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Before the Mongols, there existed in the Mongolia plains the Hsiongnu (Huns), Hsien-pi (Xianbei), Tavghach (Toba), Juan-juan (Ruruans), Tu-chueh (Turks), Uighurs (see Turk section), Kirghiz and Khitans. Tribal empires rose and fell, and the conquered and the conquerors mixed up, and the ethnic and linguistic dividing lines blurred. Notable would be the fact that the so-called Indo-European nomads, Scythians and Yuezhi (Yüeh-chih), had migrated to Oxus and the Iranian world a long time ago, the Huns and Turks followed the path of the former, the left-over Huns, Ruruans and Turks disappeared, the Tuobas sinicized in northern China, the Uygurs (Uighurs) took refuge in Ganzhou and Xinjiang after being replaced by the Kirghiz and the Karluks. The Khitans would come to rule eastern Mongolia, most of Manchuria, and much of northern China by AD 925.
Origin Of the Khitans
The Khitans were related to the Tungus. The Xianbei-Wuhuan nomads were said to be Tungunzic. They were driven to the Xianbei and Wuhuan Mountains after they accused the first Hunnic king Modu of patricide and were defeated by the Huns. They were later relocated to today's Liaoning Province by Han Emperor Wudi. Since the Khitans resided in the same land as the Donghu, they were called the same name as Donghu or the Eastern Hu nomads. The important thing to be noted about the earlier Huns or Donghu (Xianbei-Wuhuan) would be that they were living alongside the Chinese for hundreds and thousands of years and should be deemed to be the semi-sinicized semi-civilized people. But the later Khitans or Jurchens or Mongols fared much worse, and those people ate raw meat and did not know how to count their ages.
After the Hunnic decline in late first century A.D., the Xianbei moved back to the old territories, between the Yinshan Mountains and the Yanshan Mountains. There appeared a Xianbei chieftan called Tanshikui (reign AD 156-181) who established a Xianbei alliance by absorbing dozens of thousands of the remnant Huns. The Tanshikui alliance disintegrated after the death of Tanshikui. Warlord Yuan Shao campaigned against the Wuhuan and controlled three Wuhuan prefectures. After Ts'ao Ts'ao defeated Yuan Shao, Yuan's two sons, Yuan Shang and Yuan Xi, fled to seek refuge with the Wuhuans. Ts'ao Ts'ao campaigned against the Wuhuan, killed a chieftan called Tadu (with a same last character as Hunnic Chanyu Modu or Modok), and took over the control of today's southern Manchuria. After Wuhuan, another Xianbei chieftan called Kebi'neng emerged. Shi Xiong, a general under Ts'ao Ts'ao, broke this new Xianbei alliance by sending an assasin to kill Kebi'neng.
Xianbei could be classified into three groups, i.e., the Eastern Xianbei, Western Xianbei, and Toba Xianbei. The Eastern Xianbei nomads, with the major tribes of Murong, Yuwen, & Duan, would establish many short-lived successive states along the northeatern Chinese frontier, i.e., the various Yan Statelets. Among the Western Xianbei, Qifu would set up Western Qin (AD 385-431), and Tufa would set up Southern Liang (AD 397-414). Some of the Xianbei mixed up with the Huns. The Hunnic Xia Dynasty (AD 407-431), established by Helian Bobo, was said to be of a mingle nature, called 'Tie Fu'. The Tie Fu Huns were born of a Xianbei mother and a Hunnic Father. Ultimately, the Toba (T'o-pa in Wade-Giles) Xianbei, who migrated to modern China's Shanxi Province from the Upper Khingan Ridge, united northern China.
After the Xianbei-Wuhuan-Toba disappeared into China's melting pot during the 16 Nations (AD 304-420), the newcomers from the northern hemisphere, together with the remaining Tunguzic peoples, would be occupying the eastern part of Mongolia and today's Machuria. In AD 443, the barbarians who took over Tuoba's old territories, i.e., the upper Heilongjiang River and northern Xing'an Ridge, came to see Tuoba Wei Emperor (To'pa Tao) and told him that they had found the Toba ancestors' stone house, called 'Ga Xian Dong'. Tuoba Tao sent a minister called Li Chang to the stone house which was carved out of a natural cavern. In the 1980s, this cavern was discovered as well as the inscription left by Li Chang.
The Khitans (Qi Dan or Qidan) first appeared on the stage. The Khitans lived around the Liao River in today's Manchuria. To the east of the Khitans will be Koguryo, to the west the Xi Nomads (an alternative race of the Huns), to the north Huji or Mohe (Malgal) and Shiwei Tribes, and to the south the Yingzhou Prefecture of Tuoba Wei. Ancient Chinese records speculated that the Xi (or Kuzhen-xi) and the Khitan could be of same family. The Shiwei statelets would be where we are to trace the Mongols for their origin. Huji or Mohe (Malgal) would be where the Jurchens came from.
Ouyang Xiu of the Song Dynasty, in his book New History Of the Tang Dynasty, said that the Khitans were an alternatve race of the Eastern Hu nomads and that Ts'ao Wei Dynasty (AD 220-265), under governor-general Wang Xiong of the Youzhou prefecture, defeated the Xianbei chieftan, Bi Neng (Ke Bineng), around the AD 230s. The Khitans were said be descendants of Kebi'neng Xianbei. Cai Dongfan mentioned that the Khitans had claimed descent from ancient Chinese lord called Shennong-shi (see pre-history).
Tang Dynasty vs the Khitans
New History Of the Tang Dynasty said that by the time of Tuoba's Northern Wei Dynasty (AD 386-534), the ancestors of the Khitans adopted the name Khitan for themselves. New History Of the Tang Dynasty said that the Khitans possessed eight tribes and they were subject to the Turks. The Khitan chieftan was conferred the title of 'Sijin' by the Turks. The Khitan chieftan's clan name would be 'Dahe-shi', which sounded like a Japanese name. The Turks assigned Khan Tuli the post in charge of the Khitan and Malgal Tribes. The Khitan chieftan was conferred the title of 'Sijin' (governor or satrap) by the Turks. Around the AD 620s, one Khitan chieftan (Sun Aocao) paid pilgrimage to Tang's first Emperor, Gaozu, together with a Malgal chieftan (Tudiji). Two years later, the Khitans sent over horses and leathers.
