Liao Dynasty

Otherwise known as the Khitan Empire, the Liao Dynasty was an empire that ruled Mongolia, Manchuria and several of Northern China from 907 to1125 BC. Its founder Yelu Abaoji, assumed the post as leader of the Khitan tribe when the dynasty before it (Tang) fell to power. The name Liao was formally adopted in 947.

The Khitans were nomads related to the Tungus. They were regarded as semi-civilized people, living harmoniously with other Chinese tribes for many years. But unlike their neighbors these nomads had raw meat for diet and were not able to determine their real ages through counting. These nomads constant migration within the neighboring cities of China, and the fact that they had to interact with several other tribes and cultures, has contributed to the evolution the Khitans into civilized people.

The Khitans first appeared in the Liao River in the province of Manchuria when they were driven outside Central Asia by another Tungus faction. A series of rebellion brought the Khitans into power and Yelu Ahbaoji led the collapse of the Chinese bordering cities. Because he was able to take control of many of North China, he was able to successfully expand and conquer.

Politics, Economics & Culture

The Khitans had about eight tribes and they arranged for each tribe ruler to become the chieftain, within a rotation of three years. Yelu Ahbaoji however ruled for more than nine years.

The Khitans or Liaos hold a system of ruling that is quite different from the feudal sytem of the Han?s of the south and the slavery system of the Bohai?s in the East. They adapted a tribal system, with traditional practices and rites retained for cultural and economic reasons. They also hold a very particular style of dressing and cooking. Although, the main language used by the Liaos remained predominantly Chinese.

Because the Liao Dynasty was the main force in the north, they were regarded as superior to their southern counterparts, where the feudal system was in place. The difference in customs and traditions from the north and south enabled the Khitans to assume administrative function over China, while the southern leaders (Han) took responsibility for agricultural development.

The Liao Dynasty underwent a series of economic evolution. When the main object in the beginning was expansion and conquering, the development of the local government was rather slow. It was during the reign of Emperor Shengzong when they finally began to achieve economic progress by instituting a better feudal system throughout the north and south.

Economy for this period was dependent on raising livestock and agriculture. They integrated three special zones within China: nomadic in the north, agriculture, as well as fishing, in the south and east. This resulted to a better and faster relation between different tribes. But needless to say, with the resources of the south, that region was more economically dominant.

Astronomy, architecture and medicine were achieved during the Liao dynasty. It is interesting to note that during these periods, acupuncture and the preservation of corpses were already practiced. The Liao also practiced a better women?s health system because they gave focus to gynaecology and obstetrics. They believed in the Confucian teachings and many of the leaders were Buddhist.

At the peak of Liao's success, they were able to control the Yellow Sea, the Northern Sea, the Easter Sea; the east where Bohai situates, the Jinshan and the Luisha in the west; and the Hans of the south.

Alas, all these had to end. The Liao Dynasty went on a decline after the rule of Emperor Shengzong. At the beginning of the 12th century, another dynasty grew in power and became a threat to the current dominant dynasty. The Jurchen of the Kin Dynasty was able to capture a very important province (Huanglong) from the Liaos. The alliance the Jurchen established with the Song dynasty further weakened them.

Soon after, the foundation of the Liao dynasty was marred by an economic slowdown and several internal mudslingings for which their enemies took advantage of. By 1125, the last emperor of the Liao dynasty was captured by the Jins, bringing an end to Liao dynasty?s rule.

A dominant dynasty that ruled China for 219, the Liao dynasty holds great power and influence over China, as it is regarded today.