The Chinese Imperial Navy came into existence from 1132 during the Song Dynasty to the end of the Qing period in 1912. Prior to the 12th century, Chinese naval ships were not organized into a uniform force. After 1911, it was replaced by the Republic of China Navy and then the People's Liberation Army Navy after 1949.
- Admiral (Tidu)
- Fleet Commander
- Squadron Commander
Pre-19th-century ships were wood and of various sizes.
- fu po (warship) - 19th-century ships
- hai hu or sea hawks
- combat junks
- louchuan (樓船) - tower ships of the Ming dynasty
- mengchong or covered swoopers (蒙衝): leather-covered assault warship - ships of the Three Kingdoms period
- river boats - Song Dynasty
- yu ting or patrol boats
- zhan xian or combat junks
- zou ge or flying barques
Following the First Opium War, the Qing improved their naval fleet with modern ships from Europe:
- Dinghai - as admiralty headquarters during the 12th century
- Canton (now Guangzhou) - fleet base of the Qing navy in the late 19th century
- Foochow Arsenal, near Fuzhou (1866—1884) - fleet base of the Qing navy and naval yard and School of Naval Administration in the late 19th century; ancient shipbuilding centre
- Shanghai - fleet base of the Qing navy in the late 19th century
- Tianjin - fleet base of the Qing navy in the late 19th century and home to the Tianjin Naval Academy
- Liugong Island (1888) - birthplace of the Qing navy and base from 1888 to 1898; later served as Royal Navy base until 1930
- Weihaiwei - naval port; served as Royal Navy base from 1898 until 1930
- Dalian - extensively developed as a modern naval base in late 19th century, only to be captured by the Japanese during the First Sino-Japanese War. Taken over by the Russians in 1898 under a 99-year lease, as the price of diplomatic intervention on the behalf of the Chinese, it became a Russian naval base until the Russo-Japanese War.