Chen dynasty

The Chen dynasty (simplified Chinese: 陈朝; traditional Chinese: 陳朝; pinyin: Chén Cháo; 557-589), also known as the Southern Chen dynasty, was the fourth and last of the Southern Dynasties in China, eventually destroyed by the Sui dynasty.

While it is said that Chen is the only dynasty named after the ruling house in Chinese history, this is in fact a coincidence. The founder of the dynasty, Chen Baxian, had been granted the title of "Prince of Chen", and on taking the throne he followed the Chinese practice of using his former princely title as the name of the new dynasty.

When the dynasty was founded by Emperor Wu, it was exceedingly weak, possessing only a small portion of the territory once held by its predecessor Liang dynasty—and that portion was devastated by wars that had doomed Liang. However, Emperor Wu's successors Emperor Wen and Emperor Xuan were capable rulers, and the state gradually solidified and strengthened, becoming roughly equal in power to rivals Northern Zhou and Northern Qi. After Northern Zhou took over Northern Qi in 577 and reunited the North, Chen was cornered. To make matters worse, its final emperor Chen Shubao was an incompetent and indulgent ruler, and Chen was eventually destroyed by Northern Zhou's successor state Sui.

During the short-lived dynasty, the Rau peoples to the south resumed raids against the region of Jiaozhi, perceiving the dynasty to be weak. The raids ended with the conquest of the Southern Chen by the Sui.[4] The Sui general Yang Su suppressed various Chen rebels in campaigns during the early 590s.


Chen and neighbors
Chen and neighbors
Administrative divisions in 572
Administrative divisions in 572
• 557–559
Emperor Wu of Chen
• 559–566
Emperor Wen of Chen
• 566–568
Emperor Fei of Chen
• 569–582
Emperor Xuan of Chen
• 582–589
Chen Shubao
• Established
16 November[1] 557
• Disestablished
10 February[2] 589
• Chen Shubao's death
16 December 604[3]
CurrencyChinese coin,
Chinese cash
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Liang dynasty
Sui dynasty
Today part of

Sovereigns of Chen dynasty (557-589)

Posthumous name Family name and given names Period of Reigns Era names and corresponding range of years
Convention: Chen +
Emperor Wu of Chen - Wu Di (武帝 wǔ dì) Chen Baxian (陳霸先 Chén Bàxiān) 557-559 Yongding (永定 Yǒngdìng) 557-559
Emperor Wen of Chen - Wen Di (文帝 wén dì) Chen Qian (陳蒨 Chén Qiàn) 559-566 Tianjia (天嘉 Tiānjiā) 560-566
Tiankang (天康 Tiānkāng) 566
Emperor Fei of Chen - Fei Di (廢帝 fèi dì) Chen Bozong (陳伯宗 Chén Bózōng) 566-568 Guangda (光大 Guāngdà) 566-568
Emperor Xuan of Chen - Xuan Di (宣帝 Xuān Dì) Chen Xu (陳頊 Chén Xù 569-582 Taijian (太建 Tài Jiàn) 569-582
Houzhu (後主 Hòuzhǔ) Chen Shubao (陳叔寶 Chén Shūbǎo) 583-589 Zhide (至德 Zhìdé) 583-586
Zhenming (禎明 Zhēnmíng) 587-589

Sovereigns family tree

Chen dynasty emperors family tree
Chen Wenzan
Chen Daotan 陈道谭Chen Baxian 陳霸先 (503–559)
(r. 557-559)
Chen Qian 陳蒨 (522–566)
(r. 559-566)
Chen Xu 陈顼 (530–582)
(r. 569-582)
Chen Chang
陳昌 (537–560)
Chen Bozong 陳伯宗 (554?–570)
(r. 566-568)
Chen Shubao
553–604; r. 582-589
Chen Shuda
陳叔達 d.635
寧遠公主 577-605
Emperor Wen
of Sui
Chen Yin 陳胤 b.573Chen Shen 陳深 b.575


  1. ^ Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 167.
  2. ^ Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 177.
  3. ^ Zizhi Tongjian, vol. 180.
  4. ^ Hall, D.G.E. (1981). A History of South-East Asia, Fourth Edition. Hong Kong: Macmillan Education Ltd. p. 17. ISBN 0-333-24163-0.


External links

Book of Chen

The Book of Chen or Chen Shu (Chén Shū) was the official history of the Chen dynasty, one of the Southern Dynasties of China. It ranks among the official Twenty-Four Histories of imperial China, and was compiled by the Tang dynasty historian Yao Silian, completed in 636.

