- Liao Dynasty
. Khitan leaders also apparently made the observation that to become sedentary themselves would mean that they would have to compete with the Chinese on their termsFacts|date=September 2007, something in which the Khitan would have no hope of success. They knew that they must have access to the resources of China without losing the culture and/or identity that was a critical component of their steppe culture.
Rise of Abaoji
From the 750s, a clan using the surname Yaolian had held the title of khan, holding a monopoly on power for more than one hundred fifty years. They had full relations with the
Tang Dynastycourt. The first Yaolian khan even had the imperial surname of Li bestowed upon him, though no one in the steppe bothered with it. Yaolian khans wavered from alliance with the Tang Dynasty to joining in with coalitions against it. During this period of time, only the Yaolian clan used a surname among the Khitan.
Chinese records refer to eight tribes of Khitan. The most powerful of these tribes was the
Yila Tribe. Abaojiwas born into this tribe in 872. The Yila Tribe did not use Chinese trappings such as surnames at this time in history, though they did have close relations with China, focusing on their struggle with northeastern " jiedushi" (military governors) of the Tang Dynasty.
Abaoji was elected to be the chieftain of the Yila Tribe in
901. Two years later, he was named “yuyue”, the commander of all Khitan military forces. The Yila Tribe had close relations with the Shatuo Turks. Li Keyongwas a partially-sinified Shatuo Turk who was the "jiedushi" of northern Shanxi. In 905, Abaoji brought a force of 70,000 cavalry to Datongand swore a blood brotherhood with Li Keyong, a relationship that was to shape the region long after both of their deaths.
The Khitan chose their Great Khan, or "
khaghan", at triennial councils. A Yaolian had been chosen at each of these councils since the 750s. However, Abaoji’s successes resulted in his rising status among the Khitan. Seeing him as being worthy, even the Yaolian assented to his election as Great Khan of the Khitan in 907.
Liao administrative system
Abaojiintroduced a revolutionary new system of governing both nomadic and sedentary populations simultaneously. His concept was to divide the empire into two sections called Chancelleries. The Northern Chancellery(北院) consisted of nomadic steppe peoples, including the Khitan and conquered steppe tribes. The Southern Chancellery, by contrast, included territories incorporated into Khitan domains that was populated by Chinese and the people of Balhae.
The Northern Chancellery was run on a steppe military model. Abaoji was known as the Great Khan of the Northern Chancellery. The entire steppe population was constantly mobilized, ready for military action should it be required. The
Khitan language, for which scripts were devised in 920and 925, was the official language of the Northern Chancellery. The Xiao family, the consort family to the new imperial family, would govern the North.
Southern Chancellery(南院) was run on a civil model. Here Abaoji served as an emperor more in line with the Chinese model of leadership. The vast majority of the administrative work was done by the sedentary populations themselves under the leadership of Abaoji’s family, who at some point adopted the surname Yelü. Chinese was the official administrative language of the region. The Southern Chancellery even adopted the Tang practice of competitive civil service examinations to staff the various bureaucracies of government required to govern a large sedentary population. However, due to suspicions over this overtly Chinese system, initially small numbers of " jinshi" degree holders were actually appointed to government posts. Loyalty, a holdover of common steppe practices, was still a more important means of appointment, even in the Southern Chancellery.
Despite the brilliance of this administrative innovation, it most certainly did not meet with universal approval from the Khitan elite. They believed, with some justification, that the development of a Chinese-style imperial system would seriously harm their interests within Khitan society. Thus, many elite, including those in Abaoji’s own family, rebelled against his rule. This persisted for nine years.
916, Abaoji began his attempt to institute another stabilizing innovation, borrowing the Chinese notion of primogeniture. He named his eldest son, Prince Bei, heir apparent, a first in the history of the Khitan. However, despite Abaoji’s support for this system, it never really took hold until the end of the tenth century.
918, the government occupied a newly constructed walled-city that would serve as the Liao capital. Called Shangjing 上京 (Supreme Capital), it not only served as the administrative center of the new empire, it also included a commercial district called the Chinese city 漢城 (Hancheng – not to be confused by the former Chinese name for Seoulwhich was the same). The city was built on a site hallowed by the Khitan people at the headwaters of the Shira Muren River.