In AD 627, Tang Emperor Taizong got enthroned after staging the "Xuan Wu Men Coup D'etat" during which he killed two brothers and forced Emperor Gaozu into abdication. This year, the Tiele Tribes, including Xueyantuo, Huihe and Bayegu, rebelled against the Turks. Khan Xieli accused Khan Tuli of failing to quell the Tiele rebellion. Being attacked by Khan Xieli, Khan Tuli requested for help with Tang Emperor Taizong in AD 628.
Taking advantage of the Tiele rebellions against the Turks, in AD 628, Khitan chieftan Dahe Mohui defected to Tang from the Turks. The Turks pleaded with Tang Emperor Taizong to have the Khitans relocate back to be under the Turkic control in exchange for surrendering a Chinese rebel called Liang Shidu, but Emperor Taizong declined it. The next year, the Xueyantuo tribe proclaimed themselves as a khan and sought an alliance with Tang. When Dahe Mohui came to the Tang court in AD 629, Taizong bestowed drums, flags, umbrellas and other ritual instruments which the Khitans later treated as a token of power during their tribal power struggles. In AD 630, Tang ordered General Li Jing on a full campaign against Turkic Khan Xieli. The Tang army captured Khan Xieli.
The Khitans, together with the Xi nomads, followed Taizong in the Korean campaigns. Emperor Taizong, en route of return from the campaign against Korguryo, called on Khitan chieftan Kuge and other elderly people for a meeting at Yingzhou, west of the Liao River. Emperor Taizong conferred the title of 'leftside wuwei (martial defender) general' onto Kuge.
Another Khitan chieftan, Luqizhu, submitted to Tang and was made 'ci shi' (satrap or governor) of Quju and his land was made into the prefecture of Xuanzhou, nominally under the supervision of the Yingzhou 'dudu-fu' office. When Kuge led his people to Tang, a new 'dudu-fu' (governor-general) office, Songmuo (pine desert), was set up, and Kuge was conferred the post of Songmuo 'dudu' (governor-general) in charge of ten prefectures in the area. Kuge was given the royal family name of Li by Tang Emperor Taizong. Among the ten prefectures would be those converted from the original eight Khitan tribes. The eight Khitan chieftans were conferred the post of nine 'ci shi'. Luqizhu was retained as 'ci shi' of the Xuanzhou prefecture.
The Khitans first rebelled against Tang in AD 656-661 and again in AD 696. At the times of Tang Empress Wuhou, with the death of Li Kuge, the Khitans, in collusion with the Xi nomads, began to rebel against Tang. Li Kuge had two grandsons: Li Kumuoli and Li Jingzhong. In AD 696, Li Jingzhong, together with Sun Wanrong (grandson of chieftan Sun Aocao), killed Tang 'dudu' (governor-general) Zhao Wenhui for the reason of being insulted. Li Jingzhong declared himself 'Wushang Khan' (khan with nobody above him), employed 'ci shi' Sun Wanrong as a forerunner general, and attacked Tang's Chongzhou prefecture with a claim of an army of 100,000. Empress Wuhou dispatched the King of Liang (Wu Sansi) and 28 generals against the Khitans, but Tang was defeated by the Khitans at Xi-xiashi (west valley stone). The Khitans failed to take over the Pingzhou prefecture. Wuhou then dispatched the King of Jian'an (Wu Youyi) against the Khitans. Sun Wanrong fled after the Khitans failed to take over the Tanzhou prefecture where Tang deputy zong guan Zhang Jiujie and hundreds of martyr soldiers steadfastly defended the city. Li Jinzhong died shortly afterward. Turkic Khan Muochuo helped Tang in attacking the rear of the Khitans. Sun Wanrong re-assembled his forces and dispatched his generals (Luo Wuzheng and He A'xiao) against the Jizhou prefecture, killed 'ci shi' Lu Baoji and abducted over one thousand Chinese. Empress Wuhou dispatched 'shang shu' Wang Xiaojie and a 170,000-men army against the Khitans, but the Tang army was defeated at Dong-xiashi (east valley stone) and Wang Xiaojie was killed. Sun Wanrong then slaughtered the Youzhou prefecture. The King of Jian'an failed to defeat Sun. Wuhou then ordered that the King of Henei-jin (Wu Yizong), 'yu shi' Lou Shide and 'You-wuwei-wei General Shazha Zhongyi led an army of 200,000 against the Khitans. Yang Xuanji, 'zong guan (omnibus magistrate) of the Shenbian-dao Circuit rallied the Xi nomadic army and attacked the Khitans from the rear. The Tang army killed He A'xiao and captured Luo Wuzheng and Li Kaigu. When Sun Wanrong re-assembled his army to fight Xi, the Xi nomads encircled Sun and defeated the Khitans. Sun fled to east of the Lu-he river, where he was killed by his servant during rest. Zhang Jiujie relayed Sun'a head to the rest of the Khitans, which caused the Khitans to collapse. In AD 697, Wuhou gladly changed the era to the first year of Shengong (devine feats) and declared an amnesty across the nation. Hence, the Khitans fled to the Turks for protection.
In AD 700, two Tang nomadic generals, Li Kaigu and Luo Wuzheng, who were previously caught by Tang, defeated the Khitans again. In AD 714, Shihuo (Li Jinzhong's uncle) and xielifa Yi-jian-chuo, leading their clan, defected from Turkic Khan Muchuo to Tang. Tang Emperor Xuanzong bestowed them an 'iron certificate' (a document which would exempt the holder of the death penalty). Two years later, Shihuo came to Tang with Xi chieftan Li Dapu. The Songmuo-fu Prefecture was re-established, with Shihuo conferred the post of du du, king of the Songmuo-jun commandary and leftside jinwu-wei grand general. Heads of the eight Khitan tribes were conferred posts as ci si. A Tang royal family princess, Princess Yongle (daughter of the grandson of King Dongping-wang), was sent to the Khitan chieftan as a bribe. The Turks would complain to Tang numerous times, saying that both the Xi and Khitan had received Tang princesses but the Turks did not get this privilege. In 717 AD, Shihuo died, and a brother, called Suogu, inherited everything. The next year, Suogu and Prince Yongle came to the Tang court.
