingdom - producing far too many 'weis' to create confusion!


705 - 710


Name unknown.

Tang Dynasty Restoration
AD 710 - 906

By AD 715, the Tang dynasty controlled an empire that would not be matched in terms of its westwards extent until the eighteenth century.


Chung Tsun

710 - 712

Jui Tsung

712 - 756

Hsuan Tsung / Xuanzong


The newly-restored but still somewhat weakened Tang dynasty effectively recognises Ko Wang as king of the Korean state of Barhae by bestowing him with the Chinese title, 'Prince of the Commandery of Bohai' (this being the Mandarin form of Barhae). Bohai had long been a Chinese commandery from the Han dynasty period until the Northern Wei period, at which point it had briefly been renamed Cangshui. Finally it had been abolished early on in the Sui dynasty period.


The rebellion by the ikhshid of Ahsikent is short-lived. He is quickly dealt with by Qutaiba ibn Muslim, Umayyad governor of Greater Khorasan, who appoints a deputy named Alutar to command the city. Then it falls very shortly afterwards to the Chinese General Zhang Xiaosong of Anxi, probably adding to the Umayyad governor's frustrations. Alutar is removed and the previous ikhshid is restored for an unknown period of time.


Emperor Mu of Barhae has spent much of his reign aggressively expanding his state's borders in all directions, although primarily northwards, and often to counter potential or actual Tang gains in the same region. His efforts generate friction with the Tang, Silla, various Mohe tribes which had not initially joined in the formation of Barhae, the Göktürks, and also the Mongolic Kumo Xi of the steppe. Now he launches a raid on Tang empire territory itself, although it amounts to little more than a hit-and-run effort.

739 - 740

A Turk named Arslan Tarkhan conquers Ferghana, virtually at the same time as an invasion is launched by the Umayyad general, Muhammad ibn Khalid Azdi. Nevertheless, the ikhshids of Ferghana are still mentioned in sources. Ferghana is ravaged again in 740 by another Umayyad general, Nasr ibn Sayyar. In 750, Ferghana joins the Chinese forces that are arrayed against the new Abbasid rulers of Islam over the next decade.


Emperor Hsuan Tsung backs a revolt by three Turkic tribes within the Eastern khaganate that are not related to the royal house of Ashina. The Basmıl, Karluk and Uyghur khans rise up and kill Kutluk Yabgu Khagan, allowing Ozmış to be selected as the new khagan. However, after he refuses to accept the suzerainty of the Tang emperor, the uprising is sponsored again so that it kills Ozmış.

744 - 745

Basmıl Khan (known also by the reignal name of Kulun Beg and by the Chinese name of Pomei or Pai Mei) is elected Eastern khagan but the khaganate has already lost the Central Asian steppe. The Tang emperor decides that it is time that the Göktürks were removed entirely, and he sends an army to defeat Basmil Khan. This it does, and Basmil is captured and handed over for execution by the Uyghurs.


The battle of Talas. Arabs defeat the Chinese under Kao Hsien-chih, but advance no further into Central Asia.


When General An Lushan declares his rebellion against the emperor for the killing of his son, he rides straight into Ch'ang-an with his Tibetans. Xuanzong is forced into ignominious flight with his bodyguard and his favourites (concubines). They get as far as the hills before the bodyguard puts down its collective foot and refuses to go any further until the favourites are dispensed with. Helpless, the emperor relents and all of the concubines, even the emperor's beloved Lady Yang, are strung up from the trees, the latter by a silk cord.

This is the point at which the 'Protectorate General to Pacify the East', largely the territory of the former Korean kingdom of Koguryo and the still extant kingdom of Silla, is abandoned. Formal abandonment probably takes place in 761, after the Tang have recovered from the brief rebellion by General An Lushan and his Greater Yen dynasty.

Tang Emperor Xuanzong
Tang Emperor Xuanzong was forced by his own bodyguard to sacrifice his concubines in order to effect his flight to safety, a loss which apparently never left him, so much so that he soon abdicated his lost throne in favour of his son

Greater Yen Dynasty
AD 756 - 761

Far to the north-west, General An Lushan gathered his forces in order to take revenge after the Tang emperor had killed his son. Territory that was under China's control had stretched farther to the west than ever before. Ultimately, it was too far, with too great an expanse to control and too many disparate and fractious tribes to monitor and suppress. Areas of the east were abandoned, not to be regained until the eighteenth century. The crisis point that led to this policy was the eight-year rebellion by An Lushan. Troops were recalled from western outposts and stations, not to return there.

An Lushan took Ch'ang-an without a fight, sweeping in with his mounted Tibetan forces. The Tang emperor fled in the night, with only his bodyguard and his concubines, his authority in tatters. An Lushan was not especially interested in taking his place, though. The result was that central government broke down and China underwent nearly a decade of turmoil, with an enormous number of people being killed or displaced. Something like thirty-five million people who were on the previous census were missing from the next.

(Additional information from the BBC series, The Story of China, by Michael Wood, first broadcast between 21 January and 25 February 2016.)

756 - 757

General An Lushan

Usurper rebel.




Tang Dynasty Restoration (Continued)

By the eighth century the Tang had grown distant from the people they ruled. The life of the imperial court was one of hunting and parties, and they ignored the gathering storm in the west. When General An Lushan declared his rebellion he rode straight into Ch'ang-an with his Tibetans and Emperor Xuanzong was forced into ignominious flight with his bodyguard. The state was destroyed by this sudden attack and flight.

(Additional information from the BBC series, The Story of China, by Michael Wood, first broadcast between 21 January and 25 February 2016.)

756 - 762

Su Tsung


Chinese records cease to mention Lin-Yi (Lâm Ấp), replacing its kings with those of a new dynasty. Moreover, this new dynasty inaugurates the use of posthumous names which indicate the divine presence of the king after his death. This state is named by the Chinese as Huang Wang.

762 - 763

The independence of the Korean state of Barhae from Tang authority is finally recognised by the troubled Chinese dynasty. It formally elevates Barhae in 762, from the status of commandery to kingdom. In the following year the Chinese lose the Tarim Basin to the Tibetans.

Kaifeng in China
The basis for the city of Kaifeng was laid down in 364 BC, by the state of Wei during the Warring States period, although it was greatly rebuilt under the eighth century Tang

762 - 780

Daizong / T'ai Tsung

780 - 805

Tê Tsung

782 - 791

The Tang protectorate of Annam briefly becomes autonomous in the face of declining Chinese domination. Phùng Hưng establishes his rule over the area, although the title of 'king' (the Vietnamese word vương) is only applied posthumously to him.

802 - 809

Jayavarman II, ruler of Lower Chen-La, is a vassal of the Sumatran state of Sri Vijaya. Now he asserts his independence, to unite his state of Aninditapura with Upper Chen-La and other rival fiefdoms (such as Ampil Rolum, Canasapura, and Vyadhapura).

While he is founding the beginnings of the Khmer empire, the old Tang protectorate of Anxi loses its last Chinese controls, its troop numbers having dwindled during the Tibetan wars.

805 - 806

Shun Tsung

806 - 821

Hsien Tsung

821 - 825

Mu Tsung

825 - 827

Ching Tsung

827 - 841

Wen Tsung

841 - 847

Wu Tsung


Unsettled by the continuing destabilisation in China, the Tang have seemingly lost their nerve and have begun to look inwards. In this decade they begin to persecute Buddhists, now convinced that this religion is un-Chinese.

847 - 860

Hsüan Tsung

850 - 866

Northern Annam generally comes under the control of, or is subject to invasion by, the state of Nan-Cho. In 852, a number of mountain chiefs in Annam place themselves under Nan-Chao's protection. Nan-Chao controls or invades Annam in 854 and retains control until the Tang restore their own hold over it in 866, renaming it 'Peaceful Sea Army'.


Despite the inward-looking leadership of the Tang, international trade is still flourishing. The Arab merchant Sulaiman visits the south-western Kerala region of India in this year and attests to the fact that trade with China is strong. Sthanu Ravi Varman of the Chera kingdom in the south is indicated by the Tillaisthanam Inscription as being on friendly terms with Chinese monarch.

860 - 874

Yi Tsung

874 - 889

Hsi Tsung


Effective Tang rule over the 'Peaceful Sea Army' ends. The Tang are continuing their long, slow decline despite having successfully encouraged advancement and high culture in China. The Khúc family begin what is in effect independent rule over Annam.

889 - 904

Chao Tsung

904 - 907

Chao-hsüan Ti

Last Tang emperor. Abdicated.

907 - 1227

In 907 Chao-hsüan Ti abdicates, bringing to an end a period of advancement and high culture in China. Now the state plunges headlong into anarchy. Tartar tribes encroach on China's borders and found several of their own dynasties, ruling areas of China itself. This leads to much instability within Chinese China, and a period of civil war.

Liao (Khitan) Tartar Dynasty
AD 907 - 1125

The Liao empire was located largely in northern China and eastern Mongolia.

(Additional information from A New History of Korea, Lee Ki-baik (1984), from Pacific northeast Asia in prehistory: hunter-fisher-gatherers, farmers, and sociopolitical elites, C Melvin Aikens (WSU Press, 1992), from The Origins of Northern China's Ethnicities, Zhu Xueyuan (Beijing 2004), from A History of Korea, Charles Roger Tennant (Routledge, 1996), and from External Links: Three Kingdoms (Encyclopaedia Britannica), and Capital Cities and Tombs of the Ancient Koguryo Kingdom (UNESCO), and Koguryo (Encyclopaedia Britannica), and Ancient History Encyclopaedia, and New World Encyclopaedia, and History of Manchuria, and Kings of Korea (in Korean), and Korea Information - History (Korean Cultural Center NY), and Ancient tomb with murals discovered in north China (Archaeology News Network), and Tomb Murals Show Life of the Khitans (Ancient Origins).)

925 - 926

The Khitan invade Barhae, with the capital at Sanggyeong being taken after a ten day siege. Following the kingdom's fall and the capture of its king, his son, Crown Prince Dae Gwang-hyeon, leads a swathe of the nobility south into Goryeo. Other nobles are transported by the Khitan into their core territory by the Liao dynasty rulers of China, but sections of the Korean population flee into Goryeo. The Khitan establish the Dongdan kingdom in Barhae's former territory but almost straight away are faced with a restored Barhae enclave called Later Barhae.

Map of East Asia AD 927
In 927 a number of the remaining members of Barhae's royalty, military, and general populace founded the independent successor enclave of Later Barhae out of the core of its eastern territories (click or tap on map to view full sized)


Yelü Bei flees Dongdan to head into China proper during the 'Five Dynasties' civil war period to escape expected assassination by his own people (only to be murdered there in 937). Bei's eldest son remains, however, and it is presumed to be he who succeeds as the subject ruler of Dongdan.


Dongdan is annexed directly under Liao control, but what had been Barhae's eastern territory apparently remains independent. The people of Barhae are staunch in their opposition to their new Khitan rulers, and numerous revival movements take place during the next century, notably that of Heungyo. The first of these, Later Barhae, has already undergone a regime change and is now known as Jeongan.


