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Chinese History - Rulers and titles
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Titles and names of rulers and emperors
After death, they were called with a posthumous name (shi 謚), that was mostly given in accordance to the circumstances during their lifetime (like "the Martial Emperor" or "the Lamentable King"). There are certain guidelines for the appointment of such titles. For the ceremony of ancestal veneration that is in use within the whole population of China and was accordingly exerted by the rulers, the deceased emperor was given a honorific title, his temple name (miaohao 廟號).
This custom means that a ruling person can be addressed with three names: 1) the "real" personal name, 2) the posthumous name, and 3) the temple name. Lists and tables of rulers are therefore somewhat confusing. While the rulers and feudal lords of the Zhou Dynasty and the rulers of Han, Three Kingdoms, Jin, the period of division in north and south, and the Sui Dynasty are - in most cases - listed with their posthumous name (Wudi 武帝 "Martial Emperor", Huidi 惠帝 "Benevolent Emperor", Pingdi 平帝 "Appeasing Emperor", Xiaowendi 孝文帝 "Filial-Cultured Emperor", Huangong 桓公 "Effector Duke", Xuangong 宣公 "Propagator Duke", etc.), the rulers the Tang Dynasty on are listed with their temple name (Gaozong 高宗 "High Ancestor", Taizong 太宗 "Great Ancestor", Shizong 世宗 "Ancestor of the Generations", Gaozu 高祖 "High Forefather", Taizu 太祖 "Great Forefather", Shizu 世祖 "Forefather of the Generations", etc.). Some rulers do not have a temple name or posthumous title (deposed, minors, and last rulers), and the rulers of the Sixteen Kingdoms and the Ten States are listed with their personal name although they had a temple name and posthumous title. Talking of an emperor it is important not only to call him "Taizu" or "Gaozu" but also adding the dynasty because every dynasty has an ancestor of this name, hence say "Tang Taizong" 唐太宗, "Song Taizong" 宋太宗, "Song Gaozong" 宋高宗, "Qing Gaozong" 清高宗.
The pre-Zhou rulers had other systems to address their ancestors. The Shang kings simply adresses their forefathers with a date according to the Ten Celestial Stems, like Waibing 外丙 "Outer III", Zhongren 中壬 "Middle IX", Taijia 太甲 "Great I", Woding 沃丁 "Fertile IV", Taigeng 太庚 "Great VII" etc. These numbers are not a counting of rulers with the same name, like Henry I, Henry II, but are given according to the date of a special event.
Emperor Han Wudi 漢武帝 (r. 140-87 BC) on rulers chose a reign motto (nianhao 年號) that could be changed every year - sometimes every few months - or only one or twice a reign. Ming and Qing emperors only chose one reign motto and are generally known with this reign motto (Hongwu 洪武, Yongle 永樂, Kangxi 康熙, Qianlong 乾隆) and not with their temple name (Ming Taizu 明太祖, Ming Chengzu 明成祖, Qing Shengzu 清聖祖, Qing Gaozong 清高宗).
Traditionally, the feudal ranks are divided into five (the "Five Ranks" wujue 五爵) and translated with the English terms of aristocracy.
A special title created during the Spring and Autumn period was that of "Hegemonial Lord" (ba 霸), a feudal noble that assumed the role as political leader instead of the weak Zhou rulers.
the Han Dynasty on, emperors bestowed their relatives and sons with the title of wang that has now on to be translated as "Prince".
Last rulers of a dynasty are often not venerated in the ancestor temple, they are simply called with the pattern 齊王建 "Jian, King of Qi". Names like Han Modi 漢末帝, Jin Shaodi 晉少帝, or Jin Feidi 齊廢帝 are normally not cited in this way but are translated as "the last ruler of Han", "the minor emperor of Jin", "the deposed emperor of Qi".
Empresses are called "Family name+hou", dowagers "Family name+taihou" as private person as well as in the ancestral temple (Lühou or Lü Hou 呂后, Lü Taihou 呂太后) - historians did not lay great stress on the surnames of women. Princesses are called with a honorific name: Yongtai Gongzhu 永泰公主 "Princess Everlasting Greatness".
|Guideline for the names of dynasties and rulers: |
Great dynasties are written in CAPITAL letters, the feudal states of the Warring States time in brackets (). Not to be confused, the feudal state 韓 is written "Hann", the dynasty 漢 is written "HAN". "JIN" 晉 is the follower of the Three Kingdoms, "JINN" 金 is the Jurchen empire of north China. XIA means the Western Xia 西夏.