A Khitan general, called Ke-tu-yu, rebelled against Suogu. Suguo fled to the Yingzhou prefecture and was given 500 soldiers by Tang du du Xu Qindan. Suguo then called on Xi chieftan Li Dapu to attack Ke-tu-yu, but both were killed by Ke-tu-yu. Xu Qindan, being afraid of Ke-tu-yu, relocated to the Yuguan Pass. Ke-tu-yu then selected Suopu's brother (Yueyu) as a Khitan king and requested pardon with the Tang court. Tang conferred the king title onto Yueyu and pardoned Ke-tu-yu. When Yueyu came to Tang, he was given Princess Yanjun as a bride. When Yueyu died, a brother called Tuyusi was enthroned. Tuyusu, having rifts with Ke-tu-yu, fled to Tang with Prince Yanjun; Tuyusi was conferred the title of King of the Liaoyang-jun commandary. Ke-tu-yu then selected Li Jinzhong's brother (Shaogu) as the king. Tang sent over Princess Songhua to Shaogu, and Shaogu sent over his son as a hostage at the Tang court. Ke-tu-yu came to the Tang court for a second time and was mis-treated by the Tang prime minister. Three years later, Ke-tu-yu killed Shaogu, selected Qulie as the new Khitan king, and compelled the Xi nomads into vassalage with the Turks. Princess Donghua fled to Pinglu. The Tang court ordered a huge campaign against the Khitans and defeated Ke-tu-yu. The Xi nomads surrendered to Tang. The next year, Ke-tu-yu attacked the border areas. Tang zhang shi of Youzhou, Xue Chuyue, led over 10,000 cavalry and the Xi nomads against Ke-tu-yu. Ke-tu-yu had the Turks backing him, and the Xi nomads changed loyalty. Two Tang generals were killed, and two were defeated, with a casualty of over 10,000 deaths. Tang made Zhang Shougui as the new zhang shi of Youzhou. Zhang Shougui secretly contacted a Khitan general (Li Guozhe) to have him lay siege of Ke-tu-yu. In AD 734, Li Guozhe killed Ke-tu-yu and Qulie. Tang conferred the title of King of the Beiping-jun commandary and du du of Songmuo onto Li Guozhe. In AD 735, the Ke-tu-yu remnants slaughtered Li Guozhe and his family, with one Li son fleeing to An'dong. The Khitans, under the leadership of Yali (Zuli, Nieli or Nili, the ancestor of Yelü Ahbaoji), selected, Zuli, as Khan Zuwu. Per Li Xihou, Khan Zuwu was a Yaonian-shi clan meber, who replaced the Dahe-shi clan as a Khitan leader. (Speculation about the Dahe-shi clan would consider Shaogu as its last heir.)
In AD 737, Zhang Shougui defeated the Khitans again. In AD 745, Khitan chieftan Li Huaixiu surrendered to Tang and was conferred du du of Songmuo and King Chongshun-wang; Li Huaixiu was given Tang Prince Jingle as a bride. In the same year, Li Huaixiu killed Prince Jingle and fled home. An Lushan, jie du shi (governor-general) of Fanyang, defeated Li Huaixiu. (Per Li Xihou, Li Huaixiu could be the same person as Khan Zuwu.) A new chieftan, Li Kailuo, was made into King Gongren and du du of Songmuo.
The Khitans would continue its developments in power, and by the mid-750s, they defeated the Tang army led by An Lushan. An Lushan earlier had led an army in hundreds of thousands and tried to quell the Khitan rebellion with a Xi nomad guide. An Lushan proposed to Tang Emperor Xuanzong in campaigning against the Khitans; An Lushan assembled an army of over 100,000 from the prefectures of Youzhou, Yunzhong, Pinglu and Hedong; An Lushan, using the Xi nomads as guide, had a fight with the Khitans on the south bank of the Huang-shui River. An Lushan was defeated, with a casualty of thousand deaths. An Lushan would be engaged in zigzag wars with the Khitans till his rebellion in AD 755.
Tang nomadic general An Lushan's rebellion (i.e., the An-Shi rebellion) broke out in Oct of AD 755. This will bring about Tang's decline. Before and after this time period, the Khitans had paid visits to the Tang court dozens of times. Always on a yearly basis, the Khitan chieftans came to Tang, and they stayed in the special guesthouses in hundreds. The Khitans later submitted to Huihe (Uygurs). Tang did not confer them any more titles because of their submission to Huihe. It would be in AD 842 that Khitan chieftan Quxu came to submit to Tang again after the Uygurs were destroyed by the Kirghiz. Tang Emperor Wuzong dispatched several columns of army against Huihe by taking advantage of the Kirghiz attacks. A Huihe chieftan, Wenmeisi, surrendered to Tang. Governor-general of Youzhou, Zhang Zhongwu, would replace the Khitan's Uygur seal with a Tang seal. In AD 860s, Khitan king Xi-er-zhi sent an emissary to Tang. After Xi-er-zhi would be Qinde. Beginning from AD 885, with the decline of Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), the Khitans began to conquer the Dadan, Xi nomads and Shiwei statelets in the late AD 880s. They began to raid into northern China again. Governor-general Liu Ren'gong counter-attacked the Khitans by going beyond the Zhaixing-ling (star grabbing) Ridge and burnt the grass to starve their herds. The Khitans lost a lot of horses and requested for a ceasefire. The Khitans broke the peace treaty and invaded China with over ten thousand cavalry. Later, Liu Shouguang of the Pingzhou prefecture defeated them again by capturing their generals during a peace banquet. Peace ensued for 10 years. Khitan King Qinde, in his late years, gradually lost his control over the eight Khitan tribes. Per History of the Tang Dynasty, the Dahe-shi clan hence lost control of the power over the Khitan tribes. Yelü Ahbaoji was selected because the other Yaonian-shi chieftans failed to do the job. Yelü Ahbaoji was conferred the post of yilijin of the Dielie tribe by Yaonian Khan Hengdejin in AD 901.