The volcanic eruption of Paektu Mountain in Manchuria around this time (give or take a few years) may deal a fatal blow to Jeongan's ambitions to remain independent. This violent 'Volcanic Explosivity Index' Level 7 event briefly alters Manchuria's climate (the event is comparable to the explosion of Thera around 1470 BC which had ended Minoan civilisation). Surviving records indicate mass population movements by Koreans into the Khitan-controlled Liaodong peninsula and into Goryeo.

Paektu Mountain, which exploded around AD 946
Paektu Mountain exploded with tremendous force around AD 946, triggering a regional climate catastrophe which resulted in the Korean population evacuating west and south in large numbers, no doubt weakening Jeongan in the process

959 - 960

The death of the Zhou Emperor Shizong sees his six year-old son ascend the throne. The army, which is heading towards the northern border, instantly rebels. The troops select their own commander, Zhao Kuangyin, to be emperor. Zhao turns the army around and marches back towards the capital to found the Song dynasty. His abandonment of the northern border, though, leaves the Khitans and Jurchen unopposed, much to the chagrin of Goryeo.


The poorly-documented destruction of Jeongan at the hands of the Liao dynasty triggers another mass migration of the region's Korean population into Goryeo where they are welcomed with open arms. The majority of the Mohe population remains behind to be dominated by the Khitan for two centuries before founding their own Jin dynasty to control China.

Map of Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms China around AD 951-960
The collapse of the Tang dynasty in AD 907 had ushered in the 'Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms' period of civil war and political division in China, although by the time of this map, AD 951-960, not all of them had survived (click or tap on map to view full sized)


Goryeo has long harboured a natural enmity towards the Khitan and their Liao dynasty thanks to the destruction of Barhae and its subsequent offshoot of Later Barhae. Now the Goryeo-Khitan Wars (which last until 1019) are triggered when Emperor Seongjong of Goryeo receives intelligence that they are about to invade the kingdom.

The first Khitan campaign swarms across the northern countryside, to be met by the much smaller numbers of Goryeo's professionally-trained soldiers. They use a mixture of battlefield tactics, retreats, and guerrilla skirmishes to halt the Khitan advance, making it clear that any furtherance of the invasion is pointless as the casualty rate would be far too high. A peace is obtained through some brilliant negotiation on Goryeo's part, in which it actually gains all of the territory up to the River Amrok as the inheritor and successor of Koguryo and Barhae.

A Khitan mural of musicians
Farmers in Inner Mongolia's autonomous region in 2020 unearthed a series of Khitan murals of the Liao dynasty period, with this one depicting musicians


Following a further failed attack on Goryeo in 1010, the Liao now launch a more concerted effort as they attempt to wrest back Goryeo's northern territories. Unfortunately for them, the Battle of Kwiju sees the Khitan forces being subjected to heavy losses by Korean forces which now know how to handle them. The Khitan withdraw without having achieved any of their ambitions. In fact, their losses are heavy enough to dissuade them from ever returning.

1029 - 1030

Dae Yeon-rim, direct descendant of the kings of Barhae, with all of his supporters and subjects, pronounces the creation of an independent restoration state by the name of Heungyo (with limited support from Goryeo to its south).

The Liao response sees several of Heungyo's castles captured and destroyed until the only one which remains standing houses Dae Yeon-rim and his immediate forces. The would-be king is betrayed by one of his own commanders, Yang Sang-se, who opens the doors to the Liao. The castle is captured and the restoration attempt is quashed.

Map of East Asia AD 1029
Eleventh century Korea in the south and centre of the peninsula was united under the single rule of Goryeo, but an attempt was made to restore at least part of the lost kingdom of Barhae when a relative of its kings pronounced the state of Heungyo (click or tap on map to view full sized)


From the start of his reign, Goryeo's Jeongjong II is intent on continuing the process of fortifying the northern border. The necessity is underlined by an invasion of Goryeo of the northern Khitan tribes, those which are not part of the Liao empire. The invasion is repulsed and the building work continues.


With the Liao fading as a great regional power and now suffering at the hands of the increasingly assertive Jurchen, they send a request for help to Goryeo. The royal court assures the Liao of its lasting loyalty, while the required aid is denied.


The Liao are displaced by the Jin and retreat into Central Asia where they form a short-lived empire, the Qara-Khitaï. Their departure allows the Khamag Mongols to begin to play a more pivotal role on the Mongolian plains.

Civil War Period of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms
AD 907 - 960

With the fall of the Tang, China suffered a near-permanent break up as it plunged into civil war. The soldier poet Wang Renyu witnessed the destruction of his country and recorded that cities had been abandoned, temple courtyards lay in ruins, and a dark time had begun.

After 907 the country fragmented, with Five Dynasties succeeding one another in central China as they fought to survive: Later Liang (907-923), Later Tang (923-936), Later Jin (936-947), Later Han (947-951), and Later Zhou (951-960).

The Ten Kingdoms were: Wu (902-937), Former Shu (907-925), Ma Chu (907-951), Min (909-945), Wuyue (907-978), Southern Han (917-971), Nan Ping (or Jingnan, or even Nanping, 924-960), Later Shu (934-963), Southern Tang (937-975), and Northern Han (951–979). Each dynasty or kingdom was kind by its own warlord who fought the other warlords for control of the former empire.

In addition, there were various external groups, or even states, some of which were Chinese-dominated like Annam, the former Viet protectorate.

The state of Wuyue is not to be confused with the Wu of the 'Spring & Autumn' period or the Eastern Wu of the 'Three Kingdoms' period.

(Information by Peter Kessler and John De Cleene, with additional information from Vietnam: A New History, Christopher Goscha, from Early Mainland Southeast Asia, C Higham (River Books Co, 2014), from Southeast Asia: A Historical Encyclopaedia, from Angkor Wat to East Timor, Keat Gin Ooi (ABC-Clio, 2004), from The Birth of Vietnam, Keith Weller Taylor (California, 1983), from the BBC series, The Story of China, by Michael Wood, first broadcast between 21 January and 25 February 2016, from Times Atlas of World History, Geoffrey Barraclough (Ed, Maplewood, New Jersey, 1979), and from External Links: Vietnam from the 1st to the 10th centuries AD (Vietnam National Museum of History), and Vietnam from the 10th century AD to the mid-20th century AD (Vietnam National Museum of History), and China Highlights.)

1. Later Liang (Posterior Liang) Dynasty
AD 907 - 923

907 - 915

T'ai Tau

915 - 923

Mo Ti

2. T'ang (Posterior) Dynasty
AD 923 - 936

923 - 926

Chuang Tsung

926 - 934

Ming Tsung

934 - 936

Min Ti

3. Tsin / Jin (Posterior) Dynasty
AD 936 - 947

936 - 943

Kao Tsu


Nam Viet briefly reasserts its independence with the founding of the Ngo Dynasty.

943 - 947

Ch'u Ti

4. Han (Posterior) Dynasty
AD 947 - 951

This particular instance of a Han dynasty in Chinese history is not to be confused with the Early Han of 202 BC, the Late Han of AD 23, the Shu Han of the 'Three Kingdoms' period, or even modern Han (or 'China' to much of the rest of the world).

947 - 951

Kao Tsu

Same as Tsin ruler?

5. Chou / Zhou (Posterior) Dynasty
AD 951 - 959

951 - 954

T'ai Tsu

954 - 959

Shih Tsung / Shizong

Dynasty usurped upon his death by General Zhao Kuangyin.

959 - 960

The death of Emperor Shizong sees his six year-old son ascend the throne. The army, which is heading towards the northern border, instantly rebels. The troops select their own commander, Zhao Kuangyin, to be emperor. Zhao turns the army around and marches back towards the capital to found the Song dynasty. His abandonment of the northern border, though, leaves the Khitans and Jurchen unopposed, much to the chagrin of Goryeo.

Map of Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms China around AD 951-960
Five dynastic states, each with some level of claim on the imperial title, formed across this period, opposed by various warlords and pretenders. Ten rival kingdoms also formed out of the chaos or played a part to some extent (click or tap on map to view full sized)


The Southern Han establish their governance over northern Annam. The on-off Khúc kingdom is terminated and Giao province is restored. The native military governor, Khúc Tha M, is captured and forced into exile in Canton. Southern Annam, which consists of Ái and Hoan, remains autonomous under nominal Southern Han suzerainty.


The prefect of occupied Giao province, Ngô Quyn, defeats the Southern Han at the Battle of Bch-đng River, establishing permanent independence. In the following year he drops the Tang titles which have been used by his predecessors, replacing them with the Vietnamese form of 'king'. He founds the Ngo dynasty of a restored Nam Viet kingdom.

Sung / Song (Northern) Dynasty
AD 960 - 1127

The Song brought China out of its dark age and reunited the country. Since the great age of the Tang, China had shrunk dramatically.

The story of Kaifeng and its Song dynasty begins with the birth of two brothers who, like Romulus and Remus, would become the first emperors of the new dynasty. During the preceding Civil War period, a man called Chen Tuan fled to the sacred mountain of Huashan, where he lived in a cave and became a hermit. There he acquired prophetic visionary powers. One day he came off the mountain and whilst travelling on the road he met a crowd of refugees. One of them was a poor man who was carrying two baskets on a pole on his shoulders. Inside the baskets, there were two baby boys, but when he looked at them the hermit saw dragons and he roared out with laughter. Asked why he was laughing, he exclaimed; 'I never expected that the Mandate of Heaven would come back to earth so quickly.'

In 960, the older of the two brothers, Taizu, announced the new dynasty. He made the provincial backwater city of Kaifeng in eastern-central China his capital. and it soon became a vast new metropolis of wood and brick, thrown up in a feverish construction boom. Within a century, Kaifeng had blossomed into the greatest city on Earth, with a level of creativity and inventiveness that surpassed the later European Renaissance. The Song Chinese set out to build the most enlightened society on the planet, with the best governance, housing and food, and the best education and science. Today parts of Song Kaifeng can still be found, although its city walls, continually improved and heightened by later dynasties, now lay over nine metres below ground. The main reason for them being at such a depth is the nearby Yellow River, which frequently floods, depositing tons of yellow mud across the city.

Taoism and Buddhism were the official cults of the Song empire, but religion was not an area around which the government intruded into people's lives. Though always watchful of foreigners, the Song, just like the Tang, had many Muslim and Christian communities, which still survive today. A form of football - 'kick ball' - was also popular at this time. Although not as massively popular as today's game, it was a spectator sport, with clubs, handbooks, rules, and fans. In line with the Song practice of good manners, abusing the referee was un-Confucian, and professional fouls were (almost) unthinkable.

Either in the Tang dynasty period in China (arguably) or the Song dynasty period (certainly), the ancestors of the Kaifeng Jews arrive. Jewish traders do seem to be active in China in the ninth century (Tang dynasty restoration period), with them being proposed as the originators of the first wave of Jewish Diaspora immigration into China, but any date for the start of a specific Kaifeng community is conjectural. Coastal trading settlements certainly do have Jewish populations, especially Hangzhou, Ningbo, and Yangzhou.

(Additional information from the BBC series, The Story of China, by Michael Wood, first broadcast between 21 January and 25 February 2016, and from External Link: Jewish Encyclopaedia.)


