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It is not usual for a Chinese dynasty to pass smoothly into the next one, as is depicted in historical timelines, since dynasties were often established before the overthrow of an existing regime, or continued for a time after they had been defeated. However, in dynasties prior to the Yuan dynasty, the reigning dynasties often gave title to certain members (sometimes pretenders) of the previous dynasties as recognition of the legitimacy of the former dynasty and the way to show the right to the dynastic change. The method is known as "The two crownings and the three respects" (二王三恪), the people who were given to such position had right to retain the law from the original dynasty within the land given to them, and the reigning emperor couldn't treat them as his subject. From Yuan dynasty to the Republic of China, titles or treatments given to members of previous dynasties were not considered crownings or respects.
Traditional two crownings and three respects (二王三恪)
After Tang of Shang conquered Xia Dynasty, he made a descendant of Xia monarchs became the founder of the Qi state (杞國) and Yusui (虞遂), a descendant of Emperor Shun, as the founder of Chen (陳國). Both monarchs were technically not the vassals of Shang dynasty.
Liu Xin (劉歆), a descendant of Liu Jiao (劉交, brother of Emperor Gao of Han), became Count Qilie (祁烈伯) to sacrifice Zhuanxu; Liu Xin's son Liu Die (劉疊) became Marquis Yixiu (伊休侯) to sacrifice Emperor Yao;
Gui Chang (媯昌) became Marquis Shimu (始睦侯) to sacrifice Emperor Shun;
Ruzi Ying became Duke Ding'an (定安公) and he was also the last emperor of Western Han dynasty;
Ji Dang (姬黨), 6-generation descendant of Ji Jia, whose title was changed to Duke Zhangping (章平公);
Kong Hong (孔弘), Duke of Song and grandson of Kong Ji, became Marquis Zhangzhao (章昭侯)
Si Feng (姒豐), descendant of Xia dynasty, became Marquis Zhanggong (章功侯)
In 220, Emperor Xian of Han, the abdicated last emperor of Han dynasty, was granted with the title Duke of Shanyang (山陽公) and the capital of his benefice, State of Shanyang (山陽國), was Zhuolu (濁鹿, located at the northeast of modern Xiuwu County in Henan Province). He had several privileges despite of demoted to a duke, including no need to address himself as a "vassal" to Cao Wei and sacrificing Han temple with the imperial rituals. Emperor Xian of Han outlived his unnamed elder son, so the dukedom passed to his grandson and the title eventually became extinct during the Disaster of Yongjia.
Liu Kang (劉康), grandson of the emperor, was the duke for 51 years and died in 285.
Liu Jin (劉瑾), son of Liu Kang, was the duke for 4 years and died in 289.
In 420, Emperor Gong of Jin became the king of Lingling (零陵王) and the capital was Muoling (秣陵, Nanjing in modern era). Emperor Gong of Jin along with many of Jin imperial clan members were killed afterwards, and the next king of the Lingling was Sima Yuanyu (司馬元瑜). The kingdom continued to exist until the time when Liang dynasty was established.
Kingdom of Chenliu was continued in Liu Song dynasty.
In 557, Emperor Wu of Chen made Emperor Jing of Liang the King of Jiangying (江陰王). Emperor Jing's dukedom was succeeded by Xiao Jiching (蕭季卿) and the dukedom became extinct when Chen dynasty was conquered.
In 690, Wu Zetian made the heads of Zhou dynasty, Han dynasty, and a descendant of Emperor Shun, Emperor Yu and Tang of Shang as nobles. As of 698, heads of Sui dynasty and Tang dynasty were granted with titles.
In 907, Zhu Wen made Emperor Ai of Tang the King of Jiyin (濟陰王) and poisoned a year later. The dukedom was succeeded by Lee Zong (李嵸) and the title became Duke of Lai (萊國公), and Yang Renju (楊仁矩) became Duke of Xi while the Dukedom of Jie was continued.
In 1059, Guo Zongxun's cousin Chai Yong (柴詠) became the Duke Chongyi (崇義公). In 1235, Chai Yong's great-grandson Chai Shuxia (柴叔夏) succeeded as the duke; as of 1249, Chai Yenyin (柴彥穎) gained the duke title.
In 1118, a descendant of Guo Zongxun became Xuanyilang (宣義郎), a titular title in Song dynasty.
Heads of imperial clan of Sui, Tang and the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period were granted with several titles to sacrifice those dynasties and kingdoms.
In 1141, Emperor Tianzuo became King of Yu (豫王), the late Emperor Huizong was given the title Prince of Tianshui Commandery (天水郡王), Emperor Qinzong became the Duke of Tianshui Commandery (天水郡公), and the deposed puppet emperor Liu Yu (劉豫) became King of Cao (曹王).
In 1724, Zhu Zhilian (朱之璉), claimed by Qing government as a descendant of Prince Jian of Dai (Zhu Gui, the 14th son of the Emperor Taizu of Ming), became the first Marquis of Extended Grace.
Puyi, the last Qing emperor, later became the emperor of Manchukuo based in northeastern China, from 1934 to 1945; he was the only emperor of Manchukuo and the empire was abolished in 1945. He died without issue in 1967. His brother Prince Pujie was next in line under a 1937 succession law. Stories published in the Chicago Times and The New York Times acknowledge Pujie as heir to the throne.
Pujie died in 1994. He is survived by a daughter, Princess Husheng, who was born in 1941 and renamed "Kosei Fukunaga" (福永嫮生) when she married to a Japanese in 1968. However, the law restricts succession to males. Several news stories have suggested that Jin Yuzhang, a nephew of Puyi and Pujie, is the current family head of House of Aisin Gioro.
The present line of succession of Aisin Gioro clan goes by:
In The Empty Throne, Tony Scotland tells how he found Prince Yuyan, who lived in a mud floor hovel near the imperial palace. Yuyan, a distant cousin of Puyi, told Scotland that the former emperor made him heir to the throne in a ceremony performed while they were imprisoned in Russia together in 1950. This claim is not supported by any official document, although it was customary in the Qing dynasty that an emperor name his successor in a will or edict. Puyi's autobiography confirms merely that the idea was discussed. Yuyan died in 1997. His eldest son is Prince Hengzhen, who was born in 1944. There is no indication that Yuyan designated him heir to the throne, or that he claims this status.
In 1915, Yuan Shikai attempted to reinstate monarchy in China; he proclaimed the Empire of China with himself as the Hongxian Emperor. However, due to massive objection across provinces of China, Yuan needed to withdraw his attempt and died on June 6, 1916 as the President of the Republic of China. During the preparation of the empire, Yuan planned to make Yuan Keding, his eldest son, the crown prince of the Empire of China. Yuan Keding still retained the courtesy of a "crown prince" for subsequent decades.
Yuan Keding had a son and two daughters with modern descendants, although he had 31 other siblings:
^The Manchoukuo Year Book 1941, "Text of the Law Governing Succession to the Imperial Throne", March 1, 1937, p. 905, Tōa Keizai Chōsakyoku (Japan). "In the absence of sons or descendants, the brothers of the reigning emperor, borne of the same mother, and their male-line descendants succeed according to age." (Article 5)
^"The Imperial Throne of Manchoukuo shall be succeeded to by male descendants in the male line of His Majesty the Emperor for ages to come." (Article 1, "Text of the Law Governing Succession to the Imperial Throne", The Manchoukuo Year Book 1941, p. 905.)