Yelü Ahbaoji (Yeh-lu A-pao-chi AD 872-926) took in a lot of the Youzhou and Zhuozhou Chinese who fled from warlord Liu Shouguang's tyranny. Yelü Ahbaoji expanded his territories by sacking the Chinese border cities and abducting the civilians. The eight Khitan tribes used to have a system of rotating rule for selecting their chieftans every three years. Yelü Ahbaoji took over the reign for 9 years without rotating the seat after hearing the Chinese saying that kings did not rotate. Under the pressure of the other tribal heads, Yelü Ahbaoji moved southward where he set up an independent city called 'Han Cheng', namely, the Han Chinese city, near the bank of the Luan-he River. Yelü Ahbaoji had the Chinese cultivate the lands and mine the ores. Later, in the early years of Posterior Liang, around AD 907, he, using the trick of his Huihe wife (Shulü), cheated the tribal leaders into a party and killed them all. Hence, Yelü Ahbaoji, a Yaonian-shi clan member, controlled all Khitan tribes.
Five Dynasties vs Khitan Liao Dynasty
The Khitans were said to have been pressured into moving into northern China where they established the Khitan Dynasty in AD 907. The Naimans, who first allied with the Kirghiz who in turn defeated the Uigurs in AD 840, grew in strength and drove the Kirghiz to the River Yenesei and rooted the Keraits from their homeland on the Irtysch in the Altai and drove them towards today's Manchuria, hence indirectly causing the Khitans to move to northern China where they established the Khitan Dynasty in AD 907 and renamed it to Liao Dynasty in AD 938 (or AD 947 according to the alternative claim). The Khitans ruled eastern Mongolia, most of Manchuria, and much of northern China by AD 925.
The demise of Tang Dynasty brought the so-called Five Dynasties (AD 907-960) in northern China and 10 Kingdoms (AD 902-979), with nine kingdoms in southern China and Northern Han (AD 951-979) in Shaanxi. As recorded in history, the three dynasties in between Posterior Liang and Posterior Zhou were of alien nature, founded by generals who belonged to a group of nomads called Shatuo (Sha'to, a Turkic tribe). While Posterior Liang (AD 907-923) was set up by Zhu Wen (who first betrayed rebel leader Huang Chao and then usurped Tang Dynasty), the leader of later Posterior Tang (AD 923-936), Posterior Jinn (AD 936-946) and Posterior Han all came from nomadic Shatuo (Sha'to). This time period marks the penetration and influence of the Khitans on northern China.
Posterior Tang leader had once gone into exile in another nomadic group of people called Dadan (to be mixed up with Tartar later) till he was recalled by Tang emperor for quelling the Huang Chao Rebellion. When Zhu Wen usurped Tang, General Li Keyong and his son Li Chunxu set up the so-called Posterior Tang. Around AD 907, the Khitans invaded northern Chinese post of Yunzhong. To combat Posterior Liang, Li Keyong would strike an agreement with the Khitans (a branch of earlier Xianbei nomads) against Posterior Liang. But the Khitans, under Yelü Ahbaoji (Yeh-lu A-pao-chi AD 872-926) and his Uygur wife, would collude with Posterior Liang. Yelü Ahbaoji had earlier led a 300 thousand army to an alliance meeting with Li Keyong and swore to be brothers. Yelü Ahbaoji gave a few thousand horses to Li Keyong. But, Yelü Ahbaoji would change mind soon, and he sought suzerainty with Zhu Wen for sake of title conferring as well as marriage with Zhu Wen's daughter. Li Xihou commented that Yelü Ahbaoji intended to be conferred kingship by a Chinese emperor for sake of solidifying his rule over eight tribes at home. Posterior Liang exchanged emissaries with Yelü Ahbaoji few times, and had Yelü Ahbaoji dispatch 300 Khitan cavalry to Posterior Liang as a show of submission. Li Keyong, hearing of the Khitan betrayal, got ill and passed away, leaving three arrows with his son (Li Chunxu, Posterior Tang Emperor Zhuangzong) as oathes to destroy Posterior Liang and the Khitans. However, Yelü Ahbaoji failed to go to Posterior Liang capital for the conferral, and Khitans altogether sent 4 missions to Posterior Liang.
The Khitans under Yelü Ahbaoji obtained a Chinese minister called Han Yanwei and quickly conquered, in AD 926, tribes like Dangxiang (Tanguts) in the west, and the Tungusic P'o-hai in the east and north Korea. (Khitans conquered Xi nomad and She Wei in the north earlier.) Khitan became a much larger northern power. The Khitans ruled eastern Mongolia, most of Manchuria, and northern China by AD 925.
After Li Chunxu overthrew Posterior Liang in AD 921, Tangut's Li Renfu expressed loyalty to Posterior Tang. In AD 933, Tangut's Li Yichao assumed the post of his father Li Renfu. Posterior Tang Emperor Mingzong [Li Siyuan or Li Dan, reign 926-933] had campaigned against Li Yichao for his refusal to relocate to Yanzhou. After laying siege of Xiazhou in vain for over hundred days, Posterior Tang Emperor Mingzong withdrew the siege and re-confirmed Li Yichao's post. After Li Yichao's death in AD 936, brother Li Yiyin assumed the Tangut post.
Posterior Jinn (AD 936-946), led by a Posterior Tang general called Shi Jingtang, also a Shatuo (Sha'to) nomad, in order to fight Posterior Tang, would secede 16 zhou (a unit larger than prefecture but smaller than province) to the Khitans, including today's Beijing city which was never recovered from the nomads till Ming Dynasty (AD 1368-1644) overthrown the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty. Yelü Ahbaoji's son, Yelü Deguang, would assist Posterior Jinn in destroying Posterior Tang and hence take over 16 northern Chinese prefectures as a ransom. With the help of Khitans, Posterior Jinn took over Luoyang and destroyed Posterior Tang. After Shi Jingtang, i.e., Tang Emperor Mingzong's son-in-law, colluded with Khitans in overthrowing Posterior Tang and establishing Posterior Jinn, Tangut's Li Yiyin continued to receive the old conferrals. Posterior Jinn further caught Tangut rebels in AD 943 on behalf of Li Yiyin.