Chao Kuang-yin / Zhao Kuangyin

Former Zhou general. Re-imposed unity.

960 - 976

T'ai Tsu / Taizu

Elder brother.

965 - 968

The final stages of Nam Viet's 'Anarchy of the Twelve Warlords' sees the general who has killed the ruling king fail to establish any meaningful rule of his own. The country is being pressured by the Northern Sung at the same time. A rival Viet general, Đinh Bộ Lĩnh, takes control of the situation to form a new ruling dynasty.

976 - 998

T'ai Tsung


Two Northern Sung armies attack Dai Co Viet while a naval fleet sails up the Bạch Đằng river. The Viet fight the fleet but are forced to retreat. Around a thousand Viet sailors are captured and beheaded, along with a number of vessels. Then malaria strikes the invaders, removing up to thirty percent of their strength.

The Viet ruler, Lê Hoàn, ambushes the Sung land forces to the north, at Chi Lăng (near today's Lạng Sơn). This time he is successful, capturing two enemy generals and wiping out half of the Chinese military force. The Northern Sung are forced to abandon their invasion and revert to diplomacy and ties of friendship.

998 - 1023

Chên Tsung


Lý Thái Tổ is recognised by the Northern Sung who are still consolidating their hold over Chinese territories and are in no position to militarily threaten the Dai Viet people. However, they use typical titles and terms of the vassalage which they assign to what they see as a junior state.

1023 - 1064

Jên Tsung


With strong Northern Sung encouragement, the people of Champa have been raiding heavily into southern Dai Viet. Now Lý Thánh Tông leads seaborne invasion, captures the king, Rudravarman III, defeats the Cham army, and burns Vijaya. Rudravarman buys his release by handing over three regions: Địa Lý, Ma Linh, and Bố Chính (Quảng Bình and Quảng Trị provinces in today's Vietnam).

1064 - 1068

Ying Tsung

1068 - 1086

Shên Tsung


Shortly after this date a person called Bi Sheng uses clay to print with moveable typeset - the earliest form of printing. Unfortunately the Chinese do not find printing to be useful to them. Chinese characters are so numerous, with perhaps every character on a single page being different, that printing isn't seen as being economically viable, especially when compared using a single woodblock print. Despite this, literacy is becoming much more accessible for everyone in Song China.

1075 - 1076

The Northern Sung have introduced revolutionary and very fair-minded economic reforms. Nevertheless, these have incensed opponents who would rather retain the old tithe and tribute practices. Lý Nhân Tông of Dai Viet and his regent mother see an opportunity to interfere militarily, sparking the Sino–Vietnamese War of 1075-1076.

The Viet besiege Yongzhou but suffer high casualties due to resistance from inside the city walls. When they finally break through those walls they slaughter close to sixty thousand people.

The Sung response is delivered in 1076 in the form of an invasion of Dai Viet. Sung vassal states - Khmer and Champa - support them. Fortunes swing and both sides win a major battle, but casualties are tremendously high. Both sides are happy to sue for peace and the Sung withdraw, gradually.

Champa subsequently finds itself under attack in several large raids as a result of its hostility. Several Viet successes follow, with the last being in 1104. The southern border is stabilised and raiding is again halted.

1086 - 1101

Chê Tsung


Towards the end of the tenth century, China is on the brink of becoming the first modern society, with the most egalitarian system of government anywhere before modern times. Why this fails to happen is due to events that are beyond the control of the Song, and which will eventually overwhelm them. The last fifty years of Song China witnesses climate change and famine, and the incessant drumbeat of foreign armies on the frontiers. The 'Mandate of Heaven' may not be lost, but the harmony is destroyed.

In 1101, the last great emperor of the united Northern and Southern Song comes to the throne - Huizong. He is a Renaissance prince, one who surrounds himself with poets and thinkers and who himself is an accomplished painter. But as he ventures deeper into his introverted speculations about sacred kingship, he loses touch with reality. When much harder choices are required, choices about military expenditure, defence budgets, and the deployment of armies as the barbarian forces gathered on the frontier, he fails to act.

1101 - 1126

Hui Tsung / Huizong / Qinzong

Captured and died in captivity.


Jin dynasty Tartars sweep down from the north and bring chaos to civilised Song China.

Artwork by Emperor Huizong (1100-1126)
Emperor Huizong was the eighth of the Northern Song emperors and the most artistically accomplished of his imperial line

1126 - 1127

Ch'in Tsung


The Siege of Kaifeng begins. The city holds out, offering bribes of silver and riches to the Jurchen 'barbarians', but in time the food runs out, people start dying in droves, and even acts of cannibalism are rumoured. The city falls, and Huizong and thousands of his courtiers are seized and taken north, where they die in captivity. Huizong's brother, Gaozong, flees south, beyond the reach of the invaders and across the Yangtze River to found the Southern Song dynasty which attempts to hold onto some of the previously glorious civilisation of China. Vast numbers of refugees follow him. The Song are displaced as China's main power by the Jurchen dynasty of Jin.

Hsi-Hsia / Xi Xia (Western Xia / Tangut) Tartar State
AD 990 - (1032) -1227

1209 - 1210

The Mongols under Chingiz Khan campaign against the Hsi-Hsia, forcing the payment of tribute to placate them. As the Mongol camp has been flooded, they accept.

Map of East Asia AD 1029
Eleventh century Korea in the south and centre of the peninsula was united under the single rule of Goryeo, but an attempt was made to restore at least part of the lost kingdom of Barhae when a relative of its kings pronounced the state of Heungyo (click or tap on map to view full sized)

1226 - 1227

Although they had been defeated by the Mongols in 1210, the Hsi-Hsia had not been properly subjugated. Now, with the Jin fighting back against Mongol dominance, they refuse to pay tribute, so the aging Chingiz Khan conducts one final campaign against them, overthrowing them. Their Tarter state is subsumed within the Mongol empire.

Liao (Qara-Khitaï) (Western) Tartar Dynasty
AD 1125 - (1141) -1218

After being ousted from China in 1125, the Qara-Khitaï ruled the Transoxiana region from Samarkand.


The Qara-Khitaï are ousted from China.

1217 - 1218

Conquered by Mongols.

Sung / Song (Southern) Dynasty
AD 1127 - 1279

FeatureFollowing the disastrous destruction of the Northern Song dynasty at the Siege of Kaifeng in 1127, the half-brother of the captured emperor fled south across the Yangtze River. Gaozong founded the Southern Song, creating a focus for the survival of the glorious civilisation which had endured for the previous century and-a-half. Until now in Chinese history, it had been the north that had been the focus of the great kingdoms and empires while the south was somewhat peripheral. Now that changed for the first time. The north was ruled by barbarians. The south was home to China's surviving bastion of civilisation.

The site chosen for the new capital was the then-unimportant town of Hangzhou, standing on the West Lake, one of China's most beautiful locations. In fact, the location may have been the reason that it was chosen at all. Here the Southern Song attempted to recreate the lost civilisation of the north - and they succeeded. When the Italian explorer Marco Polo came here in the thirteenth century, he called it the best city on earth. Out in the countryside, to the south of the river, hundreds of new towns and villages were planted so that they could supply the capital with food, coal, and timber.

Back in the fourth century AD, due to their position in relation to the other 'Sixteen Kingdoms' of this period, the (Liu) Song dynasty has sometimes been referred to as the Southern Song, but this name more properly (and usually) refers to the Song (Southern) dynasty after AD 1127. The addition of 'Liu' to the other Song dynasty name is designed to remove any confusion.

(Additional information from The Mongols, David Morgan (Basil Blackwell, 1986), from The New Islamic Dynasties, Clifford Edmund (Bosworth, Edinburgh University Press, 1996), from Death by Government, RJ Rummel (Transaction Publishers, 1995), from Mathews' Chinese-English Dictionary, Harvard University Press (1972), and from the BBC series, The Story of China, by Michael Wood, first broadcast between 21 January and 25 February 2016.)

1127 - 1163

Kao Tsung / Gaozong

1163 - 1190

Hsiao Tsung


Now weakened and reduced in power, the Song emperor takes the decision to recognise Dai Viet as the kingdom of Annam, an old name which China has refused to drop, but the act means acknowledging Viet equality with the Chinese.

1190 - 1195

Kuang Tsung

1195 - 1225

Ning Tsung

1225 - 1265

Li Tsung


The invasion of the Song empire by the Mongols begins. It is the last of the three Chinese powers to remain independent and unconquered to date. Mongke Khan leads the campaign himself, while entrusting a Near Eastern campaign to Hulegu.


The Mongol general, Uriyangkhadai, demands that Trần Thái Tông of Dai Viet allows his forces passage so that they can attack the Song through their weaker southern border.

The Viet ruler is not impressed by the demands, jailing three successive Mongol envoys. Uriyangkhadai invades the kingdom, defeating the native forces in two large battles over two days: at No Nguyen (today's Viet Tri on the River Hong), and at the Phu Lo bridge. The Tran nobles are forced to evacuate the capital to avoid capture.

After nine days of mopping-up operations, the Mongols head for Song territory to attack the real target while the Tran dynasty is forced to send tribute every three years to the court of the Mongol empire.

1265 - 1275

Tu Tsung

1275 - 1276

Kung Tsung

1276 - 1278

Tuan Tsung

1278 - 1279

Ti Ping

Killed in battle.

1267 - 1276

Hangzhou, the Song capital in the south, is conquered by the Mongols. The great khans now concentrate their rule almost entirely on China itself, forming the Yuan dynasty to rule a united China.


FeatureThe Southern Song are conquered, and with that the great khans concentrate their rule almost entirely on China itself (see feature link), whilst threatening the southern kingdoms such as Dai Viet (from this point the list of Mongol rulers is repeated under the Chinese Yuan dynasty, below).

Yuan (Mongolian) Dynasty
AD 1279 - 1368

FeatureThe Great Khans of the Mongol empire took control of China through a series of conquests, the last of these being the Southern Sung. The Mongol leader, Temüjin, had been named Chingiz Khan by the Chinese emperor, before he and his descendants began conquering China. In 1260-1264, the Mongol empire was engulfed in a civil war between two aspirants for the position of great khan. Kublai and Ariq-Boke were both elected to the position in 1260 at two separate khuriltai, with Kublai basing himself in China and Ariq-Boke at Karakorum. When Kublai was victorious in 1264, he retained China as his main base, implying (or perhaps establishing) China as the most important Mongol possession. It was only a matter of time before China became central to the great khans, and the Mongol dynasty was christened the Yuan by Kublai Khan in 1279, from which time he was emperor of the Chinese as well at great khan of the Mongols.

(Additional information from The Mongols, David Morgan (Basil Blackwell, 1986), from The New Islamic Dynasties, Clifford Edmund (Bosworth, Edinburgh University Press, 1996), from Death by Government, RJ Rummel (Transaction Publishers, 1995), and from Mathews' Chinese-English Dictionary, Harvard University Press (1972).)

1267 - 1279

The Southern Sung are conquered and with that the Great Khans of the Mongols concentrate their rule almost entirely on China itself. With this, effective control of a single Mongol empire has ended, with each of the main ulus (inheritances) now being ruled independently, albeit with nominal control being exercised by the great Kublai during his lifetime.