Similar to Book of Liang, it heavily relied on Yao Silian's father Yao Cha's original manuscript.

The book is one of the more complete extant records of the Chen dynasty. However, it has been criticised for attempting to cover up the wrongdoings of the royal family. A commentary by the Tang prime minister Wei Zheng, which is also included in the book, contradicts some of the claims made in the book.

Chen (surname)

Chen ([ʈʂʰə̌n]) (simplified Chinese: 陈; traditional Chinese: 陳; pinyin: Chén; Wade–Giles: Ch'en) is one of the most common East Asian surnames of Chinese origin. It ranks as the 5th most common surname in China as of 2007 and the most common surname in Singapore (2000) and Taiwan (2010). Chen is also the most common family name in Guangdong, Zhejiang, Fujian, Hong Kong (spelled Chan in Hong Kong and Macau). It is the most common surname in Xiamen, the ancestral hometown of many overseas Hoklo. Besides 陳/陈, an uncommon Chinese surname 諶/谌 (Shen) sometimes is romanized as Chen because of mispronunciation.).

It is usually romanised as Chan in Cantonese, most widely used by those from Hong Kong, and sometimes as Chun. The spelling, Chan, is widely used in Macao and Malaysia. In Min (including dialects of Chaoshan (Teochew), Hainan, Fujian, and Taiwan), the name is pronounced Tan. In Hakka and Taishanese, the name is spelled Chin. Some other Romanisations include Zen (from Wu), Ding (from Gan), Chern and Dunn from Taiwan. Chen can be variously spelt as Tan, Chan or Chin in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries.

In Japanese, the surname is transliterated Chin.

In Vietnam, this surname is written in Quốc Ngữ as Trần and it is the second most common surname.

In Thailand, this surname is the most common surname of Thai Chinese often pronounced according to Teochew dialect as Tang.

Chen Shubao

Chen Shubao (Chinese: 陳叔寶; pinyin: Chén Shúbǎo, 553–604), also known as the Final Lord of Chen (陳後主; Chén Hòuzhǔ), posthumous name Duke Yáng of Chángchéng (長城煬公; Chángchéng Yáng Gōng), courtesy name 元秀; Yuán Xiù), nickname 黃奴; Huángnú, was the last emperor of Chen China, which was conquered by Sui China.

At the time of his ascension, Chen was already facing military pressure by the Sui on multiple fronts, and, according to traditional historians, Chen Shubao was an incompetent ruler who was more interested in literature and women than in the affairs of the state.

In 589, Sui forces captured his capital, Jiankang, and captured him, ending Chen rule and unifying China after nearly three centuries of division that had started with the conquests of Emperor Hui of Jin. He was taken to the Sui capital Chang'an, where he was treated kindly by Emperor Wen of Sui until his death in 604, during the reign of Emperor Wen's son, Emperor Yang.

Chen Shuda

Chen Shuda (died 635), courtesy name Zicong, formally Duke Zhong of Jiang, was an imperial prince of the Chen dynasty, who, after the destruction of Chen, served as an official under the Sui and Tang dynasties, becoming a chancellor during the reigns of the Tang emperors Gaozu and Taizong.

Emperor Fei of Chen

Emperor Fei of Chen (陳廢帝) (554? – 570), personal name Chen Bozong (陳伯宗), courtesy name Fengye (奉業), nickname Yaowang (藥王), also known by his post-removal title of Prince of Linhai (臨海王), was an emperor of the Chinese Chen Dynasty. He was the son and heir of Emperor Wen, but after he came to the throne in 566, the imperial administration fell into infighting almost immediately. The victor, Emperor Fei's uncle Chen Xu, deposed Emperor Fei in winter 568 and took the throne himself.

Emperor Jing of Liang

Emperor Jing of Liang (Chinese: 梁敬帝; 543–558), personal name Xiao Fangzhi (蕭方智), courtesy name Huixiang (慧相), nickname Fazhen (法真), was an emperor of the Chinese Liang Dynasty. As the only surviving son of Emperor Yuan, he was declared emperor by the general Chen Baxian in 555, but in 557 Chen forced him to yield the throne and established Chen Dynasty. In 558, Chen had him killed.