However, rifts between Khitans and Posterior Jinn ensued, and Khitans destroyed Posterior Jinn. When Posterior Jinn Emperor Chudi refused to acknowledge vassalage to Khitans, Yelü Deguang attacked Posterior Jinn. When Khitans attacked Posterior Jinn in AD 944, Tangut's Li Yiyin led a combined force of 40,000 Tibetans, Qiangs and Han Chinese in attacking the west of Khitans by crossing the Yellow River at Linzhou. Yelü Deguang destroyed Posteriro Jinn in AD 946. Khitans renamed their dynsty to Liao Dynasty in AD 947 in the attempt of ruling northern China.
Khitan chieftain, Yelü Deguang, tried to establish himself as emperor of northern China and declared the Liao Dynasty while he was occupying the capital of Posterior Jinn in AD 947. (Khitan Liao's dynasty lasted AD 916-1125, but the name of Liao was to do with AD 947 when Posterior Jinn was destroyed. Liao was meant for a dynasty in China, while the Khitan name was for their original northern dynastic title.) When weather got hot and the Chinese under Posteriro Han Dynasty's Liu Zhiyuan rebelled against them, Yelü Deguang retreated to the north and died en route of home, at a place called the Fox-killing Ridge. Liu Zhiyuan of the Shatuo origin established the Posteriro Han Dynasty. Posteriro Han Dynasty continued the pacification policy as to the Tanguts, and further seceded the Jingzhou (Mizhi county of Shenxi) prefecture to Tangut's Li Yiyin in AD 949 and conferred the title of "zhong shu ling" (minister for central secretariat).
Yelü Deguang's nephew (Wuyue Yelü Ruan), would succeed the Khitan post in AD 947. Five years later, in AD 951, he was assassinated. Posteriro Han Dynasty continued the pacification policy as to the Tanguts, and further seceded Jingzhou (Mizhi county of Shenxi) to Li Yiyin in AD 949 and conferred the title of "zhong shu ling" (minister for central secretariat).
Guo Wei, a general of Posterior Han Dynasty responsible for defeating Posterior Jinn, rebelled after his family were slaughtered in the capital; Guo later staged a change of dynasty by having his soldiers propose that he be the emperor of Posterior Zhou (AD 951-960), while the uncle of Posterior Han emperor declared Northern Han (AD 951-979) in today's Shaanxi and allied with the Khitans. Yelü Deguang's son, Wulu (Yelü Jing), now succeeded in AD 951. Note that the Yelü family had adopted the Chinese first names here, and they had sinicized by adopting the Chinese language, rituals and governmental structure.
After Guo Wei, i.e., "liu shou" (governing magistrate) for Yedu (Yecheng of Shanxi), killed Posteriro Han Dynasty Emperor Yindi (r 948-950), Guo Wei upgraded Tangut's Li Yiyin to the title of King Longxi-jun-wang in AD 951. Yelu Deguang's son, Wulu (Yelu Jing), would now succeed in AD 951. Note that the Yelu family had adopted Chinese first names here, and they had sinicized by adopting Chinese language, rituals and governmental structure. The Khitans changed their dynastic names back and forth between Liao and Khitan, several times. First called Khitan in AD 907, they did not have the chronicle year till AD 916. They renamed it to Liao in AD 947, renamed it to Khitan in AD 983, and renamed it back to Liao in AD 1066.
Guo Wei, i.e., Posteriro Zhou Dynasty Emperor Taizu (r 951-954), conferred the title of King Xiping-wang onto Li Yiyin in AD 954. Li Yiyin did not severe the relations with Northern Han Dynasty till AD 957. Guo Wei's Posterior Zhou will pass on to his foster son, Chai Rong, to be eventually replaced by his general called Zhao Kuangying who founded the [Northern] Song Dynasty (AD 960-1127). In AD 960, Zhao Kuangyin initiated the Chenqiao Coup, took over the reign from Posteriro Zhou and established the Song Dynasty as Emperor Taizu (r 960-976). Tangut's Li Yiyin promptly dispatched an emissary to the Song court for expressing loyalty, and changed his name to Li Yixing for avoiding the conflict with the last character of the given name of Zhao Kuangyin's father. Li Yiyin surrendered 300 stallions to the Song court in AD 962 and received a jade-belt as imperial bestowal in return. When Li Yiyin died in AD 967, Soong Emperor Taizu ordered a mourning for three days and conferred Li Yiyin the title of King Xia-wang posthumously. Tangut's Li Guangrui assumed his father's post.
The Khitan, the Western Xia Tanguts and the Soong Chinese, during the remainder of the 11th century and the early years of the twelfth century, were frequently at war with each other till the Jurchens came along. The Jurchens, ancestors of the later Manchu, would defeat the Khitans in a seven-year war (AD 1115-1122) by means of an alliance with Northern Song.
Song Dynasty vs the Khitan Liao Dynasty
Khitan Emperor Muzong (Yelü Jing r 951-969) was assassinated in AD 969. Wuyue's son, Yelü Xian, would be enthroned as Khitan Emperor Jingzong (r 969-982). Yelü Xian would appoint Xiao Shouxing as 'shangshu-ling' and take over Xiao's daughter as his empress.
