Three Departments and Six Ministries
Time: 581 -907
Location of Capital: Chang an, in Today's Xi'an City, Shanxi Province
Emperors: Sui Yangdi
Replaced by: Liao Dynasty
The Three Departments and Six Ministries system (Chinese: 三省六部) was the main central administrative system adopted in ancient China. The system first took shape after the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-24 AD), was officially instituted in Sui Dynasty (589-618 AD), and matured during Tang Dynasty (618–907 AD). It replaced the Three Lords and Nine Ministers system that was instituted in Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC). The three departments were the Secretariat (中書省), the Chancellery (門下省, also translated as "Edict Examination Bureau"), and the Department of State Affairs (尚書省), while the six ministries referred to the Ministry for Personnel (吏部), Revenue (戶部), Rites (禮部), War (兵部), Justice (刑部) and Works (工部).
Under this system, the Department of State Affairs, which controlled the six ministries, was the highest executive institution of the imperial government. The Secretariat was the main policy-formulating agency that was responsible for proposing and drafting all imperial decrees. The main function of the Chancellery was to advise the emperor and the Secretariat. The head of the Secretariat or the Department of State Affairs was generally referred to as the Chancellor, next only to the emperor in rank and power. The six ministries were direct administrative organs of the state, and each was headed by a Minister (尚書) who was assisted by a Vice Minister (侍郎):