|There are a few titles that are not good to translate because they have a more general meaning or that are not real posthumous titles or temple names, like: |
高 gao "the High", 高祖 Gaozu: HAN, TANG, HOUJIN, HOUHAN, 高宗 Gaozong: TANG, SONG, QING, 高帝 Gaodi: (HAN), QI, Empress Lü 呂后 called Gaohou: HAN
太 tai "the Great", 太祖 Taizu: HOULIANG, HOUZHOU, SONG, JINN, MING, 太宗 Taizong: TANG, LIAO, SONG, JINN
泰 tai "the Grand", 泰武 Taiwu: BEI-WEI, 泰定 Taiding: YUAN
大 da "the Great", 大帝 Dadi: SUN-WU
中 zhong "the Middle" or "the Mean", 中宗 Zhongzong: TANG
末 mo "the Last", like 末帝 modi: SUN-WU, HOULIANG, HOUTANG, JINN, XIA; always translated
廢 fei "the Deposed", 廢帝 feidi: JIN, LIU-SONG, XIWEI, BEIQI; always translated
少 shao "the Minor", 少帝 shaodi: HAN, LIU-SONG, TANG; always translated
孺子 ruzi, "the Kid", a person that has no title for ancestor veneration, like 孺子嬰 Ying the Kid, last emperor of the Han. Ying actually also means "baby" or "kid", but it was also a common name during Zhou and Han dynasties.
始皇 Shihuang "the First Emperor": QIN
二世皇 Ershihuang "the Second Emperor": QIN
A special case is empress 武則天 Wu Zetian who founded a dynasty called Zhou during the great Tang dynasty
|哀 ai "the Lamentable": ZHOU (Lu, Hann), HAN, JIN, TANG, JINN|
安 an "the Peaceful": ZHOU, HAN, JIN, combination 安釐 anxi: (Wei)
成 cheng "the Completer": ZHOU (Lu, Zhao), HAN, JIN, YUAN, MING, combination 文成 wencheng: BEIWEI, wucheng 武成: BEIQI, 孝成 xiaocheng: (Zhao)
崇 chong "the Venerated": XIA
衝 chong "the Offender": HAN
出 chu "the Outstanding": (Qin), HOUJIN
純 chun "the Faithful"
戴 dai "the Respectful"
代 dai "the Dynastical": TANG, MING
道 dao "the Well-Lead": LIAO, combination 道武 daowu: BEIWEI
悼 dao "the Mournful": (Chu), combination 悼襄 daoxiang: (Zhao)
德 de "the Virtuous": TANG, QING
定 ding "the Settler": ZHOU (Lu), combination 貞定 zhending: ZHOU, 泰定 taiding: YUAN
度 du "the Careful": SONG
端 duan "the Upright": SONG
愕 e "the Honest"
恭 gong "the Reverent": JIN, XIWEI, SUI, HOUZHOU, SONG
共 gong "the Common": ZHOU, error for 恭 gong
光 guang "the Bright": SONG, MING, combination 光武 guangwu: HAN
和 he "the Harmonious": HAN, QI,
懷 huai "the Mindful": (Chu), JIN
桓 huan "the Effector": ZHOU (Lu, Qi, Yan), HAN, XIA, combination 桓惠 huanhui: (Hann)
惠 hui "the Benevolent": ZHOU (Qin, Yan, Wei), HAN, JIN, XIA, MING, combination 惠文 huiwen: (Qin, Zhao), 桓惠 huanhui: (Hann)
徽 hui "the Honorable": SONG
簡 jian "the Simple": ZHOU (Qin, Yan), combination 簡文 jianwen: JIN, LIANG
節 jie "the Integer", combination 節閔 jiemin: BEIWEI
敬 jing "the Honorable": ZHOU (Zhao), LIANG, TANG
景 jing "the Luminous": ZHOU (Hann), HAN, SUN-WU, LIAO, XIA, combination 景閔 jingmin: (Wei)
靜 jing "the Tranquil", DONGWEI (孝靜 xiaojing), BEIWEI
靚 jing "the Quiet", combination 慎靚 shenjing: ZHOU
康 kang "the Strong": ZHOU (Qi), JIN
考 kao "the Deceased": ZHOU, combination 考烈 kaolie: (Chu)
匡 kuang "the Corrector": ZHOU
厲 li "the Severe": ZHOU
理 li "the Well-ordered": SONG
烈 lie "the Eminent": ZHOU (Zhao, Hann), combination 威烈 weilie: ZHOU, 考烈 kaolie: (Chu)
靈 ling "the Clever": ZHOU, HAN, combination 武靈 wuling: (Zhao)
湣 min "the Grievable": (Lu), HOUTANG, combination 節閔 jiemin: BEIWEI, 孝閔 xiaomin: BEIZHOU
愍 min "the Commiserated": JIN
湣 min "the Confused": (Qi), combination 景湣 jingmin: (Wei)
明 ming "the Luminous": HAN, CAO-WEI, JIN, LIU-SONG, QI, BEIZHOU, HOUTANG, YUAN, combination mingyuan 明元: BEIWEI, 孝明 xiaoming: BEIWEI
穆 mu "the Respectful": ZHOU, JIN, TANG, LIAO, MING, QING
赧 nan "the Embarrassed": ZHOU.