More than thirty walled cities were built, including four additional capitals that served as subsidiary capitals for the four other regions of the empire. An Eastern Capital was built near present-day
Liaoyang. After the Sixteen Prefectureswere absorbed into the empire, a Western Capital was built near Datongwhile the Southern Capital was constructed on the site of present-day Beijing. There was also a Central Capital. These cities were not only capitals of their respective regions, they also served as centers of commerce, and provided considerable wealth for the Liao Dynasty.
Abaojihad named his eldest son, Prince Bei, heir apparent in 918. However, his widow, Empress Dowager Yingtian, was more of a traditionalist than her husband Thus, she did not so readily accept the notion of primogeniture. She believed that her second son, Deguang, would have made a more appropriate Khitan emperor because he displayed the traditional traits deemed appropriate to steppe leadership. He was declared the successor to Abaoji while Prince Bei retained his title. Prince Bei later went to China, where he was assassinated in 936.
Succession issues were not solved upon Deguang’s death in
947. Empress Dowager Yingtian, favoring her third son, immediately denounced her grandson, who was in line to become the third Liao emperor. However, Prince Lihu was seen by all as being wholly inappropriate to be the leader of the Khitan. Civil war loomed, but did not materialize as the court failed to support Yingtian on this occasion. Her grandson became emperor Shizong.
Succession did not return to Prince Bei’s line (as intended by Abaoji in
918, until 969with the death of Muzong and the accession of Yelu Longxu as Emperor Jingzong. Succession would remain in this line until the fall of the Liao Dynasty in 1125. Despite this misleading stability, there were still numerous succession challenges to the end of the dynasty.
Law in the Liao
Law in the Liao Dynasty was applied differently in the Northern and Southern Chancelleries. The Northern Chancellery, governed by the Xiao
consort clan, retained a distinctive Khitan-steppe character.
The Yelu clan, who governed the Southern Chancellery, were considerably more sinified in character. Initially, justice was not delivered in an even-handed fashion to the Chinese inhabitants of the empire. This is reported to having changed from
989. Beginning in 994, Khitanshaving committed one of ten grave crimes would be punished according to Chinese law. This is indicative of a transition from “ethnic law” to “territorial law.”
The level of sinification of the
Khitan peoplehas been debated. While it is clear that the ruling Yelu clan had been sinified to some extent, the bulk of the Khitan people seems to have resisted Chinese acculturation. The above resistance to the idea of primogenitureamong the Khitan elite is only one indication of a resistance to Chinese acculturation.
One of the stated purposes of the division of the empire between a Northern Chancellery and a Southern Chancellery is to create different forms of government for the steppe peoples in the north, which maintained steppe norms of society and government, and for the sedentary peoples in the south, which used mostly Chinese methods of governance.
Abaoji, who himself spoke Chinese and was familiar with Chinese culture, did not speak Chinese in front of his subjects. He revealed to Later Tang Dynastyenvoy Yao Kunbefore his own death that he did not wish the Khitan people to lose the edge that they enjoyed as a nomadic people. He did not want them to become “soft” like the Chinese.
Another indication of resistance to acculturation is the Chinese notion of the use of surnames, a notion of which is a measure in the minimization of potential incestuous contacts. For a century and a half under the Yaolian clan, only the imperial clan used a surname. Only after Abaoji ascended to the position of Great Khan, did his clan as well as the Xiao consort clan adopt surnames, though the exact time is a matter of some debate. It may have taken place either before or after Abaoji’s death. The issue arose again in
1074when a proposal to have all Khitan use surnames was refused by the emperor as being too Chinese. It was believed that it was result in a radical reordering in Khitan society seen as undesirable.
tatus of women
Women in the steppe societies typically had a greater range of rights and responsibilities than they had in the sedentary societies to the south. Upper class women were free to remarry after the death of their husbands. Empresses were genuinely regarded as co-rulers with their husbands. They were also included in the religious and ritual life of society.However, with these increased rights also came responsibilities. Women likely had to bear more of the hard work to maintain daily life as the men were often out hunting or preparing for war. They were competent in many forms of labor and had to come with hardship in a way their sedentary counterparts were not exposed to.
The traditional practice of being required to marry the husband of ones elder sister when she died was ended by imperial decree in 940, though it was not outlawed.
The Khitan were initially an illiterate society. In
920, Abaojiordered the creation of a script that came to be known as the Khitan large-script. While it apparently incorporated elements of Chinese writing, the two are not mutually intelligible and still has not been deciphered to this day by linguists.
