Let's take the Han dynasty in China's history, ruled by the House of Liu.

Is Han the name of the dynasty? If so, what was the name of their country/empire? I thought Han is the name of the country/empire.

Can dynasty be a synonym for country/empire?

  • Dynasty means hereditary rulers of a country/empire. Simply said "bloodline". So 'dynasty' and 'country' aren't synonyms of each other. Nov 13, 2020 at 22:02
  • Isn't the country named after the dynasty? (...and countries do change their names, according to who is ruling). Nov 13, 2020 at 22:34
  • What @WeatherVane said. It is an eponymous relationship. Also before the conceptualization of "nation state", states had been effectively amorphous throughout their histories. So the reference is often made to the ruling dynasty as a synecdoche.
    – Eddie Kal
    Nov 13, 2020 at 22:37
  • A quick check of Wikipedia suggests the English term is simply a translation of the Chinese 漢朝 or 汉朝, hàncháo. So if there is confusion between the name of the dynasty and the name of the ruling family, it exists in Chinese also.
    – The Photon
    Nov 13, 2020 at 23:04
  • According to this it was Liu Bang, the first Han emperor, who chose to name the dynasty "Han".
    – The Photon
    Nov 13, 2020 at 23:08

1 Answer 1


Dynasty means a succession of rulers, all from the same family.

In monarchies, historians can describe different dynasties:

  • In the England there were the Plantaganet, Tudor, Stuart, and Hanover dynasties.
  • In Ancient Egypt the dynasties are numbered from 1 to more than 30.
  • In China the dynasties are named after the clan name of the ruling kings

In China in particular, "dynasty" is used as a translation of Chinese "朝".

In general, a dynasty isn't the name of the country, but may be used as a way of describing a certain period of a country or empire, and the culture of the country at that time. The name of the country is "China" (中国)

So we would say that Liu Bang, of the Han clan, became Emperor of China, in English.

  • In wikipedia I found "Li Conghou (李從厚) (914–934), formally Emperor Min of Later Tang (後唐閔帝), nickname Pusanu (菩薩奴, "slave of a Bodhisattva"), was an emperor of the Chinese Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period state Later Tang, ruling between 933 and 934.". This suggests that the man was an emperor of the state Later Tang. But the Later Tang was a dynasty. Chinese kingdoms were named after their dynasties? Since I started reading China's history, it seems to me that ruling dynasties had their country named after themselves.
    – Vova
    Nov 15, 2020 at 0:06

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