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Chinese History - Liao Empire Geography

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Map Liao Dynasty (Khitan)Map Liao Dynasty (Khitan)Map Liao Dynasty (Khitan)
Map Liao Dynasty (Khitan)Map Liao Dynasty (Khitan)Map Liao Dynasty (Khitan)
Map Liao Dynasty (Khitan)

The Liao empire 遼 (907-1125) was founded by the proto-Mongolian people of the Khitans in the Liao River basin, from where it expanded to the west and the southwest, swallowing the tribes of the Xi 奚 and the kingdom of Bohai (Balhae) 渤海. The Khitans in 937 even occupied the sixteen northernmost prefectures (zhou 州) of the Later Jin empire 後晉 (936-946), and so initiated their conquest of the north China plain. In the following decades, the Liao armies several times invaded the Song empire 宋 (960-1279) and the Korean kingdom of Goryeo 高麗
Following the pattern of the Song, the Khitans had five capitals:

The Capitals of the Liao Empire
capitalprefecturemodern place
Shangjing 上京 "Supreme Capital"Linhuang 臨潢Balinzuo Banner 巴林左旗, Inner Mongolia
Zhongjing 中京 "Central Capital"Dading 大定near Ningcheng 寧城, Liaoning
Dongjing 東京 "Eastern Capital"Liaoyang 遼陽Liaoyang, Liaoning
Xijing 西京 "Western Capital"Datong 大同Datong, Shanxi
Nanjing 南京 "Southern Capital"Xijin 析津Beijing 北京

These capitals were each concurrently the administrative seats of five circuits or "provinces" (dao 道; courier type underlined in the map). The two southern circuits had included subordinated prefectures (zhou 州), a type of administration that was adopted from the Chinese administrativ system after the Khitans had occuped the sixteen Chinese prefectures in 937. In 924 the Khitans had occupied the state of Bohai and created the Princedom of Dongdan 東丹 in this area. The northwestern steppe region was loosely controlled by the two "bandit suppression commissions" (or "pacific action commissions", zhaotaosi 招討司) of the Northwest and Southwest. The federation of the tribes Wugu 烏古 and Dilie 敵烈 was united in an army command (tongjunsi 統軍司). The steppe farther north was roamed by several Mongolian and Turkic-speaking tribes like the Kereyids, Zubu 阻卜, Tatars 達旦), Naimans 乃蠻, Merkits 梅里急), Mongols 蒙古) and Jalayirs 茶札剌. The northeast (what was later to become "Manchuria") was inhabited by the Shiwei 室韋 and Jurchens 女直 that would eventually found the Jin empire 金 (1115-1234). The Tangutan empire of Western Xia 西夏 (1038-1227) was strong enough to withstand Liao pressure.
When the Jurchens conquered the Liao empire and the northern border prefectures of the Song empire, part of the elite of the Liao dynasty fled to the west, where they founded the Western Liao empire 西遼 (1124-1218). It covered the Tarim Basin, the Dzungar Basin, and reached far beyond the Pamir Range into the Central Asian steppe. The capital of the Western Liao empire was Kuç-Ordo (modern Tokmak in Kirgizstan).


2000 ff. © Ulrich Theobald · Mail

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