During Song Dynasty, Tangut's Toba Sigong descendant sought suzerainty with the Soong Chinese and changed their last name to the Song royal family name of 'Zhao' from the Tang family name of 'Li'. However, Xixia sought suzerainty with the Khitans at the same time. Li Guangrui, in AD 975, declined Northern Han Emperor Liu Jiyuan's demand for a concerted attack at Song Dynasty. In May 975, Northern Han dispatched an army of 10,000 for crossing the Yellow River to attack the Tanguts' Yinzhou city. In August, Soong Emperor Taizu launched a five prong attack at Northern Han, and the Tanguts assisted Soong in attacking Northern Han from the west. In AD 976, Soong Emperor Taizu passed away, and his brother Zhao Guangyi succeeded as Soong Emperor Taizong (r 976-997). Li Guangrui changed his name to Li Kerui for conflict with the first character of the given name of Zhao Guangyi. Son Li Jiyun [Li Jijun] succeeded the post of Li Kerui in AD 978.
Empress Yanyan (or Yeye), after the death of Yelü Xian in AD 979, would assume the Khitan regency as so-called Xiao-niangniang or Xiaotaihou. Empress Xiaotaihou changed the dynastic name back to Khitan. i.e., Da Qi Dan or the Great Khitan. Yelü Rongxu was enthroned in AD 982 and continued till AD 1031, but Xiaotaihou held the antual power. Xiaotaihou appointed a Chinese, Han Derang (son of Han Kuangsi or Han Guosi) as so-called 'shumi-shi' in charge of secretariat, Yelü Boguzhe in charge of areas west of Beijing, Yelü Xiuge in charge of areas south of Beijing, and accepted the surrender of a Song Chinese general (Li Jiqian). When Soong Dynasty's second emperor, Song Taizong (r 976-997), tried to attack Beijing (after quelling the remnant Posterior Han), the Khitans dealt Song Chinese a thorough defeat. Xiaotaihou later took in Han Derang as her lover and conferred onto him the post of prime minister and the title of King Jin; Xiaotaihou gave Han Derang the Khitan name of Yelü Rongyun. When Xiaotaihou and Han Derang passed away, Yelü Rongxu ordered that Han Derang be buried next to the tomb of Xiaotaihou. Yelü Rongxu campaigned against Koryo for the killing of Koryo king by a minister.
In Jan of the 4th year of the Taiping-xingguo Era, i.e., 979, Emperor Taizong dispatched General Pai Mei and et al., on a multi-route invasion against Northern Han. In March, General Guo Jin, 'guan cha shi" [observer] for Yunzhou, took over Xilongmen-zhai [west dragon gate fort]. The Soong army defeated the Khitan relief at Shiling-guan-fu. The Khitans, under the command of Yelv Sha, were half-crossing a creek at Baimajian [white horse creek] when the Soong army launched the attack of Bamaling. The Soong army took over Mengxian, Longzhou and Luanzhou. At Taiyuan, the Soong army fired at the city wall with stone throwers. In May, the Soong army took over Yangmacheng [sheep and horse fort], to the southwest of Taiyuan. Liu Jiyuan, after running out of supply, surrendered to the Soong army. Emperor Taizong, who personally led the attack at the south wall of Taiyuan at one time, ordered the old city to be burnt for its steadfast defence, and relocated the wealthy residents, monks and bhuddists to Xin-bingzhou (Yuci) and renamed Taiyuan to Ping-jin [quelling Shanxi] County.
In June, the Khitan 'ci shi' for Dong-Yizhou [Qigou-guan], Liu Yu, surrendered his city. At Shahe [sandy river], Soong generals Fuqian and Kong Shouzheng defeated Yelv Xida [i.e., the Khitan northside king]. Khitan "pan guan" [judge] for Zhuozhou, Liu Yuande, surrendered to Soong.
The Soong emperor, after taking the Yi and Zhou prefectures, then ordered a campaign against the Khitan southern capital, Youdu-fu [i.e., Peking]. Shi Shouxin was assigned the job as a frontline supervisory general. The emperor intended to retake the 16 prefectures that were ceded to the Khitans by the Shatuo dynasty. Among the 16 prefectures would be seven prefectures located to the southeast of the Taihang-shan Mountain range, and nine to the northwest of the mountain range. The seven prefectures to the southeast were called 'shan-qian' or the front-of-the-mountain prefectures, including the prefectures of You[zhou], Ji[zhou], Ying[zhou], Mo[zhou], Zhuo[zhou], Tan[zhou], and Shun[zhou]. The other nine hind-of-the-mountain prefectures were situated on the outer side of the Inner Great Wall that extended southwestward to Shuozhou from today's Juyong-guan Pass. Soong planned to take back the lost territories at the front of the Taihang mountain for safeguarding the Yellow River line.
On June 23 of A.D. 979, the Soong army reached south of Youzhou. Emperor Taizong entered the Baoguang-shi [treasured light] Monastery for rest. At Deshengkou [victory achieving mouth], the Khitans lured the Soong army with Yelv Xida's flag while dispatching Yelv Xiezhen on a stealthy attack from the side. After defeating the Soong army, Yelv Xiezhen stationed his army on the north bank of the Qingsha-he [green sand] River to lend support to the besieged Youzhou city, i.e., the Khitan's 'nan-jing' [southern capital, after the Khitans renamed their original southern capital of today's Liaoyang as the eastern capital, as part of the three juxtaposed capital cities with the original land named the highest capital]. At Youzhou, Haan Derang was in charge of the city defense. Khitan south capital cavalry-field army director Yelv Xuegu led an army to aiding Youzhou, and dug a canal to enter the Youzhou city. Khitan emperor Jingzong dispatched Yelv Sha and Yelv Xiuge to the relief of Youzhou. In July, at the Battle of Gaoliang-he [sorghum river, i.e., the Xizhi-men Gate of today's Peking], the Soong army, with Emperor Taizong supervising the attack, was defeated by the Khitans in a night attack. The Khitans, led by Yelv Xiuge, Yelv Xiezhen, and Yelv Xuegu, attacked the Soong army on three sides. The Khitans, after defeating the Soong army, continued the counterattack and chased to Zhouzhou. The Khitan emperor ordered a southern campaign in September, two months later. Khitan King Yan-wang, Haan Kuangsi, and Khitan generals Yelv Xiuge and Yelv Sha, passed Yizhou and pushed to Mancheng and Suicheng, with target set at the Soong northern fort of Zhenzhou [i.e., Hengzhou, or today's Zhengding]. Separately, the Khitans dispatched a diversionary force towards the Hedong-lu [east of the Yellow River circuit].