1279 - 1294

Qubilai / Kublai Khan

Great Khan. Shih Tsu in 1280. Ruled China from 1279.

1274 - 1294

Venetian trader Marco Polo arrives in Kanbaliq on a visit to the court of Kublai Khan. He remains in China for seventeen years, and returns to Venice after completing a diplomatic mission for the emperor. His voyage, opening up new sea routes, contributes to a marked decline in the use of the ancient Silk Road within 150 years of his return home.

Also in 1274, the first Mongol invasion of Japan is defeated through bad weather conditions, with the outnumbered Japanese facing superior and much more modern forces. The defeat is an unexpected one for the otherwise near-universally victorious Mongols.

First Mongol invasion of Japan
This illustration of the first Mongol attempt to invade Japan shows the Mongol fleet being smashed to pieces by the 'divine wind' which saved the Japanese

1277 - 1278

Burma is invaded, and a puppet government is installed there. While it is a victory, it is far from the total conquest and domination that previous great khans would have expected.


The second Mongol invasion of Japan is again defeated through bad weather conditions. The Mongols suffer around seventy-five per cent casualties and a clear limit is set on their expansion in Asia. Japan praises the kamikaze, or 'divine wind', which has saved it twice from invasion.

1284 - 1288

The second Mongol invasion of Dai Viet begins under the command of Toghan, a son of Kublai Khan. They advance simultaneously from the north (the main force) and south (through Champa). The Dai Viet wisely defend and retreat, rarely engaging in heavy combat until circumstances favour them.

Those circumstances turn so that the southern Mongol force is defeated in a pitched battle in April 1285, while the northern force is persuaded through gifts (including the provision of a spare princess) to hold off.

The third Mongol invasion starts in 1287. This time the battle-hardened Dai Viet are ready. The invasion is decisively defeated in 1288 and Mongol ambitions for southern expansion are extinguished.


With the death of Kublai Khan, the Yuan dynasty survives under his successor, but the Mongol empire effectively ceases to exist. There are no further khakhans (great khans), and command of the empire's territory is now permanently divided into four distinct and fully independent kingdoms: the Golden Horde (made up of the Blue Horde and White Horde), the Il-Khanate, Mughulistan, and Yuan China, which incorporates Mongolia and much of southern Siberia, along with governing Tibet through the institution of the Xuanzheng Yuan, and with Korea as a tributary state. Mongolia is governed by the nominated heir to the imperial throne who resides in Karakorum.

1294 - 1307

Temur Öljeytu Khan

Grandson via Crown Prince Zhenjin. Ch'eng Tsung in 1295.


Following his accession, Mahmud Ghazan of the Il-Khanate accepts Islam, marking a departure in the politics of Mongol Persia. From this point onwards, despite Ghazan maintaining strong links with the Yuan, the Il-Khanate becomes increasingly Islamicised, turning away from its Mongol origins.


Temur finds that he has to quell revolts in the mountainous south-west of the Chinese lands. Tribal chieftains such as the female leader Shejie and her contemporary, Song Longji, refuse to submit to the Yuan, so a campaign taking several months has to be undertaken to suppress them.


Thanks to the support of Kaidu of Mughulistan for the opposing faction in the White Horde dynastic conflict, Buyan has won support both from Great Khan Temur and Mahmud Ghazan of the Il-Khanate. Temur now organises a response against Kaidu, ending with the latter's defeat at the bloody Battle of the River Zawkhan. Kaidu dies shortly afterwards.


The Chaghatayids under Du'a and Chapar, son of Kaidu, the Golden Horde under Toqta, and the Il-Khanate under Mahmud Ghazan negotiate peace with Temur Khan so that trade and diplomatic relations are not harmed by constant bickering and fighting. The Yuan emperor is also accepted as the nominal overlord of the three junior Mongol states. As is customary (but not always observed in recent times), Temur designates Öljeytu as the new Il-Khan. Soon afterwards, the former allies Du'a and Chapar fall out over the territory they control within Mughulistan, so Temur backs the rightful ruler, Du'a, and sends a large army into the region in 1306, forcing Chapar to surrender.

1307 - 1311

Qayshan Guluk / Khaisan / Hai-Shan

Son of Darmabala. Wu Tsung in 1308.

1308 - 1309

The Seljuq sultanate of Rum collapses and the area is ruled through regional governors by the Mongols. In the same year, Qayshan nominates Ch'ungson as the successor to King Ch'unguyol of the Koryo kingdom of Korea. In addition, the rebellious Chapar and his key supporters in Mughulistan appear before Qayshan to submit to him, ending the threat posed by them to stability in the empire.

Mongol horse warrior
The Mongols in China, such as this horse archer (a typical Mongol warrior) gradually became more and more Sinicised

1311 - 1320

Ayurparibhadra / Ayurbarwada

Brother. Jên Tsung in 1312.


Following the death of Qayshan and the succession of Ayurparibhadra, their mother, Dagi, leads the aggressive Khunggiad faction in the imperial court to purge it of Qayshan's officials and supporters. Qayshan's son and Ayurparibhadra's agreed successor, Toq-Temur, is driven out. Under Ayurparibhadra, the Yuan become increasingly integrated into Chinese culture.

1320 - 1323

Suddhipala Gege'en / Shidebala

Son. Ying Tsung in 1321. Assassinated.


A promising reign under Suddhipala is cut short when he is assassinated by the embittered former followers of the late Empress Dagi. They carry out the act to avoid possible action against them for supporting Dagi and her (equally late) puppet minister, Temüder. The head of the assassins is Temüder's son, Tegshi. He offers the throne to Yesun-Temur, and he accepts, but not until after he has purged the court of Tegshi's faction to avoid becoming a puppet.

1323 - 1328


Tai-ting Ti in 1324.


Arigaba Aragibag / Ragibagh

Son. Defeated by his rival.


Arigaba succeeds his father, installed by Yesun-Temur's Muslim aide, Dawlat Shah. Before that succession can be made official, an uprising is triggered by nobles who are dissatisfied with Yesun-Temur's monopolisation of power under a few select and very powerful officials. Arigaba leads an army against them but their commander, a Mongolised Kipchak general named El Temür, defeats them. The capital is seized by El Temür and Jayaatu Khan while Arigaba disappears, presumably murdered.

Kipchak mounted warrior
An illustration of a mounted Kipchack warrior, typical of the waves of migrants who swept westwards from the Kazak steppe during the eleventh and twelfth centuries, but who also served with the Mongol armies

1328 - 1329

Jayaatu Khan / Jijaghatu Toq-Temur

Son of Qayshan. Ming Tsung in 1329.

1328 - 1329

During the successful campaign by El Temür and Jayaatu Khan to capture the imperial throne, Qoshila Qutuqtu begins his own campaign against them in Mongolia. He enters Mongolia from the Tarbagatai region of the Khangai Mountains with support from the Chaghatayid khans, Eljigedey and Du'a Temur. The nobles of Mongolia also support him, so he has himself declared emperor on 27 February at a location to the north of Karakorum. Jayaatu Khan recognises that he has been defeated and abdicates.


Khutughtu Khan / Qoshila Qutuqtu

Wen Tsung? In 1330? Died suddenly.


Ruling as Khutughtu Khan, Qoshila accepts Jayaatu Khan as his heir and the two meet at a banquet. The new khan is busy filling imperial positions with his own people so it seems likely that it is El Temür who is responsible for his unexpected death just four days after the banquet, probably because he fears losing his own power and influence to other Mongols and Chaghatayids (however, conflicting sources state that the khan's own son, Toghan-Temur, is responsible). Now Jayaatu Khan is able to resume his position on the throne after the briefest of interludes.

1329 - 1332

Jayaatu Khan / Jijaghatu Toq-Temur

Restored as Khutughtu Khan's heir.


Jayaatu Khan's own son and designated heir, Aratnadara, has already died just just a month after being nominated in 1331. As a result, Jayaatu nominates Toghan-Temur as his heir. El Temür resists this as it is Toghan-Temur who is strongly suspected of murdering his father (lending support to the alternative report for this event in 1329). Instead, Toghan-Temur's younger brother, Rinchenpal, is nominated, and duly succeeds upon Jayaatu's death.

1332 - 1333

Rinchenpal Irinchibal / Rinchinbal Khan

Son of Qoshila. Aged 6 at accession. Died 53 days later.

1333 - 1368


Brother. Shun Ti in 1333. Fled to Mongolia. Died in Karakorum.


The Red Turban Army is created as a result of opposition to the faltering, unpopular, and despotic Mongol rulers by the followers of the White Lotus sect of Buddhism. Kuo Tsu-hsing founds the army, named after the red turbans its members wear and the red banners they carry. The rebellion starts slowly, with Yuan officials being assaulted, but it blossoms, although overtures towards the Korean Koryo are repulsed militarily by Ch'unajong.

Red Turban warrior fighting a Mongol
A Mongol warrior defends himself against a Red Turban Army warrior of Goryeo, with his characteristic red headband


When an armed White Lotus rebellion is uncovered and terminated, along with one of the army's prominant leaders, others come forward to establish the Red Turban Army. This sparks similar rebellions to the south of the Yangtze River which collectively use the name Southern Red Turbans.

1356 - 1367

One of the more prominent Red Turban Army leaders is Chu Yüan-chang (Zhu Yuanzhang). He carries out a series of campaigns against his own Red Turban Army rivals until he is dominant. Then he leads the popular fight against the Yuan emperor.


The Mongols are expelled from China by Chu Yüan-chang when he captures Dadu (modern Beijing). Toghan-Temur flees to Mongolia and dies in Karakorum two years later, while Chu Yüan-chang seizes the throne and is proclaimed the first Ming emperor of a reunited China. This act effectively dissolves the Mongol empire. The surviving khanates, the Blue Horde, White Horde, and Chaghatayids (the Il-Khans have already fallen), are now ruled as entirely independent kingdoms in their own right. The descendents of Kublai Khan and the great khans continue to rule locally in Mongolia until the seventeenth century, and are known to China as the Northern Yuan.

Ming (Bright) Dynasty
AD 1368 - 1644

FeatureThe founder of the Ming dynasty, Chu Yüan-chang (Zhu Yuanzhang), came from the poorest of peasant families. His mother and father had given him away when he was a child, after which he had spent years as a wandering beggar, and as a penniless Buddhist monk. He'd risen through the ranks of the secret peasant societies that were fighting against the increasingly unpopular Yuan dynasty emperors, and won a series of staggering victories. He quickly became a key leader in the Red Turban Army, a rebel military force that was created to provide a unified opposition to the Yuan. Once he had reached a senior position within the Red Turban Army, Chu Yüan-chang showed a level of single-minded ruthlessness in opposing and defeating his rivals for overall command of the army. Ultimately, this single-minded determination from this course, often brutal peasant warrior was instrumental in providing China with a force that could destroy the Yuan.

