Qin Shi Huang is credited with founding the Qin dynasty, the first dynasty of Imperial China. He reigned as the first emperor of a unified China from 221 BC to 210 BC. Under his rule, the Chinese state expanded greatly and he also enacted major political and economic reforms. His life and work inspired several films like The Emperor's Shadow.
Wu Zetian was a Chinese empress regnant who ruled the Zhou dynasty from 690 to 705. She is the only female monarch in Chinese history. Before ruling the Zhou dynasty, Wu Zetian had served as the de facto ruler of China from 665 to 690. Under her political and military leadership, the Chinese empire expanded beyond its former territorial limits.
Puyi served as the final emperor of China's last imperial dynasty, The Qing dynasty. After Manchuria was invaded by Japan, Puyi became a puppet at the hands of the Japanese and was chosen as the emperor of the puppet state of Manchukuo. He then signed many edicts, given to him by the Japanese, including the one that made slavery legal.
Empress Dowager Cixi was a Chinese regent and empress dowager. From 1861 to 1908, Cixi served as the de facto supreme ruler of the Qing dynasty. She is credited with overseeing a series of moderate reforms called the Tongzhi Restoration, which helped the regime survive for a long period of time. She also supported military and technological reforms.
Yongle Emperor reigned as the third emperor of the Ming dynasty from 1402 until his death in 1424. He is credited with preserving Chinese culture by constructing monuments like the Porcelain Tower of Nanjing, which was counted among the wonders of the world until its destruction in 1856. He is considered one of the most influential rulers in Chinese history.
Liu Bei was a warlord in the Eastern Han dynasty. He is credited with founding the state of Shu Han. Liu Bei went on to reign as the emperor of Shu Han from 221 until his death in 223. Liu Bei is best remembered for his remarkable skills as a leader and politician. His life has inspired several TV series.
Yongzheng reigned over the Qing dynasty as its fourth Emperor from 1722 to 1735. He was also the third Qing emperor to reign over the Eighteen Provinces. Remembered for his hard-working nature, Yongzheng's most prominent objective was to come up with an effective government at minimum expense. Yongzheng, who cracked down on corruption, is credited with forming the Grand Council.
Guangxu Emperor reigned over the Qing dynasty from 1875 to 1908. He was also the ninth Qing emperor to reign over the Eighteen Provinces or China proper. He is best remembered for initiating the Hundred Days' Reform, which was brought to an end by Empress Dowager Cixi in 1898. Subsequently, Guangxu Emperor lost power and was killed in 1908.
The Chinese Yellow Emperor, also known as Huangdi, was more of a mythological figure and a Daoist patron saint. Known for defeating barbarians, he is also credited with introducing wooden houses, the bow and arrow, the lunar calendar, and the art of writing. Following his death, he became an immortal.
Emperor Taizong of Tang was the second emperor of the Tang dynasty of China. He ruled for over two decades from 626 to 649. He is considered to be one of the greatest emperors in China's history. Under his reign, Tang China flourished. The emperor was a scholar of logic and scientific reason. He was married to Empress Zhangsun.
Yuan dynasty Chinese emperor Temür Khan mostly protected the northwestern border of his country and countered rebellion in South China and Korea. Posthumously, he was named Chengzong, or Accomplished Ancestor. He was the grandson of the famed Kublai Khan, the founder of the Yuan dynasty.
Jiaqing served as the sixth emperor of the Qing dynasty from 1796 to 1820. He was also the fifth Qing emperor to reign over the Eighteen Provinces. Jiaqing's reign is remembered for the prosecution of a corrupt official named Heshen. He made several attempts to curb the smuggling of opium into his dynasty and to restore order within the empire.
Hongwu Emperor is credited with founding the Ming dynasty, which ruled over China from 1368 to 1644. He reigned as the first emperor of the dynasty from 1368 until his death in 1398. Under his reign, China witnessed many unprecedented political reforms. He is also credited with establishing the famous secret police organization, the Embroidered Uniform Guard.
Tongzhi Emperor was the Emperor of the Qing dynasty who reigned from 1861 to 1875. The predecessor of Xianfeng Emperor, Tongzhi was the eighth Qing emperor to reign over the Eighteen Provinces. Tongzhi was a puppet emperor whose reign was overshadowed by the influence of his mother Empress Dowager Cixi over state affairs.
