Emperors of China

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.

Qin Shi Huang

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 Shi Huang (221 – 210 BC)

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!

Emperor Kublai Khan (AD 1260 – 1294)

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 Aisin Gioro Xuangye (AD 1661 – 1722)

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 Aisin Gioro Xuangye

Emperor Aisin Gioro Puyi (AD 1908 – 1912)

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.

Emperor Aisin Gioro Puyi


  • Emperors ruled Ancient China from the start of the Qin dynasty.
  • The Qin dynasty was the first time that all of China was united under one ruler.
  • Emperor was the title used by the ruler and was passed from father to son.
  • There were 13 dynasties – a new one started when a new family came into power.
  • Emperor Qin built the Great Wall of China and the Terracotta Army.
  • Kublai Khan conquered China and made it part of the Mongolian Empire.
  • Emperor Xuangye was the longest ruling emperor of Imperial China.
  • Emperor Puyi was the last emperor of China, giving up his throne in 1912.
  • After Emperor Puyi abdicated, China became a republic.


  • What was a dynasty?
    A dynasty was the time that one family ruled China, and ‘emperor’ passed from father to son.
  • What was China like before the Qin dynasty?
    China was split into seven different provinces, each with its own ruler.
  • What was Imperial China?
    The time when all the provinces of China were united as one, under one ruler.
  • What happened to China in 1912?
    A rebellion happened and Emperor Puyi was overthrown, making China a republic.