Emperor Wen of Chen

Emperor Wen of Chen (陳文帝) (522–566), personal name Chen Qian (陳蒨), courtesy name Zihua (子華), was an emperor of the Chinese Chen Dynasty. He was the nephew of the founding emperor, Emperor Wu (Chen Baxian), and after Emperor Wu's death in 559, the officials supported him to be emperor since Emperor Wu's only surviving son, Chen Chang, was detained by rival Northern Zhou. At the time he took the throne, Chen had been devastated by war during the preceding Liang Dynasty, and many provinces nominally loyal to him were under control of relatively independent warlords. During his reign, he consolidated the state against warlords, and he also seized territory belonging to claimants to the Liang throne, Xiao Zhuang and Emperor Xuan of Western Liang, greatly expanding Chen's territory and strength.

Emperor Wu of Chen

Emperor Wu of Chen (陳武帝) (503–559), personal name Chen Baxian (陳霸先), courtesy name Xingguo (興國), nickname Fasheng (法生), was the first emperor of the Chen dynasty of China. He first distinguished himself as a Liang dynasty general during the campaign against the rebel general Hou Jing, and he was progressively promoted. In 555, he seized power after a coup against his superior, the general Wang Sengbian, and in 557 he forced Emperor Jing to yield the throne to him, establishing the Chen dynasty. He died in 559, and as his only surviving son Chen Chang was held by Northern Zhou as a hostage, he was succeeded by his nephew Chen Qian (Emperor Wen).

Emperor Xuan of Chen

Emperor Xuan of Chen (陳宣帝) (530–582), personal name Chen Xu (陳頊), courtesy name Shaoshi (紹世), nickname Shili (師利), was an emperor of the Chen dynasty of China. He seized the throne from his nephew Emperor Fei in 569 and subsequently ruled the state for 13 years. He was considered to be a capable and diligent ruler, who at one point militarily expanded at the expense of Northern Qi. After Northern Qi fell to Northern Zhou in 577, however, Chen was cornered, and soon lost the gains it had previously made against Northern Qi. Emperor Xuan died in 582, leaving the state in the hands of his incompetent son Chen Shubao, and by 589, Chen would be destroyed by Northern Zhou's successor state Sui dynasty.

Empress of the Chen dynasty

The Chen dynasty had five empresses in its history:

Empress Zhang Yao'er (r. 557-559), the wife of Emperor Wu.

Empress Shen Miaorong (r. 559-566), the wife of Emperor Chen.

Empress Wang (r. 566-568), the wife of Emperor Fei.

Empress Liu (r. 569-582), the wife of Emperor Xuan.

Empress Shen Wuhua (r. 582-589), the wife of Chen Shubao.

History of the Southern Dynasties

The History of the Southern Dynasties (Nánshǐ) is one of the official Chinese historical works in the Twenty-Four Histories canon. It contain 80 volumes and covers the period from 420 to 589, the histories of Liu Song, Southern Qi, Liang dynasty, and Chen dynasty. Like the History of the Northern Dynasties, the book was started by Li Dashi. Following his death, Li Yanshou (李延壽), son of Li Dashi completed the work on the book between 643 and 659. As a historian, Li Yanshou also took part of some of the compilation during the early Tang dynasty. Unlike the many other contemporary historical texts, the book was not commissioned by the state.

Liang dynasty

The Liang dynasty (Chinese: 梁朝; pinyin: Liáng cháo) (502–557), also known as the Southern Liang dynasty (南梁), was the third of the Southern Dynasties during China's Southern and Northern Dynasties period. It was located in East China and South China, and replaced by the Chen dynasty in 557. The small rump state Western Liang (555–587), located in Central China, continued until its annexation in 587.

Liu Jingyan

Empress Liu (534–616), personal name Liu Jingyan (柳敬言), was an empress of the Chinese dynasty Chen Dynasty. Her husband was Emperor Xuan (Chen Xu).

Ouyang Xun

Ouyang Xun (Chinese: 歐陽詢; pinyin: Ōuyáng Xún; Wade–Giles: Ou-yang Hsun) (557–641), courtesy name Xinben (Chinese: 信本; pinyin: Xìn běn; Wade–Giles: Hsing-pên), was a Confucian scholar and calligrapher of the early Tang Dynasty. He was born in Hunan, Changsha, to a family of government officials; and died in modern Anhui province.

Shen Faxing

Shen Faxing (died AD 620) was an official of the Chinese Sui dynasty who, after Emperor Yang was killed in a coup led by the general Yuwen Huaji in 618, seized the area of present-day Zhejiang and southern Jiangsu and declared himself the King of Liang (梁王). He was defeated by Li Zitong (Emperor of Wu) in 620 and, believing that he was doomed, committed suicide by jumping into a river.

Shen Wuhua

Shen Wuhua (Chinese: 沈婺華), later dharma name Guanyin (觀音), was an empress of Chen China. Her husband was Chen Shubao, the last emperor of the dynasty.