It was he who expelled the Mongols when he captured Dadu (modern Beijing). The last Yuan emperor, Toghan-Temur, fled to Mongolia and died in Karakorum just two years later, while Chu Yüan-chang seized the now-vacant throne and was proclaimed the first Ming emperor of a reunited China. This act effectively served to dissolve the once-mighty Mongol empire, and China was back in Chinese hands. Under the Ming, China entered its most dazzling age. The new dynasty was to be called 'the bringer of light' Ming. After driving out the last of the Mongols in 1368, Chu Yüan-chang's stronghold at Nanjing became China's new capital. Setting out to rebuild the Chinese state, he used force and fear, surrounding his capital with giant walls (thirty-three kilometres of them) to show the might and legitimacy of Ming rule.

Chu Yüan-chang had been an outlaw in the hills, and his bitter experience of the time of anarchy drove him to compile an all-embracing set of laws and punishments - the Great Ming Code. It drew on a thousand years of Chinese law, but its severity has never been forgotten. He registered all land to make taxes fairer, he had irrigation systems built, and reduced the demands for forced labour, but punishments for breaking the law could be swift and merciless, including execution for convicted murderers. His reign would be a turning point in Chinese history for another reason. He concentrated power in the person of the emperor himself - something that would prove a dangerous legacy.

The names of Ming dynasty emperors can be a confusing experience. They would start with a birth name and a family name (the latter being the name of their father or royal house), and then a given name which is what sees them through much of their life. This is subject to alteration by the person concerned - Chu Yüan-chang amended his name when he started gaining power amongst the rebel leaders. Then there is a courtesy name, bestowed upon reaching adulthood to be used alongside one's given name. Then there is an era name that is acquired along with the imperial throne (these are shown in the notes for each emperor, below). The emperor could often be known by his era name rather than his given name - so that Chu Yüan-chang is commonly known as the Hongwu emperor. Finally there is a posthumous name and a temple name. The former could be vastly elaborate (Chu Yüan-chang has eleven such names), whilst the temple name is often two short names combined. Where possible, the given name and then posthumous or temple name is shown here. None of that even starts to cover the multiple various spellings for each and every name.

(Additional information from Eighth Voyage of the Dragon, Bruce Swanson (Naval Institute Press, 1982), and from the BBC series, The Story of China, by Michael Wood, first broadcast between 21 January and 25 February 2016.)

1368 - 1398

Chu Yüan-chang / T'ai Tsu / Taizu

Ruled most of southern China from 1366. Hongwu Era.

1372 - 1373

Not content with kicking the Mongols out of China, Chu Yüan-chang (nicknamed Hongwu) begins a military push into Mongolia. Mongol General Köke Temür, the half-Chinese grandson of a Mongolian prince who had been known as Wang Baobao during the Yuan dynasty days) leads the defence of Mongolia. In 1373 he defeats 15,000 Ming soldiers at the River Orkhon. The Mongols recapture Funin and Suijin districts in Sinhe, Liaoning and Hebei provinces, cutting off the Ming from Liadong with the help of the Jurchen (former rulers of the Jin dynasty which itself had been defeated by the Mongols).

Hongwu emperor
The Hongwu emperor (also known by his posthumous temple name, Tàizǔ) came to power amid violence, and his Ming dynasty reign remained fragile in its early years

1380 - 1381

Chu Yüan-chang invades Mongolia again, reaching Karakorum, which is looted. Other Mongol cities are also attacked and looted, but a further invasion the following year is repulsed. However, the Yuan loyalists who had been holding out in the southern Chinese territory of Yunnan are finally defeated in the same year.

1387 - 1388

A Mongolian official in the former north-eastern Chinese province of Liaoyang (now in Mongolian hands) invades Liaodong. Nahachu envisions a restoration of the Yuan dynasty in China, but he and his army of about 200,000, suffering in the midst of a famine, are persuaded to surrender by Ming diplomacy.


The third grouping of Mongols, the Uriyangkhai, surrender to the Ming, along with some Borjigin princes. Led by Ukshal Khan's former minister, Necelai, the Mongols are divided by the Ming into three sub-groups, known as the Three Guards: Doyin, Fuyu, and Tai'nin. They are settled as a buffer force in territory that becomes the modern Inner Mongolia. Necelai is killed by Shirmen, the late Mongol khan's chingsang who is now allied to Jorightu Khan.

1398 - 1402

The death of the mighty Chu Yüan-chang plunges China into crisis. Civil War erupts between rival claimants. The late emperor's chosen successor is his grandson, Yunwen. The boy's uncles rise up against him in the Jingnan Rebellion which lasts for the rest of his reign.

1398 - 1402

Yunwen / Hui Ti

Grandson. Chien-wen / Jianwen Era.

1402 - 1424

Ch'eng Tsu / Zhu Di / 'Yongle'

Uncle. Yung-Lo / Yongle Era.

1402 - 1403

Ch'eng Tsu's era name is Yongle - 'Perpetual Happiness' - which is a sure sign that he is a tyrant to be avoided. Having removed his nephew, he ruthlessly purges his enemies amid rumours that he is in fact an illegitimate son of the late Hongwu emperor. Those who refuse to sign a statement confirming his legitimacy are executed along with their families. One steadfast old minister is executed along with all family members to the tenth degree of separation.

In 1403, he orders the building of a new capital at his own power-base seven hundred miles to the north. There, on top of the old Mongol capital, he builds a vast new city which is named Beijing (translated from Chinese as 'Peking' until the late twentieth century). This is the beginnings of the Forbidden City which even today lays at the heart of Beijing. Construction takes a million men a total of twenty years.

Ming dynasty troops
Ming Emperor Zhu Di (1360-1424) took power in the early fifteenth century after a series of bloody rebellions involving close relatives, after which he took the throne name 'Yongle'

1405 - 1433

FeatureThe Muslim eunuch Admiral Zheng He is placed in command of a large fleet that is sent on seven great voyages of discovery in this period. The fleet numbers sixty-three ocean-going vessels, the biggest of them with 28,000 crew. The expeditions are not exploratory, or trade-related, but are intended to impress the world with the magnificence of China's glory and to collect tribute. The great Ming voyages are made possible by Chinese inventions - the stern rudder, watertight compartments, and the magnetic compass, which had been invented under the Tang emperors.

1407 - 1428

Dai Ngu is occupied by the Ming during the beginnings of a golden age for Chinese mercantile traffic and prosperity. The birth rate increases so that the country very quickly holds entirely one third of the world's human population.

Ming dynasty troops
The Ming domination of Dai Viet - Annam to them - was brief, quickly succumbing to growing rebellions and a well-resourced armed movement which soon threw out their troops

1409 - 1422

Ch'eng Tsu invades Mongolian lands three times in this period, in 1409, 1414, and 1422. The first time he is repulsed by Öljei Temür Khan, while the Oirats successfully defend Mongolia on the other occasions, showing that the Mongols are still powerful enough to ably defend themselves against Chinese aggression. Continually foiled on the battlefield, the emperor begins a policy of politically dividing the Mongols by conspiring to encourage internecine feuding.


The Mongols under Delbeg are defeated in a pyrrhic victory for the Ming in which nothing is really gained. Despite penetrating as far as the River Tuul, the Ming subsequently withdraw.


Recent events have involved various incidents being initiated by Japanese pirates - wokou - who are based on Tsushima Island. The latest concerns a wakou raid on Ming China which has stopped off along the way to raid two Korean counties. The attack becomes a major political row between the two states.

The wokou raids continue along the Chinese coast during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The Ming authorities are ineffectual in fending them off with the result that the large coastal trading ports are badly affected. Jewish Diaspora communities in all of them become extinct, largely leaving only the Kaifeng Jews in China.

1424 - 1425

Gaochi / Jen Tsung

Son. Hung-hsi / Hongxi Era.

1425 - 1435

Zhanji / Hsüan Tsung

Son. Hsuan-te / Xuande Era.

1427 - 1428

Rebellion is resurrected in Dai Viet and, with the Ming forces beginning a withdrawal, A figurehead emperor with connections to the previous Early Tran native dynasty now heads the cause. The rebellion sweeps away the last Ming controls with a series of overwhelming victories.

Now militarily strong and well-armed from captured Ming stocks (which include early muskets), the unwanted Viet emperor is quickly disposed of and the Later Le dynasty replaces it in a free Viet state.

1435 - 1449

Qizhen / Ying Tsung

Son. Cheng-T'ung / Zhengtong Era.


The Mongol warlord, Esen Tayisi, has been leading diplomatic attempts to negotiate with Emperor Qizhen to improve trading conditions with China. Finding that he has been rebuffed, Esen Tayisi leads a startling military campaign which defeats a force of 50,000 Chinese, captures the emperor, and besieges Beijing.

The emperor is captured and imprisoned for a year - the greatest military fiasco in Ming history. The fact that the Chinese raise his brother to the throne reduces his worth as a prisoner. He is released, accorded the flattering but powerless title of 'grand emperor' and is forced to live in obscurity for eight years.

Ming artillery
Ming artillery was no defence against the campaign conducted by Mongol Esen Tayisi, and Chinese defeat at the Battle of Tamu Fortress meant the capture and imprisonment of the twenty-one year-old Emperor Qizhen himself

1450 - 1457

Qiyu / T'ai Tsung

Brother. Ching-t'ai / Jingtai Era. Dethroned and died.


The Chinese reaction to the humiliating defeat by the Mongols is virtually instantaneous. A massive rebuilding programme is launched along the Great Wall, and a new mood of defensiveness grips the court. The Juyongguan Pass through the Wall is one of the most famous passes in Chinese history, known as the 'First Fortress of the World'. It is as important in Chinese history as the Khyber Pass is in the history of India.

1457 - 1464

Qizhen / Ying Tsung

Restored. T'ien-shun / Tianshun Era.

1464 - 1487

Jianshen / Hsien Tsung

Son. Ch'eng-hua / Chenghua Era.

1487 - 1505

Youcheng / Hsiao Tsung

Son. Hung-chih / Hongzhi Era.

1505 - 1521

Houzhao / Wu Tsung

Son. Cheng-te / Zhengde Era.

1521 - 1567

Houcong / Shih Tsung

Cousin. Chia-tsing / Jiajing Era.

1535 - 1557

Ming China has been changing, especially in the rich cities of the south, such as Suzhou. What had begun as an agricultural state with a stifling command economy has given birth to a growing market economy and a new urban moneyed class, while the emperors themselves become gradually more isolated from their people, shut up in the Forbidden City.

Suzhou is somewhat like Renaissance Florence, with its high culture and its palaces and mansions. Also, having made an initial exploratory voyage in 1513-1514, the Portuguese are allowed to begin trading at Macau in 1535, and by 1557 they are allowed to establish a permanent base.

The founding of a base at Macau is not part of a formal treaty. Instead, the Ming government looks after them very carefully. They have a landward wall that is garrisoned in order to make sure that they don't venture out except at the allotted times - twice a year, when they can sail to Canton to trade. Despite the restrictions, it is Europe's first foothold.

1547 - 1551

The Mongol ruler, Daraisung Guden Khan, is unable to quash the growing power and arrogance of Altan Khan of the Tümet Mongol subgroup. Altan Khan forces Daraisung to flee eastwards, and the two only come to a compromise in 1551. Altan accepts Daraisung's suzerainty in return for being granted the title 'Geegen Khan' for himself. The more senior khan has to relocate his capital to a location near Manchuria, and his distance from the heartland of Mongol territory engenders a further decline in the authority of his position.

