The Chanyuan Treaty (simplified Chinese: 澶渊之盟; traditional Chinese: 澶淵之盟; pinyin: Chányuān Zhī Méng) in 1004-1005 was the pivotal point in the relations between the Northern Song (960-1127) and the Liao Dynasties (916-1125). The ruling class of the Liao were a people of nomadic origin known as the Khitan (Qidan in Chinese) who rose in the northeast around present-day Heilongjiang Province. The Song dynasty, also referred to as the Northern Song, ruled virtually all of China from the late tenth century when it eliminated the last of the kingdoms in the north and the south that stood against Chinese unification.
Early on from the succession of the Song dynasty from the Five Dynasties in 960, relations between the Song and Liao were cordial. The Song had more important matters on their hand, namely the taking of the remaining kingdoms in the south and one in the north to reunify the realm. With that accomplished in 979, the Song turned their eyes on the Liao. The Song destroyed the Northern Han state in 979. The Northern Han was a Shatuo Turk kingdom that considered itself the legitimate successor of the Later Han dynasty that fell in 950. As it was under the protection of the Liao, it engendered some friction between the two. However, what concerned the Song even more was the continued Liao possession of the strategic Sixteen Prefectures, which included present-day Beijing.
After the Northern Han was destroyed by the Song, the emperor decided to march on Liao holdings in the Sixteen Prefectures. The Song forces were routed and the emperor had to retreat in ignominy.
The Song once again tried in 986, this time trying to take advantage of a boy emperor on the Liao throne. The Song advanced on the Sixteen Prefectures in three columns. However, the Liao won decisive victories on all three fronts, and diplomatic relations were soon resumed. Emperor Zhenzong succeeded to the Song throne in 997. Throughout the decade, relations between the two worsened. In 999, the Liao Emperor Shengzong commenced annual attacks against the Song. While achieving victories in each, none were noteworthy. In 1004, this changed completely.
Emperor Shengzong decided to launch an imperial expedition against the Liao personally in the summer of 1004. He took Khitan cavalry and encamped about one hundred miles (160 kilometers) north of the Song capital of Kaifeng. Reluctantly, Emperor Zhenzong marched northward to meet the Liao at Chanyuan. He to decided upon Chanyuan because it was the first large city across from the Yellow River. The emperor believed that crossing the Yellow River by an imperial expedition would have large symbolic and psychological value. The Sung begun to worry that the expedition was not safe for the emperor because the Kitans were making serious advances in Ho-pei Circuit. To make it more safe K'ou Chun, the lead planner of the expedition, implemented defensive measures such as digging trenches. Chanyuan defense was weakened after heavy fighting, results of as many as the thousands of casualties, including many generals. However, upon the arriving of the emperor, morale was raised amongst Song troops, making the battle ever lasting famous.
A Song giant crossbow killed the Liao Khitan leader Xiao Dalin in battle in January 1005. This led to major depression and despair among the Khitan and crippled the impetus of the Khitan offensive.
From January 13 to January 18, 1005, the two sides worked out a peace treaty. Some sources say 1004 as it happened prior to the New Year on the Chinese lunar calendar. While the Liao initially expected a territorial concession in Kuan-nan, this demand was eventually abandoned. The specific terms of the treaty include: (1) The Sung will give the Liao an annual tribute of 200,000 bolts of raw silk and 100,000 taels of silver (2) The State Finance Commission shall deliver these tributes to Hsiung-chou (3) Civilians and the military will abide by the present territorial boundaries (4) If there are robbers or bandits that flee arrest neither side shall give them refuge (5) Neither the north nor the south shall grant licenses to sow or reap furrowed fields (6) All moats and walls already in existence can be kept up but no new ones can be established (7) Neither side shall make requests outside of this treaty.
Though not specifically stated in the treaty, the two imperial families used familiar terms with one another, with the Khitan Liao holding the status of being elder, which was of great symbolic importance in Chinese culture and somewhat humiliating to the Chinese. However, opposition to this treaty among the Song was considerable, as it was believed by some that the Khitan were overexposed. However, peace was the prevailing sentiment, and this treaty avoided any further major wars between the two.
Wang a native Kaifeng, was captured by the Kitans in 1003 at the battle of Wang-Tu. The Kitan emperor awarded Wang with official rank in the Kitan bureaucracy. Wang made the best of his circumstances and spoke with the Kitans of the advantage of resolving their conflict with the Sung peacefully. The dowager empress Ch'eng-t'ien, who was in actual control of the Kitan state at the time, had grown tired of war, and she listened to Wang's proposals. With the Liao empress dowager’s approval, Wang submitted a memorial to the Sung emperor through the Sung prefect of Mochou, stating that the Liao court wished to restore friendly relations. So, Wang facilitated the first talks of peace between the two empires. He had inside information for both of the empires so he knew exactly what each of them wanted in return for peace so he proposed exactly that to both sides. In the end it was Wang who persuaded the empress to give up on her land claims which ultimately lead to the treaty of Shan-Yuan.
Significance of the treaty
The signing of the Chanyuan Treaty was the first time that the Liao forced the Song, who considered themselves the natural heirs to the Central Kingdom (Zhong Yuan), to recognize them as peers. This relationship lasted until 1125, when the Song broke the treaty by inviting the Jurchens (later known as Manchus) to attack the Liao. The Jurchen attack in fact brought an end to both the Liao and the Northern Song relationship.
This treaty immediately reduced the strain on Liao finances. Politically speaking, these annual payments were used to facilitate the construction of Liao’s central capital. Peace with the Sung allowed the Liao to focus more on their internal affairs and its relations with other people. So, this capital ultimately allowed the Liao to establish an international trade network. Without these annual payments from the Sung it would have been highly unlikely that the Liao would have been able to create such a trading network and become the international force that they did. Economically, these payments secured the Liao a steady source of income and even helped facilitate trade with its neighbors because it now had more resources to produce goods in which they specialized in. More importantly, this treaty led to the growth of international trade along the Liao-Sung border.
This treaty allowed the Sung to secure disputed territory in exchange for a very minimal yearly payment. In addition now that the war was over the Sung were able to focus on other matters. For one, they were able to advance their foreign diplomacy. On a different note, the Sung were able to stop their military spending which was putting a serious strain on their economy. In the grand scheme of things, the yearly payments were a far less burden than the sung's military spending against the Liao.
After the Treaty
This treaty became the basis for relations between the Song and other Inner Asian states including Western Xia and the Jin dynasty. Xi Xia incursions in the northwest (at the urging of the Liao) forced the Song to raise their payments to 300,000 bolts of silk and 200,000 ounces of silver.
Along the way there were incidents that jeopardized the peace between the Liao and Sung. Basically, in 1042 the Khitans threatened to launch a military expedition against the Northern Hotung circuit in order to get the Sung to increase their annual tributes to the Khitans. Then in 1076 the Sung ceded the Liao a few parcels of land along the Ho-Tung border. This inevitably created a predicament because the original guidelines of the treaty made sure that the Sung did not cede any territory to the Liao.
The accounts of the treaty in the Liao records and the Song records does not tally with each faction. The altering of some details shows a great deal of political boundary maintenance and an attempt at keeping dignity bias, which is prevalent in the Song dynasty faction. After the treaty was signed, the nature of the relationship between these two states changed from one of purely political rivalry to a supposed fraternal relationship. For the first time in Chinese history there were two Sons of Heaven, recognized by each other.
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