For more than 2000 years, an emperor presided over China. Qin Shi Huang assumed the role of the first emperor in 221 BC after unifying all of China under his reign. The Republic of China deposed Puyi, the final emperor of the Qing Dynasty, in 1912.
How was the emperor chosen?
Typically, the existing emperor’s oldest son succeeded him when he passed away. But things weren’t always like this. Conflicts over who should rule as emperor occasionally resulted in the deaths of competitors or the outbreak of war.
“Huangdi” is the Chinese word meaning “Emperor”. The emperor was referred to by a variety of names, including “Son of Heaven,” “Lord of Ten Thousand Years,” and “Holy Highness.”
A lot of emperors had names that were associated with their reign or time period. The Hongwu Emperor or the Kangxi Emperor, for instance.
Here are a few of China’s most well-known emperors.
221 and 210 BC, Qin Shi Huang
The first emperor of China and the creator of the Qin Dynasty was Qin Shi Huang. In 221 BC, he first brought China under one centralized government. He started a number of political and economic reforms in China. He was interred with the Terracotta Army and contributed to the building of the Great Wall of China.
Emperor Gaozu of Han (202 BC to 195 BC) –
Initially a peasant, Emperor Gaozu later led a rebellion that toppled the Qin Dynasty. He rose to prominence and founded the Han Dynasty. He lowered taxes for the average person and incorporated Confucianism into the Chinese administration.
Between 141 BC and 87 BC, Emperor Wu of Han
For 57 years, China was controlled by Emperor Wu. Through a variety of military operations, Mao dramatically enlarged China’s frontiers during that time. He also formed a powerful central administration and supported the performing and visual arts, as well as music.
Taizong the Great (626–649) –
Emperor Taizong aided in the establishment of the Tang Dynasty by his father. As emperor, Taizong made a number of policy changes that enabled China enter a golden era of stability and prosperity. Future emperors studied his reign since it was one of the best in Chinese history.
Empress Wu Zetian (690 AD to 705 AD) –
The only woman to rule China and assume the title of emperor was Empress Wu. She promoted officials without regard to their kinship connections. She contributed to the empire’s growth and brought about reforms in the political and economic spheres that made China prosperous in the years to come.
Kublai Khan (1260 AD to 1294 AD) –
The leader of the Mongolians who overthrew China was Kublai Khan. He assumed the title of Emperor of China in 1271 and founded the Yuan Dynasty. Kublai established trade with other nations and improved China’s infrastructure. He introduced several ethnic groups and customs to China.
Hongwu Emperor (regime from 1368 to 1398) –
When the Hongwu Emperor expelled the Mongols from China and put an end to the Yuan Dynasty in 1368 A.D., he also established the Ming Dynasty. He gave the people land and built up a strong Chinese army. He also put in place a new set of laws.
The Kangxi Emperor reigned from 1661 to 1722.
At 61 years in power, the Kangxi Emperor was China’s longest-reigning monarch. China had prosperity during his rule. In addition to enlarging the boundaries of China, he had the Kangxi Dictionary, a dictionary of Chinese characters, created.
Interesting information about Chinese emperors
China had more than 500 emperors.
Emperors were revered and their orders were to be followed without question.
The emperor governed under the “Mandate of Heaven.” The mandate may be revoked if the emperor performed poorly.
However, only one of an emperor’s spouses was given the title of Empress.