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Chinese History - Liao Dynasty 遼 (907-1125)

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Liao Dynasty

period before (Five Dynasties)
-- Song Dynasty
-- Xixia Empire
-- Jin Dynasty
next period (Yuan)
The Liao Dynasty was not the first Non-Chinese dynasty on north China's soil. During the time of south-north division, many Non-Chinese tribes had ruled over Chinese peasants, and many high officials of the glorious Tang Dynasty 唐 were of Turk origin. Probably being offsprings of the 5th century Xianbei people 鮮卑, the Khitan (chin. Qidan 契丹) people founded an empire in 907 with the chieftain Yelü Abaoji 耶律阿保機 as emperor of Liao. Their military strategy were not any more simple raids on the peasant villages of northern China, but a conquest war with an armoured cavalry. In 946 they took Kaifeng 開封 (Bian 汴) ,the capital of the Song Dynasty 宋 and kept on to attack the weak troops of the civil-oriented Song government. Tired of the ceaseless skirmishes with the nomad people, the Chinese government proposed a peace treaty in 1005 that promised quiet frontiers to the Chinese government. But they had to pay huge tributs ("peace presents") to the nomadic rulers of the north to ensure a stable relationship at the frontiers. But these high costs were profitable in the long run, because the Liao rulers felt quite comfortable with the luxury granted to them by the Chinese. The "wild" steppe people quickly felt comfortable with the Chinese life style, they appreciated the advanced administration system and engaged in agrarian and manufacturial production. The Liao-Khitan became Chinese, and with this modification of economical and social attitudes, they lost their spirit of war. Already in the 10th century, they had developed an own script, modeled after the Chinese script, that was in fact not very suitable for an agglutinating language like that of the Khitan.In 1120, the Song government established an alliance with the Jin empire 金 in Manchuria to attack the Liao empire. The Liao government, weakened by economical desasters and internal quarrels, fell victim to the Jin assaults and draw back to the west where they established a new kingdom called Western Liao (Xiliao西遼, or Karakitan in Turkish - "Black Khitan"). They brought Chinese customs with them, and the high amount of Nestorian believers among them was the origin of the tale of the king-priest John in Inner Asia. In 1218, the Mongols conquered the kingdom of Western Liao. Map and Geography

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(> Song)
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