Three Kingdoms, period of Chinese history from 220 to 265, after the collapse of the Han dynasty. The period takes its name from the three states into which China was divided. Wei occupied the north. South of Wei were Shu in the west and Wu in the east. Each of the states steadily expanded, especially Shu, which moved into modern Yunnan and Myanmar. Wei, however, later steadily increased its strength and crushed Shu in 264. When a usurper seized the Wei throne in 265 and founded the Tsin dynasty, the Three Kingdoms period officially came to an end. The Tsin did not conquer the Wu, however until 280. Disorders during the Three Kingdoms period included not only warfare between the Chinese states but also incursions into the north by the Hsiung-nu. The era is fondly regarded in China as exemplifying the highest ideals of chivalry and has been depicted in the adventurous novel San Kuo Chih Yen I [romance of the three kingdoms]. The disorder and disunity of the time caused the eclipse of Confucianism, but opened Chinese culture to new influences, such as native Taoism and Indian Buddhism. From India also came many advances in scientific learning. As knowledge of the outside world grew, maps were improved and a grid system of coordinates was invented. Art was predominantly Buddhist in inspiration and showed many central Asian traits.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.