Monarchy of China
Aisin Gioro Xuanye
(Kangxi Emperor)

5 February 1661 – 20 December 1722
StyleHis/Her Imperial Majesty[d]
and various others
Last monarchAisin Gioro Puyi[a]
Abolition12 February 1912[b]
ResidenceForbidden City[c]
and various others
AppointerNon-hereditary (until 2070 BCE)
Hereditary (since 2070 BCE)
Pretender(s)Jin Yuzhang (current)
History of China
Neolithic c. 8500 – c. 2070 BC
Xia c. 2070 – c. 1600 BC
Shang c. 1600 – c. 1046 BC
Zhou c. 1046 – 256 BC
 Western Zhou
 Eastern Zhou
   Spring and Autumn
   Warring States
Qin 221–207 BC
Han 202 BC – 220 AD
  Western Han
  Eastern Han
Three Kingdoms 220–280
  Wei, Shu and Wu
Jin 266–420
  Western Jin
  Eastern Jin Sixteen Kingdoms
Northern and Southern dynasties
Sui 581–618
Tang 618–907
Five Dynasties and
Ten Kingdoms

Western Xia
Song 960–1279
  Northern Song
  Southern Song
Yuan 1271–1368
Ming 1368–1644
Qing 1636–1912
Republic of China on the mainland 1912–1949
People's Republic of China 1949–present
Republic of China in Taiwan 1949–present

China was a monarchy from prehistoric times up to 1912 CE, when the Xinhai Revolution overthrew the Qing dynasty in favor of the Republic of China. The succession of legendary monarchs of China were non-hereditary. Dynastic rule began in circa 2070 BCE when Yu the Great established the Xia dynasty, and lasted until 1912 CE when dynastic rule collapsed together with the monarchical government.[1] Various attempts at preserving and restoring the Chinese monarchy occurred during and following the Xinhai Revolution, but these regimes were unsuccessful and short-lived.

The monarchy of China took the form of absolute monarchy during most of its existence, even though the actual power of the ruler varied depending on his/her ability to consolidate the rule and various other factors. On 3 November 1911, the Qing dynasty issued the constitutional Nineteen Creeds which limited the power of the emperor, marking the official transition to a constitutional monarchy.[2][3]

During periods of political disunity, China was divided among competing dynasties that oftentimes claimed exclusive Chinese politico-cultural orthodoxy; in such cases, more than one Chinese monarchy existed simultaneously. Throughout Chinese history, there were monarchs of both ethnic Han and non-Han origins, including many who were of mixed heritage.[4]

Territorial domains

Approximate territories ruled by the Chinese monarchy throughout history
Approximate territories ruled by the Chinese monarchy throughout history

While the Chinese monarchy was originally established along the Yellow River and Yangtze River in China proper, various Chinese dynasties expanded to incorporate other regions into the Chinese realm.[5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17]

At various points in time, the Chinese monarchy exercised control over China proper (including Hainan, Macau, and Hong Kong),[5][6][7] Taiwan,[8] Manchuria (both Inner Manchuria and Outer Manchuria),[9][10] Sakhalin,[11][12] Mongolia (both Inner Mongolia and Outer Mongolia),[10][13] Vietnam,[14][18] Tibet,[9][10] Xinjiang,[15] as well as parts of Central Asia,[10][11] the Korean Peninsula,[16] Afghanistan,[17][19] and Siberia.[10] In particular, certain groups of Western scholars use the term "China proper" to distinguish the "core" region of China populated chiefly by the Han people from the "frontier" regions of the Chinese monarchical realm with significant populations of ethnic minorities.

The Chinese monarchy reached its largest territorial extent under either the Yuan dynasty or the Qing dynasty, depending on the historical source.[20][21][22][23][24] This discrepancy can be mainly attributed to the ambiguous northern border of the Yuan dynasty: whereas some sources describe the Yuan border as located to the immediate north of the northern shore of Lake Baikal, others posit that the Yuan dynasty reached as far north as the Arctic coast.[25][26][27] Contrastingly, the borders of the Qing dynasty were demarcated and reinforced through a series of international treaties, including the Treaty of Nerchinsk and the Treaty of Kyakhta, and thus were more well-defined. The total area under the control of the Qing dynasty amounted to more than 13 million km2 at its peak.[28][29][30]

Apart from exercising direct control over the Chinese realm, the Chinese monarchy also maintained hegemony over other states through the Chinese tributary system.[31] The Chinese tributary system had its roots during the Western Han dynasty and lasted until the 19th century CE when the Sinocentric order collapsed.[32][33]

