Gongjin's Campaign Memorials
Gongjin's Campaign Memorials

Zhong 仲 or Zhong dynasty 仲朝 was a dynasty founded by Yuan Shu in 197 A.D., making it the first founded Empire since the Han. Using the Imperial Seal, Yuan Shu founded the dynasty and declared himself its emperor. The Zhong dynasty was short-lived as Yuan Shu's audacious action made him a target of many warlords.

Brief history[]

In 189 Yuan Shu, a member of a most distinguished official family, rose to prominence as a warlord following his participation in the eunuch massacre, which led to chaos in the capital and the subsequent usurpation of the state by Dong Zhuo. As Dong Zhuo seized the capital, Yuan Shu fled to Nanyang commandery in Jing province, south of Luoyang, and gathered troops, notably reinforced by Sun Jian. He then joined the alliance against Dong Zhuo and further made a name for himself, mostly through the efforts of Sun Jian, who scored victory after victory against Lü Bu, Hu Zhen and Dong Zhuo himself and eventually captured Luoyang, though now burnt. In Luoyang Sun Jian found the Imperial Seal of the State and handed it over to Yuan Shu.

Later in 191 Sun Jian died in battle with Liu Biao's officer Huang Zu. Yuan Shu withdrew to Chenliu commandery in Yan province where Cao Cao attacked him in 193 and Yuan Shu was driven away to Shouchun in Jiujiang commandery, Yang province. He removed Chen Wen as Inspector of Yang Province and took the title for himself. He also called himself Lord of Xu Province.

In 197 Yuan Shu proclaimed himself Emperor of the new Zhong dynasty. Yuan Shu was partly inspired by the humiliation of Emperor Xian (as a puppet of Cao Cao), but chiefly by his own sense of importance as senior member of one of the great official families in the empire. He further bolstered his claim by reference to portents and prophecies, and to the fact that he held the Imperial Seal of State. He received no support, however, and was declared a rebel by rival warlords. By 199 not much was left his regime. He tried to escape to the Dabie hills in the east, or Qing province in the north, but was driven back to Shouchun. In the sixth month of 199 he died outside that city, and with him his dynasty.

Why the name Zhong?[]

How the character was drawn at the time of the Three Kingdoms.

Little is known about why Yuan Shu went with the name 'Zhong'. The History of the Later Han chapter 75/65 TC says that the name was sometimes written as Chong 沖. It seems most probable, however, that the style chosen by Yuan Shu was Zhong, which has the meaning of "younger" and hence implied a courteous succession from Han.

It does not appear, however, that Yuan Shu had any association with a place called Zhong or Chong, nor a title which had that hanzi in it, which is where many other emperors got the name for their dynasty from. For example Sun Quan was based in Wu commandery and was also titled King of Wu before he founded the Wu dynasty. Sima Zhao was King of Jin , and this title was inherited by his son Sima Yan, who founded the Jin dynasty.

On the character zhong[]

Definitions and other usages:

  1. middle or second brother
  2. go between, mediator
  3. used as a Chinese surname (Zhang Zhongjing 張仲景)
  • Traditional: 仲
  • Simplified: 仲
  • Pinyin with tonemarks: Zhòng (zhong4)
  • Wade-Giles: Chung4
  • Pronunciation: to add link

The reign colour of Zhong[]

Main article: Five Powers

The Later Han dynasty had the reign colour Red and ruled through the Power of Fire. At the time of Later Han and Three Kingdoms it became accepted the Five Powers succeeded each other not through conquest, but by natural succession. Following this theory Yuan Shu's Zhong dynasty would've reigned Yellow through the Power of Earth, as Earth (ashes) is the natural successor of Fire.

Furthermore the name 'Zhong' 仲 means 'younger' and by picking that name Yuan Shu may have implied a courteous succession from Han, which would make it appropriate for him to use Yellow and Earth, assuming his dynasty did have a reign colour, which seems likely because Yuan Shu referred to certain prophecies before becoming Emperor. These prophecies were in accordance with the Five Powers. If a new Emperor was in the making, and he would be associated with Earth, Heaven would sent prophecies representing Earth, such as worms or crickets and other creatures from earth appearing more abundant.

Yuan Shu's relative Yuan Shao may have also adopted the reign colour Yellow had he founded a dynasty.

List of sovereigns of Zhong[]

Posthumous name Temple name Name Reign Reign title(s) Notes
n/a n/a Yuan Shu 袁術 197-199 n/a [note 1]

See also[]


  1. As reign titles were given after a calendar year had passed, Yuan Shu had probably created at least two reign titles, one for the year 197 and one for the year 198.