3 Kingdoms of the Han Dynasty

The 3 Major Kingdoms that Ruled in the Han Dynasty

Cao Wei (220–265) was one of the three major states that competed for supremacy over China in the Three Kingdoms period (220–280). With its capital at Luoyang, the state was established by Cao Pi in 220, based upon the foundations laid by his father, Cao Cao, towards the end of the Eastern Han dynasty. The name “Wei” first became associated with Cao Cao when he was named the Duke of Wei by the Eastern Han government in 213, and became the name of the state when Cao Pi proclaimed himself emperor in 220. Historians often add the prefix “Cao” to distinguish it from other Chinese states known as “Wei“, such as Wei of the Warring States period and Northern Wei of the Southern and Northern Dynasties. The authority of the ruling Cao family gradually weakened after the death of the second Wei emperor, Cao Rui, and eventually fell into the hands of Sima Yi, a Wei regent, and his family, in 249. Cao Rui’s successors remained as puppet rulers under the control of the Simas until Sima Yi’s grandson, Sima Yan, forced the last Wei ruler, Cao Huan, to abdicate the throne and established the Jin dynasty.

Shu or Shu Han (221–263) was one of the three major states that competed for supremacy over China in the Three Kingdoms period (220–280). The state was based in the area around present-day Sichuan and Chongqing, which was historically known as “Shu” after an earlier state in Sichuan named Shu. Shu Han’s founder Liu Bei had named his state “Han” as he considered it the legitimate successor to the Han dynasty, while “Shu” is added to the name as a geographical prefix to differentiate it from the many “Han” states throughout Chinese history.

Wu (222–280), commonly known as Eastern Wu or Sun Wu, was one of the three major states that competed for supremacy over China in the Three Kingdoms period (220–280). It previously existed from 220–222 as a vassal kingdom nominally under Cao Wei, its rival state, but declared independence from Wei and became a sovereign state in 222. It became an empire in 229 after its founding ruler, Sun Quan, declared himself ‘Emperor’. Its name was derived from the place it was based in — the Jiangnan (Yangtze River Delta) region, which was also historically known as “Wu“. It was referred to as “Eastern Wu” or “Sun Wu” by historians to distinguish it from other Chinese historical states with similar names which were also located in that region, such as the Wu state in the Spring and Autumn period and the Wuyue kingdom in the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. It was called “Eastern Wu” because it occupied most of eastern China in the Three Kingdoms period, and “Sun Wu” because the family name of its rulers was “Sun“. During its existence, Wu’s capital was at Jianye (present-day Nanjing, Jiangsu), but at times it was also at Wuchang (武昌; present-day Ezhou, Hubei).

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