925, the appearance of an Uyghur envoy to Liao spurred the call to create a new script based on the alphabetic principles of the Uyghur script. This Khitan small-script was simpler to use than the previous one. It has been partially deciphered by linguistic experts, and it is hoped recent discoveries near Datongwill aid in its being completely deciphered.
Chinese writing was used in the administration of the Southern Chancellery, but its use was restricted to the Khitan elite. Abaoji and subsequent emperors of Liao did not allow widespread use of Chinese for fear that it would result in excessive cultural compromise. It was also feared that it would strengthen any Chinese dissent towards Liao-Khitan hegemony while the Northern Song Dynasty to the south was still a considerable foe.
Though the founding emperor
Abaojiordered the construction of Buddhist, Confucian, and Taoist temples, successive emperors embraced Buddhism. A noticeable increase in devotion to Buddhism can be traced to the reign of Emperor Shengzong. Within a century, local government offices report that there 360,000 monks and nuns in 1078, representing about ten percent of the population. Even if exaggerated, it is clear that Buddhismwas an integral part of Liao life.
Some use the adoption of Buddhism as additional evidence to argue for sinification, however, the Khitan seem to have regarded Buddhism as a non-Chinese religion as they realized that the Uyghurs practiced it as well.
The Liao were more committed to Buddhist studies than their Song neighbors. A complete edition of the
Tripitakaabout 1075with a print quality that far exceeds that of its Song contemporaries. This was used by the Koreans to produce their own version of the Tripitaka by 1082.
Still, most Khitan still adhered to an animistic religion where the sun was worshiped. Thus, the emperor faced the east, where the sun rises, rather than the south as Chinese emperors did. Because the Khitan gave ritual priority to the left, the north was given priority to the south (China.)
From the rise of
Abaojito the fall of the Liao Dynasty in 1125, a total of six dynasties ruled northern China. First were the Five Dynasties, which ruled northern Chinain succession from 907to 960. Then, there was the Song Dynastywhich succeeded the Later Zhou Dynastyin 960, and within two decades, was able to incorporate the southern kingdoms into its realm, unifying nearly all of traditional Chinese lands.
Later Tang Dynastywas founded by the Shatuo Turksin 923after its founder, Li Cunxu, the son of Abaoji’s blood brother Li Keyong, had overthrown the Later Liang Dynasty. However, relations between the two were deteriorating, largely because of Khitan incursions into Hebei, taking booty and captives.
Li Cunxu had died in
926. Despite the general deterioration in relations, the Later Tang Dynasty sent an envoy by the name of Yao Kunto the Liao Dynasty. When he arrived, however, Abaoji was on campaign, completing the conquest of the sedentary kingdom of Balhae(known in Chinese annals as Bohai.) Abaoji’s appetite for expansion had apparently not been sated by the conquest of Balhae, because he sent a demand for cession of the Sixteen Prefectures, which made up the border region between the two empires. However, Abaoji died on September 6, temporarily removing attention from the Sixteen Prefectures.
Later Tang Dynastyweakened in the 930s. When Shi Jingtangrevolted, the Liao sent a large army through the passes at Shanxito assist. In return for assistance in his revolt, the new Later Jin Dynasty, Shi ceded the Sixteen Prefecturesto the Liao. Han Chineseand Shatuo Turksliving in Later Jin territories chafed at the subordinate position they had in relation to the Liao. This led the Later Jin court to begin to display independence from the Liao. Consequently, the Khitan attacked as far as Kaifeng, where they stole maps archives, water clocks, musical instruments, and copies of the Classics, and kidnapped craftsmen and scholars. They then decided to move further into the present day provinces of Hebeiand Shanxi. However, faced with the difficulties of governing a large sedentary population, the Liao emperor changed his mind about being emperor of Chinaand decided to return to the Southern Capital. On the return in 947, the emperor died.
These events led to the collapse of the Later Jin Dynasty, and with the power vacuum left when the Liao emperor’s death, the short-lived
Later Han Dynastywas founded.
Later Zhou Dynastystruck at Liao positions in 958in an attempt to regain the Sixteen Prefectures. After successfully taking two prefectures in Hebei, Emperor Muzong sprung into action, leading a Khitan cavalry force to the Southern Capital the following year. Military confrontation was averted with the death of the Later Zhou emperor.
Song Dynastysucceeded the Later Zhou Dynasty, the last of the Five Dynasties, in 960. Initially, the Song Dynasty court focused on reunifying the Chinese realm by incorporating the remaining southern kingdoms left over from the Ten Kingdomsperiod in the south. However, once Wuyuewas brought into the fold in 978, Emperor Taizong began to focus on the north.
