Emperor Shengzong of Liao

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Emperor Shengzong of Liao
Emperor of the Liao dynasty
Reign14 October 982 – 25 June 1031
PredecessorEmperor Jingzong
SuccessorEmperor Xingzong
BornWenshunu (Khitan name)
Yelü Longxu (sinicised name)
16 January 972
Died25 June 1031(1031-06-25) (aged 59)
EmpressXiao Pusage
ConcubineXiao Noujin
Consort Puwei
Consort Jiang
Consort Xiao
Consort Xiao
Consort Ma
Consort Da
Consort Bai
Consort Li
Consort Ai
Consort Sun
Yelü Zongzhen
Yelü Zhongyuan
Yelü Biegute
Yelü Wuge
Yelü Gou'er
Yelü Hougu
Yelü Yange
Yelü Yanmu
Yelü Shuogu
Yelü Cuiba
Yelü Taoge
Yelü Dianni
Yelü Jiuge
Yelü Changshou
Yelü Bage
Yelü Shige
Yelü Boshi
Yelü Taige
Yelü Saige
Yelü Xingge
Era dates
Qianheng (乾亨; 982)
Tonghe (統和; 983-1012)
Kaitai (開泰; 1012-1021)
Taiping (太平; 1021-1031)
Posthumous name
Wenwu Daxiao Xuan Huangdi
Temple name
FatherEmperor Jingzong
MotherXiao Chuo
Emperor Shengzong of Liao
Traditional Chinese遼聖宗
Simplified Chinese辽圣宗
Wenshunu (Khitan name)
Yelü Longxu (sinicised name)
Traditional Chinese耶律隆緒
Simplified Chinese耶律隆绪

Emperor Shengzong of Liao (16 January 972 – 25 June 1031), personal name Wenshunu, sinicised name Yelü Longxu, was the sixth emperor of the Khitan-led Liao dynasty.

Conflict with the Northern Song dynasty[edit]

Emperor Shengzong succeeded his father, Emperor Jingzong, at the age of 12 in 982. As he was too young to rule at the time, his mother, Empress Dowager Xiao, became the regent.

Emperor Taizong of the Northern Song dynasty sought to take advantage of the situation by launching an invasion on the Liao dynasty's southern capital (present-day Beijing) in the contentious Sixteen Prefectures in 986. Three large Song armies were sent to three different strategic locations on the approach to the southern capital. While initially successful, the young Emperor Shengzong, along with Empress Dowager Xiao, led an army of Liao cavalry to counter the enemy and defeated the Song forces at the Battle of the Qigou Pass in June.[1] Empress Dowager Xiao appointed Yelü Xiuge as her senior general to continue attacks on the Song dynasty in retaliation until the following year.

In 1004, the Liao dynasty carried out a large-scale invasion of Song territory, camping out in the town of Shanyuan, about 100 miles north of the Song capital of Kaifeng. This resulted in the Treaty of Shanyuan, signed in mid-January 1005. According to this treaty, the Song dynasty would pay an annual tribute of 200,000 bolts of silk and 100,000 taels of silver to the Liao dynasty in exchange for peace.[2] This arrangement would remain in place with modifications until the end of the Liao dynasty, and in fact, the Jurchens could continue this arrangement with the Song dynasty with the founding of their Jin dynasty.

Examination system[edit]

Emperor Shengzong also institutionalised state examinations for the selection of officials, which was done in 988, based on models used by the Han Chinese-led Tang and Song dynasties. Despite the importance of the return of the examination system, it initially only opened the road for very small numbers, as only three to five were awarded initially, and the number only increased to between 30 and 130 candidates passing the triennial exams by 1014.

Most jinshi degree holders were not even appointed to office, as Khitan aristocrats were far more likely to receive appointments. Khitan people receiving appointments did so specifically through patronage, as they were expressly prohibited from taking the examinations.[3]

Spread of Buddhism[edit]

Emperor Shengzong began the active patronage of Buddhism, rebuilding temples such as the Monastery of Solitary Joy. Within a century of his reign, an estimated 10% of the Liao population were Buddhist monks or nuns, though this figure may have been exaggerated.[citation needed] While the Khitans did not associate Buddhism with the Chinese people because it was seen more as a Uyghur religion and thus not the religion of the Chinese, whom they saw as inferior, what is not clear is the extent that Buddhism penetrated the Khitan population, as the bulk of Buddhist shrines and temples were located in the southern part of the domains of the Liao where the largely Chinese sedentary population resided. There is evidence to suggest that the Khitan populace maintained their animistic belief systems along with their rituals.[4]


During the rule of Emperor Shengzong, the Liao dynasty instituted feudal reform, spurring its economy. Prior to this, it had depended on territorial expansion, slavery and thievery. Under Emperor Shengzong's rule, most slaves were liberated, becoming normal members of society. The most important parts of the economy from then on were animal husbandry, particularly horse and sheep raising, as well as agriculture and fishing. During Emperor Shengzong's reign, the Liao dynasty enjoyed peace and prosperity, so it is widely praised that Emperor Shengzong's reign was a golden age of the Liao dynasty

Goryeo-Khitan Wars[edit]

Popular culture[edit]


  1. ^ [Mote p. 68-71]
  2. ^ [Mote p. 68-71, 115–116]
  3. ^ [Mote p. 76-81]
  4. ^ [Mote p. 81-86]


  • Mote, F.W. (1999). Imperial China: 900-1800. Harvard University Press. pp. 68–71, 76–86, 115–116.
Emperor Shengzong of Liao
House of Yelü (916–1125)
Born: 972 Died: 1031
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Emperor Jingzong
Emperor of the Liao Dynasty
Succeeded by
Emperor Xingzong