1567 - 1572

Zaihou / Mu Tsung

Son. Lung-ch'ing / Longqing Era.

1572 - 1620

Yijun / Shên Tsung

Son. Wan-Li / Wanli Era.


In August a visitor arrives at the tiny Portuguese trading post of Macau on the South China Sea. He is an Italian Jesuit called Matteo Ricci, and his mission is to convert China to Christianity. He spends the next fifteen years learning to speak Chinese like a native.

1598 - 1610

Father Matteo Ricci sets off overland towards Beijing, writing about his travels as he goes, and spending the rest of his life in this country (he dies in 1610). Once at his destination he prepares a map of the world for the emperor, thanks to which the Chinese learn of new continents and see that the world is far bigger than they have ever imagined. In Ricci's western science, the mandarins find even more astonishing revelations - that the world is apparently a sphere that 'hangs' in space. The Chinese lunar calendar is replaced with a solar calendar, which is much more accurate.


The existence of a Jewish Diaspora population in China remains unknown to Europeans until the arrival of the Jesuits. In 1605 the Jesuit priest, Matteo Ricci, is visited in Beijing by a Chinese official from Kaifeng. The official, Ai Tian, explains that he is a member of a thousand-strong Israelite congregation which worships one god. The congregation of Kaifeng Jews is unfamiliar with the word 'Jew' but it does possess a splendid synagogue.


Gwanghaegun's attempts to strike a balance for Joseon in relations between the equally powerful Ming and the Manchu stumble and fall, with the Battle of Sarhū being the final straw. Having annoyed both sides with his attempts at appeasement he is forced into sending ten thousand troops to aid the Ming, but the battle is an overwhelming Manchu victory. Gwanghaegun negotiates an independent peace with the Manchus.


Changluo / Kuang Tsung

Son. T'ai-ch'ang / Taichang Era.

1620 - 1627

Youxiao / Hsi Tsung

Son. T'ien-ch'i / Tiangi Era.


The 'Later Jin Invasion' of Joseon is led by Prince Amin of the Later Jin, with the invasion spurred on by continued fighting against the Ming and by survivors of the coup attempt of 1624 having fled to the Jin court. Three months of fighting follow, with the Later Jin establishing Joseon as a submissive state (but not a vassal until an attempt in 1636).

1627 - 1644

Youjian / Szu Tsung

Brother. Ch'ung-chen Era. Hanged himself at Manchu approach.


Legdan Hutuhtu Khan is the last of the Borjigin khans, ruling from Chahar. He has been unpopular and has treated his fellow Mongols harshly, while pursuing an alliance with the Ming. Two of the Mongol subgroups under his direct rule, the Jarud and Khorchin, have been intermarrying with the Manchu, and the khan's court has lost most of its authority to them. Legdan's death signals the end of the khanship that has descended directly from Chingiz Khan and a virtual surrendering of Inner Mongolia to the Manchu.


Before heading off to invade and quell resistance to his overlordship in Joseon, Khan Hong Taiji of the newly-establish Qin dynasty Manchu first tests his warriors in a raid on the Ming capital, where they are able to get as close as the Marco Polo bridge before being repelled. This proves the weakness of Ming defences.


Pei-ching (Beijing) is occupied by rebels, the emperor commits suicide, and the rebels are thrown out by the Tungusic Manchu. A Manchu dynastic occupation begins in the north of China, while an independent remnant of the Ming briefly survives in the south.

Ming empire troops
With the troops of the Ming empire defeated, the Ming were forced to withdraw to southern and central China while the Manchu claimed the north and prepared to complete their conquest

Ming (Southern) Dynasty
AD 1644 - 1662

1644 - 1645

Fu Wang, Prince of Fu / Chu Yu-sung

Hung-kuang / Hong-guang Era.

1645 - 1646

Tang Wang / Chu Yü-chien

Lung-wu Era.

1646 - 1662

Yung-ming Wang / Chu Yu-lang

Yung-li Era.


The emperor is captured in Burma in 1661, and executed by the Manchus in 1662. This puts to an end the rump Ming state in the south and allows the Manchu to unite the country under their rule.

Manchu Ch'ing / Qin (Clear) Dynasty
AD 1644 - 1911

FeatureThe Manchu originally were a Tungusic people who inhabited the region of Manchuria (modern north-eastern China). They adopted the Manchu name in the seventeenth century, having previously been known as the Jurchen, rulers of the Jin dynasty of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. In 1634 they conquered the weakening Chahar Mongols, securing Inner Mongolia.

Their invasion of China began in the north. Pei-ching (Beijing) had been occupied by rebels and the emperor had committed suicide. The Manchu saw their opportunity and swept in to throw out the rebels. They subsequently occupied the north themselves while the independent remnant of the Ming briefly survived in the south. When the city of Yangzhou resisted the Manchu, it was plundered and burned in a ten-day reign of terror. A total of 300,000 people died. Afterwards, the writer Zhang Dai visited the West Lake in Hangzhou, once China's paradise on earth. As he sailed along the shore, he was shocked by the aftermath of the fighting. Overall the conquest took thirty years, reaching a bloody climax in the 1670s.

The Chinese themselves saw the Manchu as barbarians. However, they integrated themselves into Chinese society and provided the leadership and impetus for a general rebuilding process following the storm of a change of dynasty. They also provided the last imperial dynasty in China (to date) and created what became modern China. Even today, it takes about seven hours to fly between Beijing and Kashgar, capital of Xinjiang province in the far west, but the Manchu covered the 4,345 kilometres (2,700 miles) by road. They brought this distant region into the empire, defeating the Yongle Mongols in the process, and defined their estate not as an exclusively Han civilisation but a multi-ethnic one. For the first time since the Tang, China ruled over the Central Asian peoples of Xinjiang.

Known to twentieth century historians as the Ch'ing, fine-tuning of Chinese-to-English translations at the end of the century revised this as Qin, although Qing is also used (and should not be confused with the ancient Qin dynasty). As with the Ming before them, the Manchu dynasty emperors used an era name that was acquired along with the imperial throne (these are shown in the notes for each emperor, below). The emperor could often be known by his era name rather than his given name - so that the second Manchu emperor, Shêng Tsu, is commonly known as the Kangxi emperor.

(Additional information from the BBC series, The Story of China, by Michael Wood, first broadcast between 21 January and 25 February 2016, and from External Links: Britannica.com, and Jewish Encyclopaedia.)

1644 - 1662

Shih Tsu

Succeeded Manchu Hong Taiji. Led conquest of China. No Era.

1654 - 1658

Joseon's new, expanded army - created with the intention of attacking the Qin - is instead put to use in aiding the Qin to defeat a Russian expedition to the far north. The Russians are defeated at the Battle of Hutong (today's Yilan in far north-western China). A second Russian expedition into Qin lands in 1658 is similarly ejected by combined Qin and Joseon forces.

Qin dynasty courtly dress
While the Mac of Dai Viet were refusing to give up dreams of ruling a united Viet country, their Ming overlords were being replaced by the intruding Manchu

1662 - 1723

Shêng Tsu

K'ang-Hsi / Kangxi Era.


With the Ming dynasty having ended in decadence, the new rulers of China see themselves as being men with a far more sober sense of public duty. Emperor Shêng Tsu, generally known as Kangxi, the upright one, is certainly such a man. He is the first of three great Qin emperors - father, son, and grandson - who rule for a total of one hundred and thirty-three years. Between them they build China's largest empire, and create the essential shape of modern China.

1673 - 1681

The Manchu invasion and conquest of China climaxes in this decade. A savage struggle takes place in the south when three great provinces rise against the Manchu and their teenage emperor, Kangxi, known as the 'Revolt of the Three Feudatories', or the 'Rebellion of Wu Sangui'.

The war lasts for eight years and, by the end, the Qin government has half a million troops fighting in these wild mountains of the south-west. When the fighting ends in 1681, Kangxi is aged twenty-seven, and will become the longest ruling, and some may say, the greatest of all Chinese emperors.


A series of conflicts begins between the powerful Dzungar khanate and the Manchu, the latter aided by their Mongolian vassals. The various confrontations last until 1758, with the nomadic Dzungars forming perhaps the last such Mongol state in the style of its predecessor state, the Mongol empire.

During this period China triples its population, from one hundred million to three hundred million, in part due to the introduction of maize. Maize cultivation does not require rich soil or irrigation, so the Chinese spread into more mountainous areas of Guizhou, Yunan, and Sichuan, often at the expense of native Miao inhabitants, including the Hmong.


The Treaty of Nerchinsk is signed, the first treaty between Russia and Qin China. It delineates the border between their respective empires, largely placing the hunter-gatherer Tungusic peoples on the Russian side while China dominates the sedentary groups around the River Amur.

1723 - 1736

Shih Tsung

Son. Yung-chêng / Yongzheng Era.

1736 - 1796

Kao Tsung

Son. Ch'ien-Lung / Qianlong Era.


The Dzungar khanate is divided and most of its khans are now appointed by the Manchu Qin themselves. One final revolt by would-be khan, Amursana, is crushed at the battles of Oroi-Jalatu, Khorgos, and Khurungui, and then finally at Mount Khurungui, after which Amursana flees to Russia. Through these victories, the Qin are able to incorporate into China the regions of Outer Mongolia, Tibet, and Xinjiang. These new conquests virtually doubles the size of China. In many large settlement areas of Xinjiang, the Chinese build new cities alongside, with the old town being known as the Uyghur or 'Hui town', and the new one being known as the 'Man town' or 'Han town'.


With the Dzungar khanate having been defeated, the division of the Mongolian Koshut tribe of Oirats which had migrated to the Volga in the seventeenth century now returns to Zungaria where they are resettled by the Qin and survive into modern times.


Nepalese expansion is halted by defeat at the hands of the Chinese in Tibet.


The British are becoming a great power in India, opening up a global trading network for the first time in history. They want to get into the Chinese market but like other European trading nations they have largely been kept out because China is self-sufficient. It is the massively popular tea trade that finally drives Britain to find a solution. If China doesn't have an urgent need for external supplies then one could be created. A small amount of opium is already being requested by Chinese traders, and with India the key to opium growing, lots more can be supplied.

The East India Company begins selling opium to China in large quantities in exchange for large quantities of tea. The profits are high but so is the risk, so the British now send an embassy to China under the command of Sir George McCartney to try and get favoured trading nation status. The eventual meeting with the emperor (delayed because the British will not kow-tow) is disappointingly negative, so the East India Company decides to continue to smuggle in larger quantities of opium.

1796 - 1821

Jên Tsung

Son. Chia-ch'ing / Jiaqing Era.

1821 - 1851

Hsüan Tsung

Son. Tao-kuang / Daoguang Era.


By this time opium addiction has become socially visible, following a steady increase in recorded cases between the 1790s and 1830s. There are opium dens on many streets, and people are dying of their addictions, dozing off on the street and not waking up. It's becoming a social problem.


