After the quelling of the Yellow Turbans Uprising of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 AD), local warlords and tyrants sprung up everywhere in struggle for the control over the country. Among them, the military groups under Yuanshao and Cao Cao in the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River stood out as the strongest. While to the south of the Yangtze River, Sunquan and Liu Bei occupied the eastern and western areas respectively. They stayed comparatively weaker in the first round of power struggle.

In 200 AD, Cao Cao declared war on Yuanshao. At Guandu in present Henan Province, the army of Cao Cao crushed the force of Yuanshao with lesser military strength. After Guandu Battle, Cao Cao annexed other minor forces in the north and unified the region north of the Yellow River. Thereafter, Cao Cao pushed his army across the river and launched assault on southern regimes.

Under the suggestion of Zhuge Liang, the advisor of Liu Bei, the forces of Liu Bei and Sunquan came to a united front against Cao Cao. They won an overwhelming victory in Chibi Battle (near present Puyin in Hubei Province). Since then, Cao Cao was warded back in the north. Liu Bei followed up the victory and seized present Chengdu City and west of present Hubei Province. And Sunquan strengthened his influence in the middle valley of the Yangtze River.

In 220 AD, Caopi, the son of Cao Cao, abandoned Emperor Xian of the Eastern Han Dynasty and proclaimed himself the emperor of Wei Kingdom (220 - 265), making Xuchang in Henan Province his capital city. The next year, Liu Bei was crowned in Chengdu, ruling the Kingdom of Shu (221 - 263). In 229 AD, Sunquan founded the Kingdom of Wu (229 - 280) with capital at Jianye, present Nanjing City. Thus the confrontation of three rival powers came into being and China entered the period of the Three Kingdoms, the golden age of chivalry in history.

Although the wars continued during this period, each of the kingdoms highly concentrated on the reorganization of the government and the rebuilding of the social order and economy. In the kingdom of Wei, the rulers made outstanding achievements. After the reunification of the northern area, Cao Cao began the opening of the farmlands by soldiers and local people. He restricted the rights of big landlords and uprooted the abused privilege of eunuchs and members of the royal family. Moreover, he gave promotion to the able men from the middle and low class. In Shu, Zhuge Liang sought to build the kingdom stronger and set up good terms with southwestern ethnic group people. While in the Wu Kingdom, seafaring was in the bloom.

In 263, the Wei Kingdom conquered Shu, which only lasted forty-two years with two kings in the reign. Wei Kingdom lasted for 46 years with five kings. In 265, Sima Yan, a top official of the Wei, usurped the power and established his reign as Jin (265 - 420). Later, Jin overturned Wu, the last surviving kingdom in 280 and brought an end to the Three Kingdoms Period.