Shen Wuhua's father, Shen Junli (沈君理), was a junior official during the reign of Chen's founder Emperor Wu, and Emperor Wu, impressed by his abilities, created Shen Junli the Marquess of Wangcai (望蔡侯) and gave Shen Junli his daughter the Princess Kuaiji as his wife. Shen Wuhua was born of the Princess Kuaiji, but her birth year is lost to history. Shen Junli subsequently served under Emperor Wu's nephews, Emperor Wen and Emperor Xuan. When Princess Kuaiji died, Shen Wuhua mourned her greatly and was praised for her filial piety.

In 569, Shen Wuhua married Chen Shubao, who was then the crown prince under his father, Emperor Xuan. Her age at the time of their marriage is not known; he was 16. They did not have any sons together, but when Chen Shubao's concubine, Sun, died in childbirth in 573, Shen Wuhua raised the boy, Chen Yin, as her own. Her father, Shen Junli, died later that year, and she again mourned greatly. He was given the posthumous name Zhenxian (貞憲).

In 582, Emperor Xuan died. Chen Shubao survived a failed coup attempt, albeit with substantial injuries, by his brother Chen Shuling (陳叔陵), Prince of Shixing, and his cousin Chen Bogu (陳伯固) the Prince of Xin'an. After taking the throne, Chen Shubao enthroned Shen Wuhua as empress, and Chen Yin as crown prince. However, as he did not favor her, she was not allowed to attend to him during his injuries--only Zhang Lihua, his favorite concubine, was allowed to.

Empress Shen was said to be solemn and had few desires, spending much of her time studying the Chinese classics, history, and Buddhist sutras as well as practicing calligraphy. She did not participate much in Chen Shubao's feasting, and he did not favor her, instead greatly favoring his Consort Zhang, who effectively took over the governance of the palace. Empress Shen had few complaints about that, however, and she lived a frugal life, limiting her staff to about 100 people and not using elaborate decorations, often submitting suggestions to Chen Shubao. In 588, believing in accusations that Chen Yin despised him for not favoring Empress Shen, Chen Shubao deposed him and replaced him with Consort Zhang's son, Chen Shen. He also considered deposing Empress Shen and replacing her with Consort Chang, but had not had a chance to carry this out before Sui dynasty forces captured the capital Jiankang in 589, seizing him and ending the Chen dynasty, unifying China.

Consort Zhang was executed by the Sui general, Gao Jiong, but Chen Shubao was spared and taken to the Sui capital, Chang'an, to be treated as an honored guest of Emperor Wen of Sui. Empress Shen followed Chen Shubao to Chang'an. She wrote deeply mournful texts to commemorate him when he died in 604. Earlier that year, Emperor Wen had died as well and was succeeded by his son, Emperor Yang of Sui, who, during his reign, undertook 11 journeys through various parts of the empire and often had Empress Shen accompany his train. She was with his train in Jiangdu (江都, in modern Yangzhou, Jiangsu) in 618, when he was killed in a coup led by the general Yuwen Huaji. After Emperor Yang's death, Empress Shen crossed the Yangtze south to Piling City (毗陵, in modern Changzhou, Jiangsu), where she became a Buddhist nun with the name Guanyin ("Avalokiteśvara").

Guanyin died early in the reign of Emperor Taizong of Tang (626-649), but the exact year is not known.

Wu Commandery

Wu Commandery was a commandery of imperial China. It covers parts of the contemporary Northern Zhejiang and Southern Jiangsu. The capital of Wu commandery was Wu (today's Suzhou). Major counties of Wu commandery include Wu (county), Yuhang county, and Huating county which later became known as Suzhou, Hangzhou and Shanghai.

Xu Ling

Xu Ling (Chinese: 徐陵; pinyin: Xú Líng) (507–583) was the compiler and editor of the famous poetry anthology New Songs from the Jade Terrace during the poetically prolific Southern Dynasties era, 420–589. His courtesy name (zi) was Xiao Mu (Chinese: 孝穆; pinyin: Xiào Mù).

Yao Silian

Yao Silian (姚思廉; died 637), courtesy name Jianzhi (簡之), formally Baron Kang of Fengcheng (豐成康男), was an official of the Chinese dynasties Sui Dynasty and Tang Dynasty and was the lead author of the Book of Liang and Book of Chen, official histories of Liang Dynasty and Chen Dynasty, which his father Yao Cha (姚察), a Chen official, had begun but did not finish.

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