China Dynasties Guide

A brief history of the Dynasties of China
All lands under the watch of Heaven

220 - 589: Six Dynasties and Sixteen Kingdoms

Image above - Terracotta Mule
Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534)


The loss of power of the Han dynasty ushers the first period of disunity in China, headed by three emperors claiming power after the fall of the Han dynasty in 220 AD.

china 6 dynasties
Six Dynasties and 16 Kingdoms 220-589

It actually includes six Chinese dynasties and kingdoms, followed by wars, plagues and political instability, which characterized this long period that ended with the advent of the Sui Dynasty in 581. 

The Six Dynasties include the Three Kingdoms period (220-280), the Jin Dynasty (265-420), and the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589), with its capital Jiankang (today's Nanjing).

Traditional beliefs of Confucianism are abandoned, as to give space to Buddhism and Taoism.

Despite the political and territorial instability, art, poetry, sculpture and painting continue to evolve, especially with the advent of printing that teaches the principles of Buddhism to the masses. Even calligraphy finds new artistic expressions.