寧 ning "the Peaceful": SONG, YUAN
平 ping "the Appeaser": ZHOU, HAN
欽 qin "the Respected": SONG
頃 qing "the Inclined": ZHOU, combination 頃襄 qingxiang: (Chu)
仁 ren "the Human": SONG, XIA, YUAN, MING, QING
睿 rui "the Wise": TANG
殤 shang "Young Deceased": HAN
神 shen "the Godlike": SONG, XIA, MING
慎 shen "the Careful", combination 慎靚 shenjing: ZHOU
聖 sheng "the Holy", LIAO, QING
聲 sheng "the Famous": (Chu)
世 shi "the Generationer": HOUZHOU, LIAO, JINN, YUAN, MING, QING (shizu and shizong)
順 shun "the Obedient": HAN, LIU-SONG, TANG, YUAN, combination 天順 tianshun: YUAN
思 si "the Thoughtful": ZHOU, MING
肅 su "the Reverential": (Chu, Zhao), TANG
天 tian "the Heavenly", combination 天順 tianshun: YUAN
威 wei "the Mighty": (Qi, Chu), combination 威烈 weilie: ZHOU
文 wen "the Cultured": ZHOU (Lu, Yan, Hann, Wei), HAN, CAO-WEI, LIU-SONG, XIWEI, SUI, TANG, YUAN, QING, combination 文成 wencheng: BEIWEI, 文宣 wenxuan: BEIQI, 簡文 jianwen: JIN, LIANG, 顯文 xianwen: BEIWEI, 孝文 xiaowen: (Qin), BEIWEI, 惠文 huiwen: (Qin, Zhao)
武 wu "the Martial", often the founder or most important emperor of a dynasty: ZHOU (Qin, Wei), HAN, JIN, LIU-SONG, QI, LIANG, BEIZHOU, TANG, YUAN, MING, combination wucheng 武成: (Yan), 武靈 wuling: (Zhao), BEIQI, 悼武 daowu: BEIWEI, 光武 guangwu: HAN, 孝武 xiaowu: JIN, LIU-SONG, BEIWEI
釐 xi "the Blessed", combination 安釐 anxi: (Wei)
僖 xi "the Joyful": (Lu), TANG, error for 釐 xi "the Blessed": ZHOU
熙 xi "the Brilliant": JINN
熹 xi "the Dawning": MING
顯 xian "the Clear": ZHOU
獻 xian "the Dedicated": (Qin), HAN, XIA, combination 獻文 xianwen: BEIWEI
憲 xian "the Intelligent": TANG, MING
襄 xiang "the Accomplisher": ZHOU (Lu, Qi, Hann, Wei), XIA, combination 頃襄 qingxiang: (Chu), 悼襄 daoxiang: (Zhao)
孝 xiao "the Filal": ZHOU (Qin, Yan), SONG, MING; during Han added to the dynastic title, making combinations like 孝武 xiaowu: JIN, LIU-SONG, BEIWEI, 孝文 xiaowen: BEIWEI, 孝明 xiaoming: BEIWEI, 孝莊 xiaozhuang: BEIWEI, 孝昭 xiaozhao: BEIQI, 孝成 xiaocheng: (Zhao)
興 xing "the Prosperous": LIAO
宣 xuan "the Propagator": ZHOU (Lu, Qi, Chu), HAN, BEIZHOU, TANG, JINN, MING, QING, combination 宣武 xuanwu: BEIWEI, 宣惠 xuanhui: (Hann), 文宣 wenxuan: BEIQI
玄 xuan "the Mysterious": TANG
煬 yang "the Brilliant": SUI
易 yi "the Amiable": (Yan)
懿 yi "the Modest": ZHOU (Hann), TANG
夷 yi "the Respectful": ZHOU
毅 yi "the Resolute": XIA
隱 yin "the Retiring": HOUHAN
英 ying "the Flowering": SONG, YUAN, MING
幽 you "the Darkened": ZHOU (Chu)
元 yuan "the Originator": ZHOU, HAN, CAO-WEI, JIN, LIANG
躁 zao "the Hot-tempered" (Qin)
章 zhang "the Exemplarious": HAN, JINN
昭 zhao "the Prominent": ZHOU (Lu, Qin, Yan, Hann, Wei), HAN, TANG, combination 孝昭 xiaozhao: BEIQI
哲 zhe "the Wise": SONG
貞 zhen "the Devoted", combination 貞定 zhending: ZHOU
真 zhen "the True": SONG
質 zhi "the Elementarious": HAN
莊 zhuang "the Dignified": ZHOU (Lu), HOUTANG, combination 孝莊 xiaozhuang: BEIWEI, 莊襄 zhuangxiang: (Qin)