Dynasties and ethnicities

Main article: Dynasties in Chinese history

See also: Conquest dynasty and Ethnic groups in Chinese history

Since the establishment of the Xia dynasty, China had been ruled by a succession of dynasties. A recurring theme in Chinese history, dynastic transitions occurred typically as a result of military conquest or usurpation. Historians often seek to account for Chinese dynastic transitions using the concept of dynastic cycle.[34][35][36]

In history, China was ruled by dynasties of various ethnic origins.[4] Although it is a common practice in Chinese historiography to label a particular dynasty as being ruled by a specific ethnicity, there were Chinese monarchs who had mixed heritage. For instance, the Emperor Xiaoming of the Xianbei-led Northern Wei dynasty was of mixed Xianbei and Han heritage; he obtained his Han ancestry from his mother, the Empress Ling.[37] Similarly, the Kangxi Emperor of the Manchu-led Qing dynasty was of mixed Manchu and Han descent; he acquired his Han ancestry from his mother, the Empress Xiaokangzhang.[38] Therefore, the ethnic identity of the ruling families as assigned by historians should not be regarded as absolute.

Abolition and legacy

Main articles: 1911 Revolution and Imperial Edict of the Abdication of the Qing Emperor

See also: Xinhai Lhasa turmoil, Xinhai Revolution in Xinjiang, and Mongolian Revolution of 1911

On 10 October 1911, the Wuchang Uprising broke out in modern-day Wuhan, marking the start of the Xinhai Revolution.[39] Led by the Tongmenghui, the predecessor of the Kuomintang, the Xinhai Revolution soon spread to other parts of China. On 1 January 1912, the Republic of China was proclaimed by Sun Yat-sen in Nanjing.[40] On 12 February 1912, the Xuantong Emperor abdicated, marking the end of the Qing dynasty and the Chinese monarchy altogether.[39]

According to the theory of the succession of states and Chinese historiographical tradition, the Republic of China is accepted as the legitimate successor to the Qing dynasty and the Chinese monarchy. In particular, the Imperial Edict of the Abdication of the Qing Emperor issued by the Empress Dowager Longyu provided the legal basis for the Republic of China to inherit all territories of the Qing dynasty and to preserve the territorial integrity of the new Chinese state.[41][42][43]

The National Day of the Republic of China, celebrated today in the Taiwan Area, commemorates the anniversary of the Wuchang Uprising.[44] It was also celebrated officially in mainland China between 1912 CE and 1949 CE prior to the retreat of the Government of the Republic of China to Taiwan.

Monarchism in post-monarchical China

During and after the Xinhai Revolution, there were various attempts at reviving the Chinese monarchy. All these attempts ultimately ended in failure.

Emperorship by Duke of Yansheng or Marquis of Extended Grace

During the Xinhai Revolution, there were numerous proposals advocating for the replacement of the Manchu-led Qing dynasty by a new dynasty of Han ethnicity. Kong Lingyi (孔令貽), a 76th-generation descendant of Confucius and the Duke of Yansheng, was identified as a potential candidate for Chinese emperorship by Liang Qichao.[45] Meanwhile, gentry in Anhui and Hebei supported a restoration of the Ming dynasty under Zhu Yuxun (朱煜勳), the Marquis of Extended Grace.[46] Both suggestions failed to materialize.

Empire of China

Main article: Empire of China (1915–1916)

In 1915 CE, Yuan Shikai proclaimed the Empire of China.[47] It soon sparked the National Protection War and the empire was abolished after three months.

Manchu Restoration

Main article: Manchu Restoration

In 1917 CE, the Qing loyalist Zhang Xun reinstalled Puyi to the Chinese throne.[48] This attempt at restoring the Qing dynasty, known as the Manchu Restoration, lasted only 11 days.


Main article: Manchukuo

The Japanese puppet state Manchukuo was established in Northeast China in 1932 CE.[49] This regime subsequently became a monarchy with Puyi as the emperor in 1934 CE. Manchukuo collapsed in 1945 CE following the Soviet invasion of Manchuria and the unconditional surrender of Japan.

