The best days of the Han Dynasty was followed by a prolonged civil war. Academics referred to this period as an era of disunity known as the Six Dynasties. It started in the founding of the Wei in 220 A.D up to the conquest of the Wu by the Jin Dynasty in 280 A.D.
The earlier part of this period is commonly referred to as the time of the Three Kingdoms, which standard history materials considered to have existed between 220 and 265 A.D. But many Chinese historians and ordinary people further extend the its origin back to the rebellion of the Yellow Turbans in 184 A.D. This period of 190 220 A.D. was marked by a bloody infighting between warlords of China.
However, this chaotic period was followed by a relatively stable state of affairs made possible by military arrangement between the rival states. These were the kingdom of Wei, Shu Han, and the Kingdom of Wu. These Kingdoms, it should be noted, had their origin from the major economic areas of the Han Dynasty.
From the above, it can be safely assumed, that the Three Kingdoms are what is left from the remnants of the crumbled Ha Dynasty. The kingdom of Wei is in the northern part of China; the Wu to the West; and the Shu kingdom to the west. Later however, all of these kingdoms will be crushed by the Jin Dynasty.
Some historians believed that the leaders of these kingdoms seek to reunite the whole empire since the destruction of the Han. The attempt, however, resulted in a constant warfare as each wanted to be the leader of the resurrected empire. The infighting was such that a great number of people died during this period.
A census in the later part of the Han dynasty put the population to more than 50 million. A similar census in the early Western Jin dynasty (after it disbanded the last of the Three Kingdoms and reunited China) reported a meager 16 million. Inaccuracies considered, it is still comfortable safe to assume that a great percentage of the population was wiped out during this bloody period.
In 196 A.D., Cao Cao, one of the leaders during the time when Han dynasty was collapsing, established an imperial court at Xuchang. He later established a military agricultural colony, called tuntian, to support his army. Earlier in 189 A.D, absorbed some 300,000 former Yellow Turbans and a considerable clan-based military group, effectively swelling his army.
In 197 A.D., Cao Cao destroyed Yuan Shu, one of his rivals. This was followed by a campaign against the eastern warlords Lu Bu and Liu Bei in 198 and 199 A.D. Respectively. Cao Cao later eliminated his northern rival, Gongsun Zan and become the founder of the Wei Kingdom.
However, it was Cao Cao's son, Cao Pi, who named the kingdom as Wei when his father died in the early 220 A.D., and deposed Emperor Xian, ending the Han Dynasty. In 221, Liu Bei, a contemporary of Cao Cao and one of the ?warring lords?, declared himself Emperor of the Han, in an attempt to revive the fallen dynasty. His controlled area is known as the Shu Han.
Shortly, Wei bestowed on Sun Quan, an allied, the title of King of Wu. About twelve months later, Shu Han declared war on Wu and the two armies met at the battle of Yiling. Lie Bei was defeated by one of Sun Quan's commander and was compelled to flee back to Shu and died shortly after.
With the death of Liu Bei, the Kingdom of Shu Han and Wu became friendly, isolating Wei in the process. In 222 A.D., Sun Quan renounced Cao Pi, and in 229 A.D., declared himself emperor of Wuchang. Sun Quan's long reign was considered at that time as the time of plenty for the southern area, and a relative peace was achieved over China.
In 230 A.D. However, tension becomes visible again between the kingdom that would culminate in the destruction of Shu Han by Wei in 263 A.D. The Wei was overthrow by the Jin Dynasty in 265 A.D. Later, it was time for the Wu to be defeated by the Jin.
But bloody as it was, this period, just like in any other period in any other people's history, did not prevented China to develop. It seems that periodic chaos is not enough to halt any development. Ironically, it was during this period that Buddhism began to spread throughout China.
Buddhism was introduced earlier in the first century A.D but din not prosper until the fall of Han dynasty, and it had a considerable impact on the society as a whole later in history. Socially also, there is a development that would later result in a more assimilated Chinese. This is was the time when many of the Han Chinese moved to the south, and ?barbarians? moving to the north, assimilated themselves with the rest of the Chinese people.
In the economic area, tea was discovered in the southern part of China that later, would constitute as part of a Chinese regular diet. Porcelain was also developed during this time. For the next centuries after the fall of the Three Kingdoms, the whole of China will be composed of three great regional markets, a testament to the once existed great division.