Liao dynasty

Great Liao / Qidan

大遼 (Great Liao)
"Khitan State" / 契丹國 (Khitan State)
Liao dynasty at its greatest extent, c. 1000
Liao dynasty at its greatest extent, c. 1000
CapitalShangjing (Linhuang)1
Common languagesKhitan, Middle Chinese, Jurchen

Influences from:
• 907–926
Taizu (Abaoji)
• 926–947
• 947–951
• 951–969
• 969–982
• 982–1031
• 1031–1055
• 1055–1101
• 1101–1125
Historical eraMedieval Asia
• Abaoji becomes Khagan of Khitans
• Abaoji assumes the title of Celestial Emperor
• "Great Liao" adopted as a dynastic name
• Signing of the Chanyuan Treaty with Song
• Emergence of Jin dynasty
• Emperor Tianzuo captured by Jin
• Western Liao established
947 est.[1][2]2,600,000 km2 (1,000,000 sq mi)
1111 est.[3][4]4,500,000 km2 (1,700,000 sq mi)
CurrencyMostly barter in the nomadic areas, and cash coins in the southern circuit. (See: Liao dynasty coinage)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Tang dynasty
Uyghur Khaganate
Later Jìn
Kumo Xi
Jīn dynasty
Northern Liao
Western Xia
Western Liao
Khamag Mongol
Today part ofChina
North Korea
1. Shangjing (Linhuang) was ranked first of five capitals that were established by Liao, all of which served concurrently as regional capitals of a circuit. The other four capitals included Nanjing (Xijin, today's Beijing), Dongjing (Liaoyang), Xijing (Datong) and Zhongjing (Dading, today's Ningcheng).
History of China
History of China
Neolithic c. 8500 – c. 2070 BC
Xia c. 2070 – c. 1600 BC
Shang c. 1600 – c. 1046 BC
Zhou c. 1046 – 256 BC
 Western Zhou
 Eastern Zhou
   Spring and Autumn
   Warring States
Qin 221–207 BC
Han 202 BC – 220 AD
  Western Han
  Eastern Han
Three Kingdoms 220–280
  Wei, Shu and Wu
Jin 266–420
  Western Jin
  Eastern JinSixteen Kingdoms
Northern and Southern dynasties
Sui 581–618
Tang 618–907
  (Wu Zhou 690–705)
Five Dynasties and
Ten Kingdoms

Liao 916–1125
Song 960–1279
  Northern SongWestern Xia
  Southern SongJin
Yuan 1271–1368
Ming 1368–1644
Qing 1636–1912
Republic of China 1912–1949
People's Republic of China 1949–present

The Liao dynasty (/;[5] Khitan: Mos Jælud; traditional Chinese: 遼朝; simplified Chinese: 辽朝; pinyin: Liáo cháo),[6] also known as the Liao Empire, officially the Great Liao (大遼; 大辽; Dà Liáo), or the Khitan (Qidan) State (Khitan: Mos diau-d kitai huldʒi gur),[7] was an empire and imperial dynasty in East Asia that ruled from 916 to 1125 over present-day Northern and Northeast China, Mongolia and portions of the Russian Far East and North Korea.[8] The empire was founded by Yelü Abaoji (Emperor Taizu of Liao), Khagan of the Khitans around the time of the collapse of the Tang dynasty and was the first state to control all of Manchuria.[9] Being ruled by the Khitan Yelü clan, the Liao dynasty is considered by historians to be a conquest dynasty of China.

Almost immediately after its founding, the Liao dynasty began a process of territorial expansion, with Abaoji leading a successful conquest of Balhae. Later emperors would gain the Sixteen Prefectures by fueling a proxy war that led to the collapse of the Later Tang (923–936) and would establish tributary relationships with Goryeo after losing the Goryeo–Khitan Wars.[10] In 1004, the Liao dynasty launched an imperial expedition against the Northern Song dynasty. After heavy fighting and large casualties between the two empires, both sides worked out the Chanyuan Treaty. Through the treaty, the Liao dynasty forced the Northern Song to recognize them as peers and heralded an era of peace and stability between the two powers that lasted approximately 120 years.

Tension between traditional Khitan social and political practices and Chinese influence and customs was a defining feature of the dynasty. This tension led to a series of succession crises; Liao emperors favored the Chinese concept of primogeniture, while much of the rest of the Khitan elite supported the traditional method of succession by the strongest candidate. So different were Khitan and Chinese practices that Abaoji set up two parallel governments. The Northern Administration governed Khitan areas following traditional Khitan practices, while the Southern Administration governed areas with large non-Khitan populations, adopting traditional Chinese governmental practices.

Differences between Chinese and Khitan society included gender roles and marital practices: the Khitans took a more egalitarian view towards gender, in sharp contrast to Chinese cultural practices that segregated men's and women's roles. Khitan women were taught to hunt, managed family property, and held military posts. Many marriages were not arranged, women were not required to be virgins at their first marriage, and women had the right to divorce and remarry.

The Liao dynasty was destroyed by the Jurchen-led Jin dynasty in 1125 with the capture of Emperor Tianzuo of Liao. However, the remnant Khitans, led by Yelü Dashi (Emperor Dezong of Liao), established the Western Liao dynasty (Qara Khitai), which ruled over parts of Central Asia for almost a century before being conquered by the Mongols. Although cultural achievements associated with the Liao dynasty are considerable, and a number of various statuary and other artifacts exist in museums and other collections, major questions remain over the exact nature and extent of the influence of the Liao Khitan culture upon subsequent developments, such as the musical and theatrical arts.


The dynasty was officially founded in 916 when Abaoji proclaimed himself emperor and adopted the dynastic name of "Khitan" (Chinese: 契丹; pinyin: Qì Dān). In 946, the Emperor Taizong of Liao officially renamed the dynasty as "Great Liao" (Chinese: 大遼; pinyin: Dà Liáo). The name was once again changed to "Khitan" in 983 during the reign of the Emperor Shengzong of Liao. In 1066, the Emperor Daozong of Liao reintroduced the dynastic name "Great Liao" and the title remained in official use until the dynasty's collapse.

In 1124, the successor state established by Yelü Dashi in the Western Regions also officially adopted the dynastic name "Great Liao". In historiography, however, this regime is more commonly called the "Western Liao" or "Qara Khitai".

There is no consensus among historians regarding the etymology of "Liao". Some believe that "Liao" was derived from the word for "iron" in the Khitan language, while others believe that the name came from the Liao River which was the traditional homeland of the Khitan people.