Pretenders to the Chinese throne

The following is a list of pretenders to the abolished Chinese throne from the Aisin Gioro clan, the ruling house of the Qing dynasty and the Manchukuo.[e]

Pretender Period Remarks
Aisin Gioro Puyi
1912–1917 CE,
1917–1934 CE,
1945–1967 CE
Emperor of the Qing dynasty (1908–1912 CE).
Restored emperor of the Qing dynasty (1917 CE).
Emperor of the Manchukuo (1934–1945 CE).
Aisin Gioro Yuyan
1950–1999 CE Rival pretender.
Aisin Gioro Pujie
1967–1994 CE
Aisin Gioro Puren
1994–2015 CE
Jin Yuzhang
2015 CE–present


See also


  1. ^ The last ruler of the Chinese monarchy is disputed. Aisin Gioro Puyi was the final emperor of the Qing dynasty, the last dynasty with orthodox status in Chinese historiography, from 2 December 1908 to 12 February 1912. He was reinstalled as emperor of the Qing dynasty in the Manchu Restoration between 1 July 1917 and 12 July 1917. He later became emperor of Manchukuo, a puppet state of the Empire of Japan, from 1 March 1934 to 17 August 1945. Both the Manchu Restoration and his reign in Manchukuo are not widely recognized as legitimate in Chinese historiography. Yuan Shikai was the founder and the only emperor of the Empire of China from 12 December 1915 to 22 March 1916, but is usually not recognized as legitimate in Chinese historiography. Therefore, Aisin Gioro Puyi is usually considered the last monarch of China for his first reign between 1908 and 1912.
  2. ^ The Qing dynasty, the last dynasty with orthodox status in Chinese historiography, collapsed on 12 February 1912 with the issuance of the Imperial Edict of the Abdication of the Qing Emperor. The Qing dynasty was briefly restored in an episode known as the Manchu Restoration in 1917. The Empire of China existed from 1915 to 1916. Manchukuo, a puppet state of the Empire of Japan, existed as a monarchy from 1934 to 1945. However, the Manchu Restoration, the Empire of China, and Manchukuo are not widely considered as legitimate in Chinese historiography. Therefore, the Chinese monarchy is usually regarded as having ended in 1912 as a result of the Xinhai Revolution.
  3. ^ The Forbidden City in Beijing was the main residence of Chinese monarchs of the Qing dynasty, the last dynasty with orthodox status in Chinese historiography, from 1644 to 1912.
  4. ^ "His/Her Imperial Majesty" is the common English translation of the style of Chinese monarchs with imperial ranks. Rulers of lesser ranks were styled differently.
  5. ^ Many members and descendants of the Aisin Gioro family adopted the surname Jin () after the collapse of the Qing dynasty.