A poor tutor by the name of Hong Huoxiu is in Guangzhou to take the provincial civil service examinations (which he fails, twice). While there he come across an American missionary, the Reverend Edwin Stevens, who is illegally handing out Christian pamphlets. Hong sees in the pamphlet the story of Noah and the flood and reads his own name, 'Hong, literally, the flood - God's instrument to punish humanity for failing to follow the path of righteousness. Gradually forming the opinion that he himself is God's Chinese son (and the younger brother of Jesus), Hong is soon forced to move far to the west, to the isolated country around Guangxi, where he forms a sect of followers who are also of his Hakka minority group.


Shocked by the social effects of the opium trade and by its drain on their silver supply, the emperor and his advisors appoint the incorruptible Commissioner Lin to lead the fight against it (incorruptible because bribery is rife and there is a great fortune to be made from corruption). Lin gives the order to destroy all of the opium held in British warehouses, and in June 1839 a total of 1,200 tonnes of it is burnt, mixed with lime, and dumped into ponds by a force of five hundred workers. It takes them more then three weeks to complete the job.

Perhaps naively, the commissioner writes to Queen Victoria begging to know by what right such a distant country sells such destruction in China, while still stating 'they [the opium traders] may not necessarily intend to hurt us but, by putting profit above all things, they are disregarding the harm they do to others'. However, China seems unaware of the shift in world power towards the European maritime nations which can now reach right into the heart of the empire with their sailing vessels (much as Vikings had reached into the heart of European states a millennium before). In fact, all they have done is trigger the First Opium War.


In the first days of the new year, a British naval task force enters the Pearl River carrying native Indian infantry. It is a highly mobile force that the static Chinese defences are incapable of stopping. Their key attack weapon is an almost-sixty-one metre-long iron vessel with swivel and pivot-mounted heavy weaponry and a rocket launcher. The flagship Chinese junk is obliterated in a colossal explosion when its powder store is truck by the rocket launcher.

The defences are breached, and the British ravage the river's shoreline, storming the port of Ningbo. The Qing government sues for peace at the very location at which, four hundred years before, Admiral Zheng had given thanks after his great exploratory voyages. Here they sign the first of 'The Unequal Treaties'. The British gain trading rights in China, and five treaty ports on the Chinese coast, one of which is the island of Hong Kong, while another is Shanghai.


Chinese immigrants begin to arrive into British colonies such as Jamaica, particularly from Hong Kong and Kwang Tung Province in south-eastern China. The Chinese also tend to be more likely to be indentured servants.


The Taiping Rebellion pits the Qin against the Taiping 'Heavenly Kingdom' under the leadership of Hong Huoxiu from 1850 until 1864. The Qin begin by attacking the increasingly powerful Taiping in their home province of Guangxi on 1 January 1851.

The war escalates so that, in 1853, the Taiping seize Nanjing and Hong declares it to be his capital. The subsequent fighting rages back and forth for over a decade, with the Akha people participating alongside the rebels.

1851 - 1862

Wen Tsung

Son. Hsien-fêng / Xianfeng Era.


The Taiping are weakened by internal feuding. Prime Minister Yang Xiuqing, the 'eastern king' (the most powerful of the four regional commanders), plots to seize Hong Huoxiu's throne after disagreements about doctrine. Hong has him murdered, and then wipes out Yang's family and about twenty thousand followers. The bloodletting weakens the Taiping, as they become more involved in their own intrigues and less observant about defeating the Qin. However, the Qin are also weak, and the war continues with some ferocity.


British troops occupy Beijing, effectively ending the Second Opium War and humiliating the Qin dynasty. Many more concessions are forced from the government, including treaty ports that are soon filled with European-style streets lined with European-style villas. The Taiping rebels operating from their capital cities of Nanking and Suzhou capture large areas of imperial China, claiming fully half of it by 1861. The corrupt and ineffective imperial army is in full retreat on all fronts. Desperate to protect Beijing, the Qin minister of war, Lord Di, accepts any and all volunteers, bandits and beggars into the ragtag Qin army. It is a bandit band of eight hundred men that forms the Shan army, a force that is led by General Pang Qing-Yun that will turn the tide of the war.

1862 - 1908

Tz'u Hsi (Cixi) the Empress Dowager

Wife, and mother of Mu Tsung. Dominated China. No Era.

1862 - 1875

Mu Tsung

Son. No political influence. No heir. T'ung-chih / Tongzhi Era.

1864 - 1866

Hong Huoxiu dies, although various rumours and theories exist to explain how this happens. Nanjing falls within six weeks, ending the main thrust of the Taiping Rebellion. A core of rebels collects around Hong's son, Tianguifu, but he is captured by the Qin on 25 October 1864. The last rebels are driven into the hills where they are finally defeated in 1866.


After successfully taking Suzhou and then Nanking to end the Taiping Rebellion, on 8 April 1870 General Pang Qing-Yun is assassinated on the way to his inauguration as governor of Nanking. General Pang's murder remains one of the Qin dynasty's unsolved crimes (the main events of the rebellion and the murder are depicted in the Jet Li feature film, The Warlords, 2008).

1875 - 1908

Tê Tsung

Cousin. Kuang-hsu / Guangxu Era.


The first modern-era wave of Jewish Diaspora migrations back to Palestine begins with an event known as the First Aliyah. The Jews are fleeing pogroms in Eastern Europe's Pale of Settlement, thanks to the Russian empire under Alexander III and his imposition of anti-liberalisation reforms.

The Jewish population of the 'Pale' (mainly Ashkenazi Jews) is restricted from moving eastwards into Russia proper and is now being discouraged from remaining in the western border regions of the empire. Some of their number end up elsewhere in the world, especially the USA, but also China where they form the Chinese Jews.

1894 - 1895

With the Qin rapidly losing the age-old Chinese influence in Korea to a newly-resurgent Japan, tensions are high. A decade of peace between the two over Korea comes to an end when the pro-Japanese Korean leader of the 1884 coup, Kim Ok-kyun, is lured to Shanghai and is assassinated. Japanese public opinion is outraged by the subsequent treatment of his body. The peasant-led Tonghak Uprising breaks out in Korea in the same year, and Chinese attempts to reinforce the Korean king are met with military opposition by Japan.

The First Sino-Japanese War is triggered. Japan's modern military forces entirely outmatch the more numerous but outdated forces of China. By March 1895 the Japanese have successfully invaded Shandong Province and Manchuria and have fortified posts that command the sea approaches to Beijing. China sues for peace. In the Treaty of Shimonoseki China recognises the independence of Korea and cedes to Japan the island of Taiwan, the adjoining Pescadores, and the Liaodong peninsula in Manchuria.

1899 - 1901

Already humiliated by its various defeats, China now faces an even more serious crisis. A secret organisation called the 'Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fists' leads an uprising in northern China. They are protesting at the spread of Western and Japanese influence there, and calling for the killing of foreigners and the wiping out of foreign influence. The rebels are referred to by the colonials as 'Boxers' because they perform physical exercises which they believe will make them invulnerable to bullets.

In 1900 the Boxer Rebellion or Boxer Uprising sweeps down onto Beijing. The royal court flees the capital and, in the European quarter in Beijing, the colonials are trapped in a fifty-five-day siege. In the end a relief army of 20,000 men drawn from the eight foreign powers marches from the coast and takes revenge in a rampage of looting and killing. Beijing has not endured such horrors for centuries. The Boxers are crushed mercilessly and huge financial reparations are imposed on China in 1901 under the terms of the Boxer Protocol. To make matters worse the foreigners also demand that 'their' area of Beijing, the Legation Quarters, should be turned over to them to be protected by a defensive wall and self-administered from within.

Shangai in China
European traders in the nineteenth century helped to turn Shangai into a major trading city which had communities from all around the world

1907 - 1908

On 15 July 1907, the thirty-one year-old feminist poet and republican, Qui Jin, is executed by beheading in Shaoxing.

On 18 June 1908, Empress Dowager Cixi orders the killing of all foreigners in China, in support of the Boxer Rebellion.

1908 - 1911

Puyi / Pu Yi ('Mo Ti / Last Emperor')

Great-grandson of Daoguang. Hsuan-t'ung / Xuantong Era.

1908 - 1911

Zaifeng / Prince Chun

Father and regent.

1911 - 1912

On 10 October 1911, a coalition of the army, bankers, and the urban bourgeoisie declare China to be a republic. The imperial state has been in terminal decline for almost a century, and the boy emperor, Puyi, is now forced to abdicate early in 1912. Approximately two thousand years of Chinese imperial power comes to an end, a total of three thousand years after the Zhou had proclaimed the Mandate of Heaven.

Republic of China
AD 1911 - 1949

The China of the twentieth century can be said to have begun in Canton in the country's south. In the 1830s, China was arguably still the world's greatest state, but the Europeans were growing in influence. In Canton, the new ideas of the West were mingling with the culture of old China, including traders selling opium and missionaries preaching Christianity. This could sometimes have unexpected effects, such as being the initial trigger both for the Taiping Rebellion and the Boxer Rebellion. The result was that the Qin dynasty of emperors was fatally weakened. Revelation was in the air and republican sentiment was fast gaining ground. In the end the last emperor, the child Puyi, was removed from 'power' in 1911 and forced to abdicate at the start of 1912.

But what would the Chinese people introduce in place of the imperial throne? It would be a republic with an elected president. The first incumbent was the Hawaiian-educated Sun Yat-sen, who had led the republican movement in exile and had long dreamed of a free, democratic China. However, although the emperor was gone, the old powers - army, warlords, and foreigners - were still there and still meddling, and the new republic never knew peace.

China was also undergoing a rapid process of cultural and economic change, and was learning to be modern. Treaty and concession ports such as Shanghai and Hong Kong enjoyed a massive boom, with modern dress worn by colonials and Chinese alike. In the vast countryside, however, things were not going so well. In the late 1920s, ravaged by floods and famines and armed conflict, peasants were selling their children, and were dying in their thousands from disease and starvation.

(Additional information from the BBC series, The Story of China, by Michael Wood, first broadcast between 21 January and 25 February 2016.)


With the First World War already underway in Europe, Japan declares war on Germany on 23 August 1914. The principle motive is to take advantage of Europe's confusion - especially Germany's - to expand its own sphere of influence in China and the Pacific. China also sides with the allies, providing nearly 150,000 labourers to the Western Front.

Allied with Britain which has its own need to put down any German forces in the region, Japanese and British troops take Tsingtao Fortress which houses the German East Asia Squadron's headquarters. German-leased territories in China's Shandong Province are also taken, as are the Marianas, Caroline, and Marshall Islands in the Pacific, all of which are part of German New Guinea.


The Russian Revolution of 1917 provides the reason for another wave of Jewish Diaspora migrants into European-controlled areas of China. They settle in port cities, especially Shanghai and Hong Kong, the latter being a British colonial holding. At the same time, the Akha participate in an uprising against local leaders in China.

1919 - 1921

Following the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, China's youth are shocked to find that the former German colonial territory in China is now to form part of a Japanese territory. They regard this with a sense of outrage. On 4 May 1919, using their newfound rights to freedom of speech, a huge student demonstration is organised in the capital. Three thousand students gather in Tiananmen Square, in front of the gates to Peking University, with English language statements which they hope to hand over to the embassies of the colonial occupying powers.

