Ancient China was ruled by emperors from the start of the Qin dynasty in 221 BC. Qin Shi Huang started the Qin dynasty and became the first emperor of Imperial China when he united all the provinces in the area under him, as one country.
Before this, each of the seven provinces had its own ruler or emperor and they were often at war with each other.
The title Emperor (or Huangdi in Chinese) was given to the monarch of Imperial China and was passed down from father to son.
A dynasty was the period where the title of emperor stayed in the same family. When an emperor died, there was sometimes a dispute about who should take the title next and war began.
If a new family won and took the title, a new dynasty began.In ancient China there were only 13 dynasties, or 13 different ruling families.
However, there were over 500 emperors from 221 BC to the fall of the empire in AD 1912! Here are some of the most famous emperors:
Emperor Qin was the first emperor of China. He went to war against the other six main provinces to join them together under his rule. This started the Qin dynasty.
As emperor, he conquered more land and began building the Great Wall of China around them – one of the seven Wonders of the World! Qin also built a whole new road system and the Terracotta Army, a life-sized army made of clay!
Kublai Khan was initially the ruler of Mongolia. He conquered China and began the Yuan dynasty, defeating all the Song imperial family in 1276.
Kublai brought trade to China from other countries and with them came new cultures and people. Before this, China was very segregated from the rest of Asia.
Emperor Xuangye – the Kangxi Emperor – was the longest ruling emperor in Chinese history, ruling for 61 years.
He created the Kangxi dictionary which contained more than 47,000 characters (Chinese symbols used for writing).
He also grew the land China owned and brought lots of wealth to the people.
Emperor Puyi was emperor in the Qing dynasty and the final emperor of China. He became emperor when he was three years old, so his father ruled as Prince Regent for him.
The Imperial China empire lasted until 1912, when Emperor Puyi was overthrown and China then became a republic. It was renamed the People’s Republic of China.