  1. ^ Ebrey, Patricia; Liu, Kwang-Ching (2010). The Cambridge Illustrated History of China. p. 10. ISBN 9780521124331.
  2. ^ Gao, Quanxi; Zhang, Wei; Tian, Feilong (2015). The Road to the Rule of Law in Modern China. p. 135. ISBN 9783662456378.
  3. ^ To, Michael (2017). China's Quest for a Modern Constitutional Polity: from dynastic empires to modern republics. p. 54.
  4. ^ a b Skutsch, Carl (2013). Encyclopedia of the World's Minorities. p. 287. ISBN 9781135193881.
  5. ^ a b Brødsgaard, Kjeld (2008). Hainan – State, Society, and Business in a Chinese Province. p. 11. ISBN 9781134045471.
  6. ^ a b Wong, Koon-kwai (2009). Hong Kong, Macau and the Pearl River Delta: A Geographical Survey. pp. 241–242. ISBN 9789882004757.
  7. ^ a b Zhang, Wei Bin (2006). Hong Kong: The Pearl Made of British Mastery and Chinese Docile-diligence. p. 3. ISBN 9781594546006.
  8. ^ a b Hughes, Christopher (2013). Taiwan and Chinese Nationalism: National Identity and Status in International Society. p. 21. ISBN 9781134727551.
  9. ^ a b c Hsu, Cho-yun (2012). China: A New Cultural History. p. 421. ISBN 9780231528184.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Lockard, Craig (2020). Societies, Networks, and Transitions: A Global History. p. 260. ISBN 9780357365472.
  11. ^ a b c Gan, Chunsong (2019). A Concise Reader of Chinese Culture. p. 24. ISBN 9789811388675.
  12. ^ a b Westad, Odd (2012). Restless Empire: China and the World Since 1750. Basic Books. p. 11. qing dynasty sakhalin.
  13. ^ a b Sanders, Alan (2003). Historical Dictionary of Mongolia. p. v. ISBN 9780810866010.
  14. ^ a b Paige, Jeffrey (1978). Agrarian Revolution. p. 278. ISBN 9780029235508.
  15. ^ a b Clarke, Michael (2011). Xinjiang and China's Rise in Central Asia - A History. p. 16. ISBN 9781136827068.
  16. ^ a b Kshetry, Gopal (2008). Foreigners in Japan: A Historical Perspective. p. 25. ISBN 9781469102443.
  17. ^ a b Tanner, Harold (2009). China: A History. p. 167. ISBN 9780872209152.
  18. ^ Lockard (2020). p. 262.
  19. ^ Hsu (2012). p. 268.
  20. ^ Bauch, Martin; Schenk, Gerrit (2019). The Crisis of the 14th Century: Teleconnections between Environmental and Societal Change?. p. 153. ISBN 9783110660784.
  21. ^ Ruan, Jiening; Zhang, Jie; Leung, Cynthia (2015). Chinese Language Education in the United States. p. 9. ISBN 9783319213088.
  22. ^ Wei, Chao-hsin (1988). The General Themes of the Ocean Culture World. p. 17.
  23. ^ Adler, Philip; Pouwels, Randall (2011). World Civilizations: Volume I: To 1700. p. 373. ISBN 9781133171065.
  24. ^ Rowe, William (2010). China's Last Empire: The Great Qing. p. 1. ISBN 9780674054554.
  25. ^ D. K (2018). History of the World Map by Map. p. 133. ISBN 9780241379189.
  26. ^ Tan, Qixiang, ed. (1982). "元时期全图(一)". The Historical Atlas of China.
  27. ^ Tan, Qixiang, ed. (1982). "元时期全图(二)". The Historical Atlas of China.
  28. ^ Wang, Fei-ling (2017). The China Order: Centralia, World Empire, and the Nature of Chinese Power. p. 68. ISBN 9781438467504.
  29. ^ Gao, James (2009). Historical Dictionary of Modern China (1800–1949). p. xxxvi. ISBN 9780810863088.
  30. ^ Yang, Yi (2018). 一本書讀懂亞洲史. p. 145. ISBN 9789863921165.
  31. ^ Kavalski, Emilian (2014). Asian Thought on China's Changing International Relations. pp. 56–57. ISBN 9781137299338.
  32. ^ Rand, Christopher (2017). Military Thought in Early China. p. 142. ISBN 9781438465180.
  33. ^ Brown, Kerry (2018). China's 19th Party Congress: Start Of A New Era. p. 197. ISBN 9781786345936.
  34. ^ Perdue, Peter (2009). China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia. p. 6. ISBN 9780674042025.
  35. ^ Elleman, Bruce; Paine, Sarah (2019). Modern China: Continuity and Change, 1644 to the Present. p. 19. ISBN 9781538103876.
  36. ^ Zheng, Yongnian; Huang, Yanjie (2018). Market in State: The Political Economy of Domination in China. p. 83. ISBN 9781108473446.
  37. ^ Knechtges, David; Chang, Taiping (2014). Ancient and Early Medieval Chinese Literature: Part 3. p. 2077. ISBN 9789004271852.
  38. ^ Elleman, Bruce; Paine, Sarah (2019). Modern China: Continuity and Change, 1644 to the Present. p. 74. ISBN 9781538103876.
  39. ^ a b Rošker, Jana; Suhadolnik, Nataša (2014). Modernisation of Chinese Culture: Continuity and Change. p. 1. ISBN 9781443867726.
  40. ^ Elleman, Bruce (2005). Modern Chinese Warfare, 1795–1989. p. 149. ISBN 9781134610082.
  41. ^ Esherick, Joseph; Kayali, Hasan; Van Young, Eric (2006). Empire to Nation: Historical Perspectives on the Making of the Modern World. p. 245. ISBN 9780742578159. Archived from the original on 23 June 2021. Retrieved 5 December 2020.
  42. ^ Zhai, Zhiyong (2017). 憲法何以中國. p. 190. ISBN 9789629373214. Archived from the original on 23 June 2021. Retrieved 21 July 2021.
  43. ^ Gao, Quanxi (2016). 政治憲法與未來憲制. p. 273. ISBN 9789629372910. Archived from the original on 23 June 2021. Retrieved 21 July 2021.
  44. ^ Copper, John (2010). The A to Z of Taiwan (Republic of China). p. 109. ISBN 9780810876446.
  45. ^ Rošker, Jana; Suhadolnik, Nataša (2014). Modernisation of Chinese Culture: Continuity and Change. p. 74. ISBN 9781443867726.
  46. ^ Aldrich, M. A. (2008). The Search for a Vanishing Beijing: A Guide to China's Capital Through the Ages. p. 176. ISBN 9789622097773.
  47. ^ Schillinger, Nicholas (2016). The Body and Military Masculinity in Late Qing and Early Republican China: The Art of Governing Soldiers. p. 176. ISBN 9781498531696.
  48. ^ Hao, Shiyuan (2019). China's Solution to Its Ethno-national Issues. p. 51. ISBN 9789813295193.
  49. ^ Wells, Anne (2009). The A to Z of World War II: The War Against Japan. p. 167. ISBN 9780810870260.