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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.[1] 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.[2] 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)

Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors

Xia dynasty (2070–1600 BC)

Yu the Great granted the benefice Tang (唐) to Danzhu (丹朱), and Yu (虞) to Shangjun (商均), son of Emperor Shun. Both of them needn't use the courtesy of a vassal.[4]

Shang dynasty (1600–1046 BC)

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.[5][6]

Zhou dynasty (1046–256 BC)

Main article: Song (state) § Rulers of the state

Western Han dynasty (202 BC–AD 9)

Xin dynasty (9–23)

In 9 A.D., Wang Mang gave a series of titles to different people, some of whom he believed to be descendants from previous dynasties:[14]

Eastern Han dynasty (25–220)

Cao Wei dynasty (220–266)

Jin dynasty (266–420)

Liu Song dynasty (420–479)

Southern Qi dynasty (479–502)

Liang dynasty (502–557)

Northern Qi dynasty (550–577)

In 550, Emperor Wenxuan of Northern Qi made the abdicated Emperor Xiaojing of Eastern Wei the King of Zhongshan (中山王) and poisoned him afterwards.

Northern Zhou dynasty (557–581)

In 557, Emperor Xiaomin of Northern Zhou made Emperor Gong of Western Wei the Duke of Song (宋公) and killed him afterwards. The next year, Yuan Lo, Emperor Gong's fifth cousin four times removed became Duke of Han (韓國公) as the successor of Western Wei.

Chen dynasty (557–589)

Sui dynasty (581–618)

Tang dynasty (618–690, 705–907)

Wu Zhou dynasty (690–705)

Later Liang dynasty (907–923)

Later Tang dynasty (923–937)

Later Zhou dynasty (951–960)

Song dynasty (960–1279)

Jin dynasty (1115–1234)

After Song dynasty

Yuan dynasty (1271–1368)

In 1276, Kublai Khan made Emperor Gong of Song the Duke of Ying (瀛國公).

Ming dynasty (1368–1644)

In 1368, Emperor Taizu of Ming made Maidarbal (grandson of fleeing Emperor Shun of Yuan) the Marquis Chongli (崇禮侯).

Qing dynasty (1636–1912)

Main article: Marquis of Extended Grace

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.[19][20][21]

After Qing dynasty

House of Aisin-Gioro

In 1912, the Qing dynasty was ousted and China was declared a republic.

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.[22] Stories published in the Chicago Times and The New York Times acknowledge Pujie as heir to the throne.[23]

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.[24] Several news stories have suggested that Jin Yuzhang, a nephew of Puyi and Pujie, is the current family head of House of Aisin Gioro.[25]

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.[27] 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.[28] 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.[29] Yuyan died in 1997. His eldest son is Prince Hengzhen, who was born in 1944.[30] There is no indication that Yuyan designated him heir to the throne, or that he claims this status.

Empire of China (1915–1916)

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.[31] 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.[32]

Yuan Keding had a son and two daughters with modern descendants, although he had 31 other siblings:[32]

Alternative proposals of emperorship after the Qing dynasty

During the 1911 Revolution, some minorities suggested that the Manchu emperor be replaced by an ethnic Han. Both Duke Yansheng, a descendant of Confucius,[33][34][35][36] and the Marquis of Extended Grace, a descendant of the imperial family of the Ming dynasty, were proposed and rejected.[37][38] The Duke Yansheng was proposed for replacing the Qing dynasty as Emperor by Liang Qichao.[39]