Two major issues caused relations between the Liao and the Song to sour. One was the continued Liao occupation of the
Sixteen Prefectures. The other was Liao support for the Northern Hankingdom, the remnant of the Later Han Dynastythat was toppled in 950.
Emperor Song led the conquest of the
Northern Hanin 979. Then, he led an ill-advised invasion of the Sixteen Prefectures. The result was a resounding Liao victory, forcing the Song emperor to retreat in disgrace.
Song Emperor Shengzong tried to take advantage of a fifteen-year-old Liao emperor by launching a three-pronged invasion in
986. The Song were decisively defeated on all three fronts. The Song court then resumed diplomatic contact with the Liao.
The Liao invaded the Song Dynasty in
1004, and stopped just north of Shanyuan, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of the Song capital of Kaifeng. The Song emperor met them with a force. The Treaty of Shanyuanwas worked out in January, 1005. The Song Dynasty was required to pay an annual tributeto the Liao. The treaty also stipulated that the two imperial families address one another using familial terms. The tribute was increased and extended to Xi Xiawhen the Liao and Tangutsthreatened further invasion in 1042.
When the Khitan conquered the kingdom of
Balhae, the border with Koreahad been pushed to the Yalu River. Korea itself was undergoing significant transformations at the same time. Goryeowas founded in 918, and eventually unified the entire Korean Peninsula. The Sillakingdom, which had ruled the entire peninsula since the seventh century, fell in 935.
In 993, the Khitan invaded Goryeo's northwest border with 800,000 troops. The Khitan withdrew and ceded territory to the east of the Yalu River when Goryeo agreed to end its alliance with
Song DynastyChina. However, Goryeo continued to communicate with Song, having strengthened its position by building fortresses in the newly gained northern territories.
Emperor Shengzongof Liao led a massive invasion with 400,000 men, commanding the troops himself. He easily defeated the resisting army of General Gang Jo, who was executed by the Khitans. However, Gang Gam-chanurged King Hyeonjong to escape from the palace, and not to surrender to the invading Liao troops. King Hyeonjong followed Gang Gam-chan's advice, and managed to escape from the burning capital. A Korean insurgency began to harass the Khitan forces. Eventually, Shengzong ordered a withdrawal of the entire Khitan force; the Khitans lost the war, and didn't gain anything. Thus another bloody war between two nations was foreshadowed, as both sides remained hostile to each other. After the war, Gang was promoted as the Minister of Government Administration.
In 1018, General Xiao Baiya of Liao invaded Goryeo with 100,000 men. This time, many officials urged to king to enter a peace negotiation, since the damage from the 2nd Koryo-Khitan War was so great and Goryeo was not able to recover from the damage. However Gang again urged the king to fight the Khitans, since the Khitan force was much smaller than the previous invasions. Gang volunteered to be deputy commander-in-chief of the Goryeo army, at the age of 71. He led about 200,000 men toward the Goryeo-Liao border. The first battle of the war was the Battle of Heunghwajin, which was won by General Gang by blocking a stream and then destroying the dam when the Khitans were mid-way through crossing. Many Khitans drowned, but General Xiao did not give up hope of capturing the capital, Gaeseong, and continued to march southward. Later Xiao realized that the mission was impossible to achieve, and decided to retreat. General Gang knew that the Khitan army would withdraw from the war, and waited for them at the fortress of Kwiju, where he encountered retreating Khitans in 1019. (
Battle of Kwiju). Discouraged and starving, the Khitans lost in a battle there. Following his victories in Third Goryeo-Khitan War, peace among three Asian empires temporarily settled; Goryeo established a long-term friendly relationship with Liao.
From the time of the empire's creation all the way to its decline, the Liao Dynasty was recognized by
Korea. The Khitan were also in contact with Japanand the Abassidempire, and the court of Baghdadonce asked for a Khitan princess for marriage. These relations established the Khitans all across the steppes, before the Mongol expansion. Commercial activity allowed the Khitans to make their name known beyond the Pamirsand in Europe.
By the mid 11th century, the Khitan had lost their morale and started adopting a defensive attitude towards their neighbors. This was in part due to the influence of
Buddhismand the fact that they had absorbed much of Chinese culture, which had an effect on their mannersFacts|date=September 2007. Around the 12th century, the empire's slow decline sped up as a result of succession problems, natural disasters, and the positive progress of the Jurchenin the northeast. More pressure was put on the Khitan when the Jurchens & Songmade an alliance against them and in 1124-1125, the Khitan Empire collapsed.
