Period of Disunion | Ancient China

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When the Han Dynasty collapsed in 220 AD, the Period of Disunion got under way. Before China was once more united under the Sui Dynasty in 589 AD, it persisted for more than 350 years.

Three distinct historical eras—the Three Kingdoms, the Jin Dynasty, and the Southern and Northern Kingdoms—are frequently used to categorize the history of the Period of Disunion.

Three Kingdoms

Three distinct warlords gained control after the Han Dynasty was overthrown in 220 AD. Each of them established rule over a different area of China while claiming to be the emperor. Wei (the north), Shu (the west), and Wu (the south) were the names of these three kingdoms. Numerous wars between warlords during this time period resulted in the deaths of millions of Chinese soldiers.

The Three Kingdoms era in Chinese history has become a frequently referenced time period in literature, film, and folklore. Leaders like Cao Cao, who founded the Kingdom of Wei, Liu Bei, who founded the Kingdom of Shu, and Sun Quan, who founded the Kingdom of Wu, are well-known in China and are frequently featured as characters in plays and novels.

Jin Dynasty

A general by the name of Sima Yan overthrew the kingdom of Wu in 265 AD and founded the Jin Dynasty. From 265 AD to 420 AD, the Jin dynasty, which ruled most of southern China, rose to become the strongest in all of China. They once succeeded in unifying all of China in 280, but this didn’t survive for very long. Soon after, the northern part of China rebelled and disintegrated into several smaller nations ruled by warlords.

Southern and Northern Dynasties

The Southern and Northern Dynasties are the name given to the latter phase of the Period of Disunion. The time frame for this was 420 to 589 AD. Different dynasties ruled over the north and the south during this time, keeping China divided. When the Sui Dynasty took control and united China in 589 AD, it came to an end.


Despite the fact that China was not united at this time, the Period of Disunity saw numerous developments and successes. The wooden ox (similar to a wheelbarrow), the kite, and the stirrup for horses are examples of recent inventions. Additionally, astronomy, mathematics, and medicine all made advancements.


Warlords and ruling families gained power during the Period of Disunion. Compared to the Han Dynasty, there was less organization in the government. Warlords in the area frequently held the majority of the authority.


The arts were still thriving during this period despite the frequent changes in rulers and emperors. Brilliant and creative artists in disciplines like poetry, calligraphy, sculpture, and painting emerged throughout this time. The blending of local peoples and external forces have had an impact on Chinese culture. The spread of Buddhism as a substantial religion was perhaps the most important of them.

Facts Worth Knowing About the Disunion Period

The Six Dynasties is another name for this time period.

At the infamous Battle of Red Cliffs, Liu Bei and Sun Quan banded together to battle Cao Cao.

During the Jin Dynasty, landscape painting rose to become the most common style of Chinese painting.

The acts of seven well-known poets who were known as the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove helped poetry become more widely accepted.

Zhuge Liang, Chancellor of the Kingdom of Shu, is renowned as one of the greatest military strategists in Chinese history.

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