5 min

220 to 280

Prelude to Three Kingdoms Period

by Something Something

The Three Kingdoms from 220 to 280 CE was the tripartite division of China among the states of Wei, Shu, and Wu. The Three Kingdoms period started with the end of the Han dynasty and was followed by the Jin dynasty. The short-lived Yan kingdom in the Liaodong Peninsula, which lasted from 237 to 238, is sometimes considered as a "4th kingdom. The events leading up to it deserve its own story.

  Table of Contents / Timeline



184 Jan 1 -


  • Han dynasty crumbles internally due to various reasons Agrarian crisis: Famine, Floods and plague(climate change?) Yellow Turban Rebellion
  • Rise of Warlords
  • Dong Zhuo in power
  • Coalition against Dong Zhuo
  • Collapse of central power
  • Emergence of the three kingdoms


Yellow Turban Rebellion

184 Apr 1 -


The Yellow Turban Rebellion, also translated as the Yellow Scarves Rebellion, was a peasant revolt in China against the Eastern Han dynasty. The uprising broke out in 184 AD during the reign of Emperor Ling. Although the main rebellion was suppressed by 185 AD, pockets of resistance continued and smaller rebellions emerged in later years. It took 21 years until the uprising was fully suppressed in 205 AD. The rebellion, which got its name from the colour of the cloths that the rebels wore on their heads, marked an important point in the history of Taoism due to the rebels' association with secret Taoist societies.

More details

Ten Eunuchs


The Ten Eunuchs

189 Sep 22 -

Xian, China

The Ten Eunuchs kill He Jin and are themselves massacred by Yuan Shao.

More details


Dong Zhou

189 Dec 1 -

Louyang, China

Dong Zhuo takes control of Luoyang and deposes Liu Bian in favor of his half-brother Liu Xie, Emperor Xian of Han

More details


Campaign against Dong Zhuo

190 Feb 1 -

Henan, China

The Campaign against Dong Zhuo was a punitive expedition initiated by a coalition of regional officials and warlords against the warlord Dong Zhuo in 190 in the late Eastern Han dynasty. The members of the coalition claimed that Dong had the intention of usurping the throne by holding Emperor Xian hostage and by establishing a strong influence in the imperial court. They justified their campaign as to remove Dong from power.

More details

Battle of Xingyang


Battle of Xingyang

190 Feb 1 -

Xingyang, Henan, China

The Battle of Xingyang was a battle fought in 190 in the late Eastern Han dynasty as part of the campaign against Dong Zhuo. It took place when Dong Zhuo's retreating forces, led by Xu Rong, encountered Cao Cao's pursuing army at Xingyang. Dong Zhuo defeated Cao Cao at Xingyang.

More details



The Coalition breaks up. The Rise of Local Warlords

190 Mar 1 -

Xingyang, Henan, China

Cao Cao returned to Suanzao to see the warlords feasting every day with no intention of attacking Dong Zhuo; he reproached them. Learning from his defeat in Xingyang where he tried to attack Chenggao head-on, Cao Cao came up with an alternative strategy and presented it to the coalition. However, the generals in Suanzao would not agree to his plan. Cao Cao abandoned the generals in Suanzao to gather troops in Yang Province (揚州) with Xiahou Dun, then went to camp with the coalition commander-in-chief Yuan Shao in Henei (河內). Soon after Cao Cao's departure, the generals in Suanzao ran out of food and dispersed; some even fought amongst themselves. The coalition camp in Suanzao collapsed on itself.

More details


Battle of Yangcheng

191 Jan 1 -

Dengfeng, Henan, China

The Battle of Yangcheng was a battle fought between the warlords Yuan Shao and Yuan Shu as the coalition against Dong Zhuo fell apart in 191 in the late Eastern Han dynasty. Sun Jian, Yuan Shu's nominal subordinate returning from his triumphant capture of the abandoned capital of Luoyang, became involved in Yuan Shao and Yuan Shu's personal feud as the former allies turned against one another. Yuan Shao's forces, under Zhou Yu, first got the upper hand against Sun Jian's forces, but was beaten back by Sun's counterattack.

