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Huangdi (皇帝) was a title created by Qin Shi Huangdi (秦始皇帝, literally the First Huangdi of the Qin) in reference to the prehistoric traditions of the Three August Ones (huang) and the Five Emperors (di), and thereafter was employed by all who claimed the Mandate of Heaven over all or part of China, until AD 1912 when the last Huangdi Puyi of Qing Dynasty was forced to abdicate.

That the European title Emperor comes to associate with Huangdi in translating between Chinese and Western languages is not much more than a matter of convenience. Even though some of the rulers of the Warring States before Qin, officially titled gong (公 Duke), and later wang (王 King), were as powerful as some later Emperors, we shall restrict this project only to those who assumed the title of Huangdi in their lifetime (including the deposed and the puppets, but excluding the father, grandfather, etc. of the founding Emperor who were only posthumously bestowed the title of Huangdi.)

The European word dynasty may also be problematic when used in the Chinese context. It does suggest a paternal line of monarchs, but a change of dynasty in China would typically involve a violent overturn of the ruling family, either by force or by usurpation. It would typically be associated with a large-scale institutional change, and is therefore used to demarcate a new era. When someone is referred to as a man of Tang dynasty, it simply means he lived (mostly) in the period of Tang dynasty, not to suggest that he was a member of the royal family.

In more than two millennia of continuous existence, there was only one female de jure Huangdi, Wu Zetian.

The longest reign is that of the Kangxi Emperor of Qing Dynasty, lasting 61 years. His grandson, the Qianlong Emperor, opted to hand over the throne to his son in his 60th year, but continued to rule for three more years as tai shang huangdi (Grand Emperor, or Emperor emeritus). Most Emperors, however, died at young age in political struggle at times of instability.

The conventional dictionary with European nobility is summarized here:

  • Emperor = huangdi 黃帝
  • King = wang 王 (Shang and Zhou dynasties, and certain regimes in later times)
  • Prince = wang 王 (since Qin dynasty)
  • Duke = gong
  • Marquis = hou
  • Earl = bo
  • Viscount = zi
  • Baron = nan

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The following is a list of important Emperors to help you navigate through Geni. For the full list click "View all" on the Profiles module on the right

秦 Qin

Qin Shi Huang 秦始皇

漢 Han

西漢 Former Han

Emperor Gaozu of Han 漢高祖

Emperor Wu of Han 漢武帝

新 Xin

Wang Mang 王莽

東漢 Later Han

Emperor Guangwu of Han 漢光武帝

三國 Three Kingdoms

魏 Wei Cao Cao 曹操

蜀漢 Shu Liu Bei 劉備

吳 Wu Sun Quan 孫權

晉 Jin

Emperor Wu of Jin 晉武帝

南北朝 North and South Dynasties

Emperor Xiaowen of Northern Wei 魏孝文帝

Emperor Wu of Song 宋武帝 Emperor Gao of Qi 齊高帝 Emperor Wu of Liang 梁武帝 Emperor Wu of Chen 陳武帝

隋 Sui

Emperor Wen of Sui 隋文帝

唐 Tang

Emperor Taizong of Tang 唐太宗

Wu Zetian 武則天

Emperor Xuanzong of Tang 唐玄宗

五代 Five Dynasties

宋 Song

See album of official portraits

北宋 Northern Song

Emperor Taizu of Song 宋太祖

遼 Liao (Khitan)

南宋 Southern Song

Emperor Gaozong of Song 宋高宗

Emperor Xiaozong of Song 宋孝宗

Emperor Lizong of Song 宋理宗

金 Jin (Jurchen)

Emperor Taizu of Jin 金太祖

元 Yuan (Mongol)

See album of portraits

Genghis Khan

Kublai Khan

明 Ming

See album of portraits

Emperor Taizu of Ming 明太祖

Emperor Shizong of Ming 明世宗

清 Qing (Manchu)

Nurhaci 努爾哈赤

Kangxi Emperor 康熙

Qianlong Emperor 乾隆