In October, the two sides fought over the control of bridges on the Xu-he River, with the Soong army taking control of the bridges and crossing over to the north. Soong generals Zhao Tingjin and Li Jilong changed the emperor's order to amass the troops for a decisive battle against the superior Khitan cavalry army while sending in an emissary to fake surrender with Haan Kuangsi. At the Battle of Mancheng, the Soong army thoroughly defeated the Khitans. While the Khitans were retreating, Soong general Cui Yanjin, who hid his troops along the Great Wall line, came out to intercept the enemy, and chased the Khitans to Suicheng. The Soong army also defeated the Khitan diversionary Hedong-lu force. The Soong army later defeated the Khitans at the Battle of Yangcheng [sheep fort] and at the A.D. 980 Battle of Yanmen [swan gate], laying the foundation for striking a lasting peace agreement with the Khitans.
After Khitan Emperor Jingzong (Yelu Xian, r 969-982) died, Yelv Longxu, at age 20, was enthroned as Khitan Emperor Shengzong (r 982-1031).
Thinking that the Khitans were weak, Emperor Taizong launched a new invasion against the Khitans in 986. The Soong army attacked with three prongs, but retreated after the eastern prong was impeded by the Khitans. Meantime, in the Sichuan basin, rebellion led by Wang Xiaobo and Li Shun erupted against the Soong rule in A.D. 993, and Tangut ruler Li Jiqian allied with the Khitans to attack Soong. Hence, from 991 onward, the Soong emperor adopted the defensive posture against the Khitans, and ordered to build the watercourse and lake defense line against the Khitans, that extended from the Chenyun-po Lake (Baoding) to the seacoast near today's Tanggu, Tientsin. The Khitans, after repulsing the second Soong invasion, raided deep into the Soong territory. The Khitans destroyed a Soong army in the Yingzhou area, sacked Shenzhou (Shenxian, Hebei), Qizhou (An'guo, Hebei), and Yizhou (Yixian).
The Khitans, after repulsing the second Soong invasion, raided deep into the Soong territory. The Khitans destroyed a Soong army in the Yingzhou area, sacked Shenzhou (Shenxian, Hebei), Qizhou (An'guo, Hebei), and Yizhou (Yixian).
In A.D. 999, the Khitan Liao army laid siege of Fu Qian's Soong army at Dingzhou (Zhengding, Hebei). In A.D. 1000, the Khitan Liao army defeated the Soong army at Yingzhou and captured Soong General Kang Baoyi. In A.D. 1003, the Khitan Liao army, led by Liao empress Xiao-tai-hou and Liao emperor Shengzong (Yelv Longxu), invaded the Soong territory for sake of recovering the Waqiao-guan (tile bridge) Pass, namely, today's southern quarter of Xiongxian County, Hebei. Liao general Xiao Talin sacked Suicheng and captured Soong general Wang Xianzhi. The Liao army went further to attack Dingzhou. The Khitan Liao army invaded Wangdu of Dingzhou, and captured Soong General Wang Jizhong, a Soong 'guancha shi' [imperial observer] for Yunzhou (cloud prefecture).
In August of A.D. 1004, going around Dingzhou, the Liao army went straight for the Yellow River bank. Soong emperor Zhenzong intended to relocate the capital. At the urging of Kou Zhun and Bi Shian, the emperor went to the Tanzhou (Puyang, Henan) front to direct the war. In November, the Liao army was defeated by the Soong army at Shuozhou. The Liao Kelan-jun column withdrew after running out of supply. The Liao army failed to sack Yingzhou (Hejian, Hebei), which was defended by Soong general Ji Yanwo. Liao general Xiao Dalin sacked Qizhou (Anguo, Hebei). Liao empress Xiao-tai-hou laid siege of Jizhou and Beizhou (Qinghe, Hebei). The Liao army took over Deqing (Qingfeng, Henan) and on November 24th surrounded Tanzhou from three sides. At Tanzhou, the Soong army, using the 'chuang-zi-nu' Katyusha-arrows, shot dead Liao general Xiao Dalin, i.e., the Khitan 'nan-jing [southern capital, i.e., today's Peking] tongjun-shi [commanding general]'. On November 26th, Emperor Zhenzong arrived at Tanzhou. Knowing that the Soong emperor was on the north city gate and the Soong army continuously shouting "Long Live the Emperor for Ten Thousand Years!" above the defence wall, the Khitan empress was forced to seek for truce after twenty-five years of wars against Soong China.
In December, the Tan-yuan (deep pond of Tanzhou) Truce was signed, with the Soong and Khitan emperors calling each other by younger and elder brothers, and calling the Khitan empress by aunt. The price for Soong was a tribute of 100,000 ounces of silver per year and 200,000 rolls of cloth. Peace ensued for the next 120 years plus. Emissaries exchanged visits by over 380 times. The cost to the Soong dynasty was the degrading of the Hebei-jun [north of the Yellow River] army and the imperial garrison army at the capital city.
The Khitans sent emissary to congratulate Soong Emperor Renzong's enthronement. The second year, Khitans propogated the news that they would go for hunting at Youzhou. A Soong minister by the name of Zhang Zhibai advised against amassing the troops for guarding against a possible Khitan invasion. The Khitans failed to find any excuse to invade Soong. The Khitans quelled the rebellion in the Liaodong areas. In AD 1031, Khitan Emperor Shengzong (Yelü Rongxu) passed away, and son Yelü Zongzhen was enthroned as Emperor Xingzong (r 1031-1055). Yelü Rongxu gave two wills to Yelü Zongzhen, i.e., i) treat the Khitan empress as his own mother; ii) befriend Soong as long as Soong was to keep peace. Yelü Zongzhen sent an emissary to Soong to notify of his father's death, and Soong sent zhong cheng (central prime minister) Kong Daofu to express condolences. In AD 1032, Yelü Zongzhen's birth mother took advantage of Yelü Zongzhen's hunting and ordered that Yelü Rongxu's dowager empress to commit suicide. Yelü Zongzhen's birth mother later tried to instigate an ursurpation to have a junior son replace Yelü Zongzhen. Yelü Zongzhen relocated his mother out of the capital and officially took over the regency.