More details


Dong Zhuo is assassinated

192 Jan 1 -

Xian, China

Wang Yun and Lü Bu kill Dong Zhuo and Wang Yun himself is killed by Dong Zhuo's officers Li Jue and Guo Si.

More details


War between Cao Cao and Zhang Xiu

197 Feb 1 -

Nanyang, Henan, China

The war between Cao Cao and Zhang Xiu was fought between the warlords Cao Cao and Zhang Xiu between 197 and 199 in the late Eastern Han dynasty of China. It concluded with Zhang Xiu's surrender to Cao Cao.

More details


Cao Cao's campaigns to unify northern China begin

200 Jan 1 -

Northern China

More details

Battle of Guandu


Battle of Guandu

200 Sep 1 -

Henan, China

The Battle of Guandu was fought between the warlords Cao Cao and Yuan Shao in 200 CE in the late Eastern Han dynasty. Cao Cao's decisive victory against Yuan Shao's numerically superior forces marked the turning point in their war. The victory was also the point at which Cao Cao became the dominant power in northern China.

More details

Battle of Liyang


Battle of Liyang

202 Oct 1 -

Henan, China

The Battle of Liyang, fought between October 202 and June 203 in the late Eastern Han Dynasty, was an invasion attempt by the warlord Cao Cao against the brothers Yuan Shang and Yuan Tan, the sons of Cao's rival Yuan Shao. The battle in October 202 was the first between the two factions since the death of Yuan Shao four months earlier. Although it ended in Cao Cao's withdrawal, events in this battle brought tensions between the Yuan brothers to the surface as Yuan Tan mutinied against his younger brother Yuan Shang after Cao Cao's temporary exit from the scene.

More details


Battle of White Wolf Mountain: Cao Cao unites northern China

207 Oct 1 -

Lingyuan, Liaoning, China

Cao Cao defeats Yuan Shang and the Wuhuan

More details


Battle of Red Cliffs

208 Dec 1 -

near Yangtze River, China

The Battle of Red Cliffs, otherwise known as the Battle of Chibi, was a decisive naval battle in the winter of AD 208–9 at the end of the Han dynasty, about twelve years prior to the beginning of the Three Kingdoms period in Chinese history. The battle was fought between the allied forces of the southern warlords Sun Quan, Liu Bei and Liu Qi against the numerically superior forces of the northern warlord Cao Cao. Liu Bei and Sun Quan frustrated Cao Cao's effort to conquer the land south of the Yangtze River and reunite the territory of the Eastern Han dynasty.

More details


Battle of Yangping: Cao Cao is King of Wei

216 Jan 1 -

Hanzhong, China

Cao Cao was promoted to the status of a vassal king – "King of Wei" (魏王). Over the years, Cao Cao, as well as Liu Bei and Sun Quan, continued to consolidate their power in their respective regions.

More details

Cao Pi


The Three Kingdom Period begins

220 Jan 1 -

Louyang, China

When Cao Cao died in 220 AD, his son Cao Pi forces Emperor Xian of Han to abdicate and declares himself Emperor of the Wei dynasty; so ends the Han dynasty. Cao Pi made Luoyang capital of his new kingdom called Cao Wei, and so began the Three Kingdoms.



  • Theobald, Ulrich (2000), "Chinese History – Three Kingdoms 三國 (220–280)", Chinaknowledge, retrieved 7 July 2015
  • Theobald, Ulrich (28 June 2011). "The Yellow Turban Uprising". Chinaknowledge. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  • de Crespigny, Rafe (2018) [1990]. Generals of the South: the foundation and early history of the Three Kingdoms state of Wu (Internet ed.). Faculty of Asian Studies, The Australian National University.

The End

...or is it?

🐰 Stay in wonderland