  1. ^ 古利. 大讀中國. Taiwan: 千華數位文化. p. 59. ISBN 978-986-144-122-1.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i "173". Cefu Yuangui. Song Dynasty.
  3. ^ 《尚書•虞書》:虞賓在位,群後德讓。
  4. ^ Records of the Grand Historian, "Basic Annals of the Five Emperors": 譙周云:以虞封舜子,今宋州虞城縣。括地志云:虞國,舜後所封邑也。或雲封舜子均於商,故號商均也。
  5. ^ Book of Rites by Dai De, :"成湯卒受天命,不忍天下粒食之民刈戮,不得以疾死,故乃放移夏桀,散亡其佐,乃遷姒姓於杞。"
  6. ^ Zuo zhuan, 539 BC: "箕伯、直柄、虞遂、伯戲,其相胡公、大姬,已在齊矣。"
  7. ^ 司馬遷. "田儋列傳" . 史記.
  8. ^ 班固. "魏豹田儋韓王信傳" . 漢書.-{H|zh-hant:元后傳;zh-hans:元后传}-
  9. ^ 班固. "元后傳" . 漢書.-{H|zh-hant:元后傳;zh-hans:元后传}-
  10. ^ Legge (1887), p. 259.
  11. ^ Yao 1997, 29.
  12. ^ Yao 2000, 23.
  13. ^ Rainey 2010, 66.
  14. ^ Book of Han, Volume 99
  15. ^ a b 錢林書,《續漢書郡國志匯釋》,p. 79, 142
  16. ^ 伊藤信博「桓武期の政策に関する一分析(1)p.9.
  17. ^ a b 欽定續通典, Chapter 71, Courtesy 27
  18. ^ Franke (1994), p. 233-234.
  19. ^ H.S. Brunnert; V.V. Hagelstrom (15 April 2013). Present Day Political Organization of China. Routledge. pp. 494–. ISBN 978-1-135-79795-9.
  20. ^
  21. ^ "Present day political organization of China".
  22. ^ 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)
  23. ^ Schmetzer, Uli, "Emperor-in-waiting recalls bygone age", Chicago Tribune, Oct. 25, 1992.
    "Pu Jie, 87, Dies, Ending Dynasty Of the Manchus", New York Times, March 2, 1994.
  24. ^ "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.)
  25. ^ a b Spencer, Richard, "The Chinese man who would be emperor", The Telegraph, 30 Nov 2008.
    McDonald, Hamish, "Heir to China's throne celebrates a modest life," The Age, November 27, 2004
  26. ^ "Life of Last Chinese Emperor's Nephew", People Daily, Dec. 11, 2000.
  27. ^ Scotland, Tony, and Patrick Leigh Fermor, The Empty Throne: Quest for an Imperial Heir in the People's Republic of China, (1993).
  28. ^ Scotland, p. 180.
  29. ^ Henry Pu Yi, Paul Kramer, The Last Manchu: The Autobiography of Henry Pu Yi, Last Emperor of China, p. 244.
  30. ^ Scotland, p. 177.
  31. ^ Kuo T'ing-i et al. Historical Annals of the ROC (1911–1949). Vol 1. pp 207–41.
  32. ^ a b Chang, Yung-jiu. Yuan Shikai Family. Chapter 7. pp 207–30.
  33. ^ Eiko Woodhouse (2 August 2004). The Chinese Hsinhai Revolution: G. E. Morrison and Anglo-Japanese Relations, 1897-1920. Routledge. pp. 113–. ISBN 978-1-134-35242-5.
  34. ^ Jonathan D. Spence (28 October 1982). The Gate of Heavenly Peace: The Chinese and Their Revolution. Penguin Publishing Group. pp. 84–. ISBN 978-1-101-17372-5.
  35. ^ Shêng Hu; Danian Liu (1983). The 1911 Revolution: A Retrospective After 70 Years. New World Press. p. 55.
  36. ^ The National Review, China. H. Vetch. 1967. p. 67.
  37. ^ Percy Horace Braund Kent (1912). The Passing of the Manchus. E. Arnold. pp. 382–.
  38. ^ M.A. Aldrich (1 March 2008). The Search for a Vanishing Beijing: A Guide to China's Capital Through the Ages. Hong Kong University Press. pp. 176–. ISBN 978-962-209-777-3.
  39. ^ Modernisation of Chinese Culture: Continuity and Change (revised ed.). Cambridge Scholars Publishing. 2014. p. 74. ISBN 978-1443867726.