In AD 1031, Khitan Emperor Shengzong (Yelv Longxu) passed away, and son Yelv Zongzhen was enthroned as Emperor Xingzong (r 1031-1055). Yelv Longxu gave two wills to Yelv Zongzhen, i.e., i) treat the Khitan empress as his own mother; ii) befriend Soong as long as Soong keep peace. Yelv Zongzhen sent an emissary to Soong to notify of his father's death, and Soong sent zhong cheng (central prime minister) Kong Daofu to express condolences. In AD 1032, Yelv Zongzhen's birth mother took advantage of Yelv Zongzhen's hunting and ordered that Yelv Longxu's dowager empress to commit suicide. Yelv Zongzhen's birth mother later tried to instigate an ursurpation to have a junior son replace Yelv Zongzhen. The junior son (Yelv Chongyuan) notified his brother emperor. Yelv Zongzhen relocated his mother out of the capital and officially took over the regency.
The Khitans sent several messages to the Soong court in regards to their campaign against the Tanguts. The Khitans attacked the Tanguts in the first year of the Huangyou Era, i.e., AD 1049, and reported that they had succeeded in subjugating the Tanguts in 1054, i.e., the first year of the Zhihe Era.
The Sinification of the Khitans
Yelü Ahbaoji, who set up an independent city called 'Han Cheng', namely, Chinese city, near the bank of Luan-he River, was an adopter of the Chinese mode of life. Yelü Ahbaoji had the Chinese captives and abductees cultivate the lands and mine the ores, in addition to captured people from the Bo-hai Statelet. At one time, when the Khitans intruded into the ancient Chinese capital city of Kaifeng, the barbarians stole all the Chinese classics in the city, which were accumulated over hundreds of years, dealing a big blow to the Chinese civilization.
To the north of 'Han Cheng' (the Chinese city), along the West Liao River and Xi-lamulun River, in the valley and sandy area [i.e., the ancient Song-mo or Pine Desert area), the Khitans by the early 11th century were to build nine Chinese-style prefecture-level settlements numbering 350,000 households, including Qingzhou (to the north of Linxi and west of Balin-zuoqi), Huaizhou (west of Balin-zuoqi, Tang Dynasty's Guicheng-zhou), Shang-jing (the upper capital city) [in today's Balin-zuoqi), Zuzhou (ancestral prefecture, between Huaizhou and Shangjing), Raozhou (south of Balin-youqi, Tang Dynasty's Raohua-zhou and Songmo-fu [pine desert prefecture]), Yikunzhou (southwest of Raozhou), Songshanzhou (pine hill prefecture, south of Shangjing and wast of Balin-youqi) between Wuer-jimulun River and Xi-lamulun River, Yongzhou (southeast of Songshanzhou, called Tong-nabo, i.e., tents in the winter times) at the intersection of Xi-lamulun River and Laha-he River, Longhuazhou (southeast of Yongzhou) northeast of today's Naiman-qi, and Longshengzhou (southwest of Naiman-qi) etc. Longhuazhou would be where the Khitan ancestor, Khan Qishou, dwelled, and was called by Long-ting, i.e., the dragon's court house. Xi-lamuhe was known as the ancient Huang-shui (yellow water) or Raole-shui, and merged with Laha-he River to become the source of the West Liao-he River. The ancient Song-mo or Pine Desert area is known as Ke-er-qin today. Northern Song emissary Song Shou, when traveling between the Liao Zhongjing (the middle capital city) and Shangjing, described the geography of crossing the desert, passing Baima-dian (white horse lake) and crossing the Tu-he (Laha-he) River. The ancient Song-mo would be where the ancient barbarians [including the ancestors of the Khitans, i.e., the Yuwen-shi Xianbei) fled after defeats in southern Manchuria. This is also the place that General Feng Zhanhai's Northeast Loyal and Brave Fighters, numbering by 70 to 90 thousand men, marched through under the Japanese plane bombing after fighting the Japanese at Harbin, Jirin and Changchun and trekking across the Manchuria heartland in 1932.
Northern China was inevitably mixed with nomads from Manchuria and Mongolia. The city of Beijing would remain in the hands of the Khitans (AD 907-1125), and then passed into the Jurchens (AD 1115-1234) after a short interim under Song administartion, Mongol Yuan (AD 1279-1368) till Ming Dynasty overthrew the Mongolian yoke in AD 1368. For hundreds of years, the Song Dynasty, built on top of Northern Zhou (AD 951-960) of the Cai(1) family, would be engaged in the games of 'three kingdom' kind of warfares. Northern Song (AD 960-1127) would face off with the Western Xia (AD 1032-1227) and Khitan Liao in a triangle, and then played the card of allying with the Jurchens in destroying the Khitan Liao. With Northern Song defeated by the Jurchens thereafter, Southern Song (AD 1127-1279) would be engaged in another triangle game, with the other players being Western Xia and the Jurchen Jin. Southern Song would then play the card of allying with the Mongolians in destroying Jurchen Jin, and it even sent tens of thousands of carts of grain to the Mongol army in the besieging of the last Jurchen stronghold. Soon after than, the Southern Song generals broke the agreement with the Mongols and they shortly took over the so-called three old capitals of Kaifeng, Luoyang and Chang'an. But they could not hold on to any of the three because what they had occupied had been empty cities after years of warfare between the Jurchens and Mongols. Similar to the times of the Western Jin (AD 265-316) and Eastern Jin (AD 317-420), the northern Chinese would have fled to the south during these conflicts. While Eastern Jin re-established their capital in Nanking, the Southern Song, driven away from Nanking by the Jurchens, chose today's Hangzhou as the new capital. Hangzhou, however, had been the capital of Warring Kingdoms in Zhou times.
Western Liao Dynasty
Written by Ah Xiang
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