If you’re like most people who start reading about Chinese emperors, you’ll feel very quickly that you’ve disappeared down a gilded and extraordinarily rich rabbit hole.
There are just so many Chinese emperors and dynasties that even local Chinese people are confused by who did what and when. Let’s face it. A dedicated Chinese history expert would find it hard to wrap their head around every last imperial detail, and we both know that no tour of China is long enough for you to absorb it all. So, rather than provide a blow by blow description of all the Chinese emperors since time began, we thought, why not keep it super simple?
In this article we share fabulous facts and unlikely fiction that bring some of Chinese most fascinating emperors and their achievements (or lack of them) to life.
Let’s start with fabulous facts
China as we know it today is a relatively new concept. When considered in the context of Chinese history, emperors have reigned supreme in one way or another for a couple of thousand years.
Overall, there were an incredible 83 dynasties and reigns throughout Chinese history, and a remarkable 559 emperors and kings!
In China, the emperor was the absolute ruler; a symbol of heavenly power on earth. It might all sound wonderful, but life for a Chinese emperor really wasn’t all lavish ceremonies and disposable servants – although there was plenty of that. You’d think with an endless supply of riches and concubines at your disposal, not to mention access to the best in science and medicine, life would be sweet, however, not so. Being an emperor was dangerous business. With the constant threat to life from those ‘nearest and dearest’ to you, emperors’ lives were often brief and met with violent endings, with untimely death all too common. Some emperors even brought about their own demise, with attempts to reach immortality backfiring unceremoniously.
Here are a few fabulous facts about Chinese emperors.
|Emperor with the shortest lifespan (dying at just two years of age)||Liu Long (105 AD – 106 AD)
Fifth emperor of the Eastern Han Dynasty
|Emperor with the longest life (died at 89 years)||Qianlong Emperor (1711 AD – 1799 AD)
Fifth emperor of the Qing dynasty
|Oldest (and only female) emperor to ascend the throne||Wu Zetian (624 AD – 705 AD)
Ruler of the late Tang dynasty and Wu Zhou
|Shortest reign (just half a day!)||Wanyan Chenglin (1202 AD – 1234 AD)
Last emperor of the Jin dynasty
|Longest reign (61 years)||Kangxi Emperor (1654 AD – 1722 AD)
Third emperor of the Qing dynasty
|Number of emperors who lived past 80 years||5|
|Title given to the emperor by subjects during the feudal period||Bi Xia (Your Majesty)|
|Longest dynasty, ruling for more than 790 years||Zhou dynasty|
|Shortest dynasty, ruling for around a year||Northern Liao dynasty|
|Longest average reign for an emperor (Qing dynasty)||27 years|
|Shortest average reign for an emperor (Northern Liao)||5 months|
|Last emperor of China||Aisin Gioro Puyi
Final Qing dynasty emperor. Abdicated the most times (three in total)
The best and most of [Chinese emperors]
Chinese emperors are synonymous with the expansion of China in terms of geography, science, music, and culture. Reflecting the personal interests of the emperor at the time, many advances were made in different areas, with remarkable discoveries the fruits of their labor.
Here are just some of the stand out achievements.
|United China for the first time, commissioned the first Great Wall, and much more!||Emperor Qin Shihuang|
|First trip to the Western regions commenced in 139 BC||Instigated by Liu Che, seventh emperor of the Han dynasty|
|Most illustrious poet||Cao Pi, the first emperor of the state of Cao Wei in the Three Kingdoms period|
|Golden period in Chinese history, the reign of Zhenguan|