The protest sparks a wildfire of revolutionary thinking across China. Writers and journalists now call for a wholesale renewal of Chinese society and politics. They want to sweep away the old and create a new culture based on Western democracy and science. A key voice is modern China's greatest writer, Lu Xun, a trained physician who writes that China's people '...were slaves before and now we're ruled by slaves'.

Among many ideals now taking hold is a Western political philosophy, a communist philosophy, Marxism. The first meeting of a Chinese communist party is held in July 1921. Twelve people are present, including a Hunan peasant's son by the name of Mao Zedong (or Mao Tse Tung, the twentieth century spelling).


Following Prime Minister Chang Kai-shek's attempted extermination of communist elements - the first round of the Chinese Civil War - the survivors embark on what becomes known as the Long March, a six thousand-mile trek to north-western China. Only about ten per cent of them survive - eight thousand or so - to establish a base at Yan'an amid bleak countryside on what seems to be the edge of the world.


The Second Sino-Japanese War is triggered when Japan launches a full-scale invasion of China, inadvertently saving the nascent communist movement from utter obscurity and extinction. That December, in a six-week reign of terror, the Japanese army massacres more than 250,000 people in Nanjing. In distant Yan'an, the defeated communist guerrilla army now finds itself part of a liberation struggle. One of the most fervent leaders of the movement, Mao Zedong, has gained power over the party and has emerged as a formidable and ruthless revolutionary.

A 'United Front' is formed with the nationalists under Chiang Kai-shek and the communists under Mao, fighting the common enemy - the Japanese.

1937 - 1949

Chang Kai-shek / Jiang Jieshi

Prime minister-turned-'United Front' war leader. On Taiwan (1949)

1937 - 1949

Mao Zedong / Mao Tse Tung

'United Front' coalition co-leader for the communists.


In February, Ecuador, Paraguay, and Uruguay belatedly join the war on the side of the allies, while in March Argentina joins, followed by Chile in April. On 6 August, an atom bomb is dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima by the US bomber, 'Enola Gay'. A further bomb dropped on Nagasaki on 9 August brings a declaration of surrender from Japan on 2 September. Japan also surrenders its empire, including territory in China and Korea.

In China the 'United Front' falls apart in 1946 after negotiations to form a coalition government fail. The nationalists and communists now resume fighting in the bitter Chinese Civil War. Backed by the West, and especially the US, the nationalists have the manpower and equipment. The communists are outgunned, but they are tenacious and are led by idealism.


After twelve years in Yan'an, the communist land reforms have gathered mass support across the countryside, boosted by propaganda that promises a golden age of social justice. In one year the Red Army is able to sweep down the length of China and, after heavy fighting, the nationalists admit defeat and withdraw from mainland China to occupy the island of Taiwan, still with Chang Kai-shek in command. The victorious communists declare the 'People's Republic of China.

Modern China / Han
AD 1949 - Present Day

Located across a very broad swathe of eastern Asia, the 'People's Republic of China' is bordered to the north by Mongolia and Russia, to the east by North Korea and South Korea plus, across the Yellow Sea, by Japan and, across the Taiwan Straight, by Taiwan, while to the south lie the Philippines, Vietnam, Laos, and Burma, and to the west are Tibet (whose position as part of China is highly controversial), Pakistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan.

Ancient China emerged from a series of Early Cultures, each of which in the Yellow River area built upon the previous one until a perceivable state existed perhaps as early as 2000 BC, although surviving records are often legendary in nature. The modern borders contain a wide mix of ancient groups such as the Akha, Han (by far the greater number in core Chinese lands), Hani, Hmong, and Miao.

Modern China is, to the Chinese themselves, the state of Han. The name 'China' has been used by outsiders since the third century BC, when the Qin dynasty created the first Chinese unitary state in 221 BC. It was the land of the Ch'in, or China.

However, the Qin were universally hated by the Chinese themselves. Instead they took as the name of their new unitary state that of the succeeding dynasty, the Han. To the Chinese ever since the country has been known as 'Han' (and the name was used more than once - by the Late Han restoration of the original Han, by the Shu Han of the 'Three Kingdoms' period, and by the Han (Posterior) dynasty of the 'Five Dynasties' period).

Seemingly in line with the rest of the world, China went through much the twentieth century in turmoil. The many regional rebellions of the nineteenth century had gathered pace until the Qin (Manchu) could withstand them no longer. The last emperor of China was deposed in 1912, to be replaced by a nationalist republican government that was never able to get on top of the country's problems and find peace. The colonial ports flourished while those in the countryside starved. Rebellions were crushed, and the newly-founded communist movement was almost extinguished. Only the Second Sino-Japanese War saved it, allowing a previously unthinkable coalition with the nationalist government that provided resistance to Japanese occupation. Following Japan's surrender in 1945, the civil war resumed, and the communist 'Red Army' launched a victorious campaign in 1949 that ended the conflict. The communist leader, Mai Zedong, was able to declare the founding of the People's Republic of China on 1 October 1949.

Unfortunately, Mao Zedong forged a repressive state. In early 1950s China, the Soviet Union's Stalin was a god. Words and thoughts were strictly controlled, class war was waged, and society was to be organised on new values, doing away with centuries of stifling Confucian tradition. Workers were organised into collective farms and work brigades, directed by the rigid and secretive Chinese Communist Party, with Stalin's advisers controlling the people's lives from cradle to grave. Despite this, there were real achievements, especially in public health, education, and literacy, and a great improvement in the role and status of women. Ultimately, though, Mao's new economic ideas were calamitous. The collectivisation of farming massively disrupted society, and a drive to industrialise the countryside was disastrous. That led to the Great Famine between 1959 and 1961, killing well over thirty million people. Not content with that failure, in 1964 Mao launched the Cultural Revolution, which aimed to smash the past into rubble, leaving nothing to stand in the way of a glorious future. That also failed, and China spent a generation recovering from the turmoil it caused.

Relatively quiet and inward-looking for the remainder of the twentieth century, twenty-first century China started off by rediscovering its glorious past whilst at the same time building a bright new future. Many ceremonies which had been banned during the twentieth century, especially one in honour of the mother goddess of the Chinese people, Nuwa, were resurrected (the latter was last practised a century ago, at the end of the empire).

Such recreations often source their details from ancient texts which are up to two millennia old, thereby ensuring cultural continuity. China was also one of the early twenty-first century's powerhouses of industry as it rebuilt itself into a state which could be the equal of any in the west. However creeping dictatorial control as wielded by Xi Jinping and the financial effects of the 2008-2009 market crash severely slowed down the economy and attempted to stifle freedom of speech.

(Additional information from the BBC series, The Story of China, by Michael Wood, first broadcast between 21 January and 25 February 2016, and from External Link: China seeks to change Covid origin story (The Guardian).)

1949 - 1976

Mao Zedong / Mao Tse Tung

Former communist rebel leader. First chairman of the party.


Having swept to power in China the communist forces under the command of Mao Zedong (or Mao Tse Tung, the twentieth century spelling) now have to cope with the country's inherited problems. On Taiwan the 'New Republic of China' is declared by the exiled General Chang Kai-shek (or Chiang Kai Chek to twentieth century writers).

1950 - 1953

After several years of increasingly hostile small scale actions along the thirty-eighth parallel, North Korea's forces attack South Korea on 25 June 1950. North Korean troops sweep south, capturing most of the country, but an allied army pushes the North Koreans back to the Manchurian border. This prompts Communist China to intervene, pouring troops across the frontier and taking Korea as far south as Seoul. By 1951 the allies have stabilised a front line around the thirty-eighth parallel and the remainder of the Korean War consists of heavy fighting in this region, until a ceasefire is agreed in July 1953.

1959 - 1961

Mao's policy of collectivising and industrialising farming fails abysmally, much as it had done in the Soviet Union in the 1930s. The Great Famine kills over thirty million people. Mao is sidelined by the communist party.


By December 1961, the Soviet Union breaks off diplomatic ties with Albania, and Enver Hoxha, in search of a new patron, turns his attention to the Far East. The Sino-Albanian alliance, which lasts until July 1978, radicalises political, economic and social life in Albania and isolates the country even more from Europe and the rest of the world.


A land dispute with India leads to a Chinese invasion of the country's border territories. Indian troops face a humiliating defeat.


Aged seventy, Mao Zedong regains control of the party and launches the Cultural Revolution. Frustrated by the Chinese people's loyalty to their culture, Mao urges millions of young people, Red Guards, to smash old customs, old ideas, and Confucian values. Millions of ordinary people face terror and abuse, and the destruction of their treasured past. Many hide away their historical relics, family heirlooms, and works of art and literature, although much is also destroyed.


As part of the Sino-Albanian alliance, China has been providing Albania with a good deal of development assistance, including goods and low-interest loans, but this aid is not enough to promote economic growth. To stem the tide of popular dissatisfaction with his rule, Enver Hoxha employs his usual tactic of counter-attack, launching a Chinese-style campaign at the end of 1965 for the 'revolutionising of all aspects of life in the country', a campaign that coincides with the Cultural Revolution in China.


The death of Mao Zedung allows the party to move away from his extremist Marxist ideals and begin to follow a more moderate path. However, firm control over power in China is retained. Dissention is punished and demonstrations are forbidden.

1976 - 1981

Hua Guofeng

Designated successor as chairman.

1978 - 1989

Deng Xiaoping

Outmanoeuvred Hua Guofeng to become 'paramount leader'.

1978 - 1981

Hua Guofeng

Remained chairman but without true power.

1981 - 1987

Hu Yaobang

Designated successor as chairman. Gen secretary from 1982.

1987 - 1989

Zhao Ziyang

General secretary.

1989 - 1992

Welcoming the fairly liberal improvements to China's economy and society, there have been calls for more of the same. Now, in 1989 another great demonstration in Tiananmen Square also calls for change, but the party fears the loss of its own monopoly on power. The protesters are brutally crushed, and their protest is dropped from Chinese history, never to be officially mentioned.

In the same year, Deng Xiaoping officially retires from his top level positions and, in 1992, retires from politics altogether. However, China is widely considered still to be in the 'Deng Xiaoping Era', with the former de facto leader still understood to be wielding significant levels of control from behind the scenes. Even though his position has been weakened by the Tiananmen Square protests, his policies are generally continued, even after his death in 1997.

1989 - 2002

Jiang Zemin

General secretary.


The Portuguese colony of Macau is handed back to China on 20 December. The enclave is guaranteed a high degree of continued autonomy until 2049 at the earliest, maintaining everything except defence and foreign affairs for itself.

2002 - 2012

Hu Jintao

General secretary.


China, a long-term ally of Pakistan, announces that it will set up nuclear stations in the country similar to those of the India-US civilian nuclear deal amidst international condemnation considering Pakistan's nuclear proliferation record.

2012 - Present

Xi Jinping

General secretary.


At the very start of 2020 an unidentified virus breaks out in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, with the first deaths being recorded in early January. These are soon attributed to a new form of coronavirus named Covid-19 which has been generated in a wet seafood market in the city. The virus quickly spreads, forcing authorities to lock down the city, but by that time it is too late. The virus goes worldwide, entering Europe via Italy and Spain and hitting the USA especially hard due to its lack of coordinated response. By December China has largely recovered and is seeking to rewrite history by attributing the origins of the virus to the Indian subcontinent.

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