The nobility in Imperial China underwent a transformation that lasted several thousand years. Earlier than in Europe, a feudal system, a sedentary administration and finally a state system developed, which shaped the culture and social structure of the empire. Despite internal and external upheavals, typical forms remained the same, such as patriarchy, the primogeniture of numerous titles, and the central power of the supreme ruler and his court. Only with the abolition of the empire was the social power of the Chinese nobility broken.
The title of Tianzi literally means Son of Heaven and was used by many sovereign rulers of China regardless of rank.