Brill’s Encyclopedia of China

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Periodization of Chinese History
(2,014 words)

From early on, the Chinese system of periodization was based on the reigns of the respective rulers. This system was refined during the early Han dynasty. For instance, since 100 BCE, each emperor chose a reign title (nianhao), either for the entire duration or a certain part of his rule. The proclamation of a reign title would start the counting of years of a new era. In late imperial times, it became customary for each ruler t…

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Emmerich, Reinhard, “Periodization of Chinese History”, in: Brill’s Encyclopedia of China, Managing Editor English Edition: Daniel Leese. Consulted online on 08 February 2023 <>
First published online: 2008
First print edition: ISBN: 9789004168633, 20121018

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