Shunzhi Emperor of the Qing Dynasty was the first Qing ruler of China proper. Shunzhi relied on Buddhist priests and eunuch officials. While some believe he had died of smallpox, others state he had retired to a monastery to cope with the death of his favorite consort.
Hong Taiji reigned as the khan of the Later Jin from 1626 to 1636. He is credited with establishing the Qing dynasty and reigned as its emperor from 1636 to 1643. He also played a major role in consolidating the empire founded by his father Nurhaci. Over the years, Hong Taiji has been portrayed in many TV series and films.
Togon-temür was the Emperor of the Yuan dynasty from 1333 to 1368. During his reign, the Red Turban Rebellion caused the fall of the Yuan dynasty, which led to the establishment of the Ming dynasty. Togon-temür is also regarded as the last emperor of the famous Mongol Empire.
Qing dynasty Chinese emperor Xianfeng not just faced the invasion of the European powers but also had to deal with the internal Taiping Rebellion. In his bid to prevent the disintegration of his empire, he relied on the militia. He eventually fled his city when the Anglo-French forces advanced into it.
Hong Xiuquan was a Hakka Chinese revolutionary best remembered for leading the Taiping Rebellion against the much-feared and powerful Qing Dynasty. Credited with establishing the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, Hong Xiuquan later served as an inspiration to the Communists under Mao Zedong. In 1959, China established a small museum to honor his legacy.
Sun Quan was the founder of Wu during the tripartite division of China. He went on to reign as the emperor of Eastern Wu from 229 to 252 AD. Today, he is known as a playable character in popular video games, such as the Warriors Orochi video game series. He has also been portrayed in TV series like Three Kingdoms.
Legends state that Shennong, or the Divine Farmer, who was a Chinese mythological figure, was born with the body of a man and the head of a bull, and had learned to speak by 3 days of his birth. He revolutionized agricultural methods and made a catalogue of medicinal plants.
Koxinga was a Ming loyalist who opposed and resisted the Manchu invasion of China. In 1661, he established the House of Koxinga after defeating the Dutch military camp in Taiwan. He then ruled the Kingdom of Tungning from 1661 to 1662. Today, Koxinga is considered a deity in coastal China and is worshiped in places like Taiwan and Southeast Asia.
Daoguang Emperor reigned as the emperor of the Qing dynasty from 1820 to 1850. His reign not only witnessed the First Opium War but also the commencement of the Taiping Rebellion. Over the years, he has been portrayed by several actors in TV series, such as The Rise and Fall of Qing Dynasty, Sigh of His Highness, and Succession War.
Chinese Tang dynasty emperor Xuanzong took over the reins of his kingdom after his father, Ruizong, abdicated. However, his sister made sure Ruizong stayed as a regent. Xuanzong developed the canal system and finances of his empire initially but later relied too much on his court officials, leading to a rebellion.
Kaidu, the great-grandson of Genghis Khan, emerged as the main opposition to his cousin Kublai Khan’s reign over the Mongol empire. Kaidu’s war against Kublai’s empire didn’t end with Kublai’s death, and continued for almost 30 years. He has found mention in literary works such as The Journeyer.
Nurhaci was a Jurchen chieftain who reigned as the Khan of Later Jin for 10 years. He is credited with uniting and reorganizing several Jurchen tribes. His attack and conquest of Ming dynasty laid the foundation for the formation of the Qing dynasty, which was founded by his descendants in 1636. His life inspired the 2005 TV series, Taizu Mishi.
Known as Shehuangdi, or The Usurper Emperor, 1st-century Chinese monarch Wang Mang was initially a Han dynasty official. He seized the Chinese throne from the Liu family of the Han dynasty, to form his own short-lived reign, also known as the Xin dynasty. He was later overthrown.
Emperor Yang of Sui is remembered for constructing countless canals and palaces in China during his reign. He apparently took over the throne after executing his father and brother. Though a patron of the arts, he killed two poets when he found they wrote better poetry than him.
Fu Hao, or Lady Hao, the legendary figure of the Shang dynasty, was a high priestess and the only female military general of her time. Known for her successful battle against the Tu-Fang tribe, she was buried with valuables and 16 people who would be her servants in the afterlife.