After the fall of the empire, a part of the Khitan nobility led by
Yelü Dashiemigrated to the Uyghurs of Xinjiang, and with their help created the Kingdom Of Karakhitan. This was a Turko-Mongol kingdom that was very sinicized. The kingdom allowed Buddhismand Nestorian Christianityto flourish. Its capital was at Balasaghun, south of Lake Balkhashand extended to the areas of Kashgarand Samarkand. The kingdom enjoyed a victory over the Seljuk Turksnear Samarkand in 1141 and remained stable until it was destroyed by Genghis Khanin 1218.
Liao Dynasty 907-1125
Liao Dynasty 907- 1125 Temple Names ( Miao Hao廟號 miàohào) Posthumous Names ( Shi Hao諡號 shìhào) Born Names Period of Reigns Era Names ( Nian Hao年號 niánhào) and their according range of years "Convention: "Liao" + temple name except Liao Tianzuodi who is referred using "Liao" + posthumous name" Taizu (太祖 Tàizǔ) Shen Tian Huangdi Yelü Abaoji (耶律阿保機 Yēlǜ Ābǎojī) 907- 926 Shence (神冊 Shéncè) 916- 922
Tianzan (天贊 Tiānzàn)
Tianxian (天顯 Tiānxiǎn)
926 Taizong (太宗 Tàizōng) Xiao Wu Huangdi Yelü Deguang (耶律德光 Yēlǜ Déguāng) 926- 947 Tianxian (天顯 Tiānxiǎn) 927- 938
Huitong (會同 Huìtóng)
Datong (大同 Dàtóng)
947 Shizong (世宗 Shìzōng) Tian Shou Huangdi Yelü Ruan (耶律阮 Yēlǜ Ruǎn) 947- 951 Tianlu (天祿 Tiānlù) 947- 951 Muzong (穆宗 Mùzōng) Yelü Jing (耶律璟 Yēlǜ Jǐng) 951- 969 Yingli (應曆 Yìnglì) 951- 969 Jingzong (景宗 Jǐngzōng) Yelü Xian (耶律賢 Yēlǜ Xián) 969- 982 Baoning (保寧 Bǎoníng) 969- 979
Qianheng (乾亨 Qiánhēng)
979- 982 Shengzong (聖宗 Shèngzōng) Wen Wu Da Xiao Xuan Huangdi Yelü Longxu (耶律隆緒 Yēlǜ Lóngxù) 982- 1031 Qianheng (乾亨 Qiánhēng) 982
Tonghe (統和 Tǒnghé)
Kaitai (開泰 Kāitài)
Taiping (太平 Tàipíng)
1021- 1031 Xingzong (興宗 Xīngzōng) Xiao Zheng Huangdi Yelü Zongzhen (耶律宗真 Yēlǜ Zōngzhēn) 1031- 1055 Jingfu (景福 Jǐngfú) 1031- 1032
Chongxi (重熙 Chóngxī)
1032- 1054 Daozong (道宗 Dàozōng) Yelü Hongji (耶律洪基 Yēlǜ Hóngjī) 1055- 1101 Qingning (清寧 Qīngníng) 1055- 1064
Xianyong (咸雍 Xiányōng)
Taikang (太康 Tàikāng) or Dakang (大康 Dàkāng)
Da'an (大安 Dà'ān)
Shouchang (壽昌 Shòuchāng) or Shoulong (壽隆 Shòulóng)
1095- 1101 Tianzuodi (天祚帝 Tiānzuòdì) Yelü Yanxi (耶律延禧 Yēlǜ Yánxǐ) 1101- 1125 Qiantong (乾統 Qiántǒng) 1101- 1110
Tianqing (天慶 Tiānqìng)
Baoda (保大 Bǎodà)
Jacques Gernet(1972). "A History Of Chinese Civilization". Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-24130-8
* Wittfogel K.A., Feng Chia-Sheng History of Chinese Society. Liao (907-1125). Philadelphia, 1949 (Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, new series, 36)
History of the Khitans
* Song Dynasty
Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period
* Jin Dynasty
* [http://www.asiasociety.org/arts/liao/ "Gilded Splendor" - Liao Dynasty art at Asiasociety.org]
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