Emperor Taizong of Liao

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Emperor Taizong of Liao
Emperor of the Liao dynasty
Reign 11 December 927 – 15 May 947
Predecessor Emperor Taizu
Successor Emperor Shizong
Born Yaogu (Khitan name)
Yelü Deguang (sinicised name)
(902-11-25)25 November 902
Died 15 May 947(947-05-15) (aged 44)
Era dates
Tianxian (天顯; 927–938)
Huitong (會同; 938–947)
Datong (大同; 947)
Posthumous name
Xiaowu Huiwen Huangdi (孝武惠文皇帝)
Temple name
Father Emperor Taizu
Mother Empress Shulü Ping
Emperor Taizong of Liao
Traditional Chinese 遼太宗
Simplified Chinese 辽太宗
Yaogu (Khitan name)
Traditional Chinese 堯骨
Simplified Chinese 尧骨
Yelü Deguang (sinicised name)
Chinese 耶律德光
Dejin (courtesy name)
Traditional Chinese 德謹
Simplified Chinese 德谨

Emperor Taizong of Liao (25 November 902 – 15 May 947), personal name Yaogu, sinicised name Yelü Deguang, courtesy name Dejin, was the second emperor of the Khitan-led Liao dynasty.

Succession to the Throne[edit]

Yelü Deguang was the second son of Abaoji, the founder of the Khitan Empire which became the Liao dynasty. Even though Abaoji had named Yelü Deguang's elder brother, Yelü Bei, as his heir apparent in 916, after Abaoji's death, his wife Empress Dowager Yingtian preferred Yelü Deguang over Yelü Bei because she felt he better embodied the ideals of the steppe. In addition to being the favourite of his mother, he was also favoured by the Khitan nobility. Yelü Deguang was crowned emperor in 926.

Yelü Bei[edit]

The newly crowned Emperor Taizong allowed Yelü Bei to retain his title of Prince of Dongdan, which was created from the recently conquered Bohai kingdom. However, just to be on the safe side, Emperor Taizong maintained surveillance over his elder brother. Yelü Bei slipped into China in 930, but as late as 934, he continued sending intelligence reports to his younger brother despite the welcome he received by Emperor Mingzong of the Later Tang dynasty.

Expansion into Northern China[edit]

Emperor Taizong used the intelligence sent by his brother to take advantage of the crumbling Later Tang dynasty. When Shi Jingtang revolted against the Later Tang dynasty, Emperor Taizong sent aid to Shi Jingtang. The resulting Later Jin dynasty was no more than a puppet state of the Liao dynasty. Through this action, Emperor Taizong was successful in gaining strategic territory that his father coveted, the Sixteen Prefectures and along with them, control of the passes that controlled admittance into China proper.

Emperor Taizong led another invasion into China in 945 when the Later Jin dynasty began to show independence from its Khitan masters. On this first engagement, Emperor Taizong barely escaped with his life. However, further pressure the following year led to the collapse of the Later Jin dynasty. The Khitans pressed their advantage, and even occupied the Later Jin capital. While much of northern China was occupied by the Khitans, Emperor Taizong had second thoughts once facing the challenges of governing a large sedentary population. Khitan forces were forced to pillage, a tactic common among steppe peoples used to intimidate a sedentary enemy. In April, 947, Emperor Taizong abandoned the capital and set to return to the Sixteen Prefectures. He fell ill and died on May 18 during the course of this return journey.

Raising his nephew[edit]

Emperor Taizong raised Yelü Bei's son as his own. His nephew became the very model of a Khitan prince under the emperor's tutelage. Emperor Taizong was also ambitious like his father, and wanted to expand the Khitans' territory. After the defection of a Later Jin general, Emperor Taizong was able to conquer the Later Jin dynasty in 947 after fighting a hard and bloody campaign. It was at this time that Emperor Taizong changed the dynasty name to Liao. He died in China on this expedition, during which he was accompanied by his nephew.

Emperor Taizong reformed the political structures of the Liao dynasty. He set up north and south ministries, dealing with the tribes and the Han Chinese respectively. However, there were still many flaws in the government and military structure.

Following Emperor Taizong's death in 947, Yelü Bei's son ascended the throne as Emperor Shizong despite the opposition of Empress Dowager Yingtian.


  • Father: Emperor Taizu of Liao
  • Mother: Empress Shulü Ping, also known as Empress Dowager Yingtian
  • Wife: Empress Xiao Wen, mother of Yelü Jing and Yelü Yanchege
  • Concubine: Lady Xiao, mother of Yelü Tiande, Yelü Dilie and Yelü Bishe
  • Children:
    • Yelü Jing (耶律璟), the Prince of Shou'an (created 929), later Emperor Muzong of Liao
    • Yelü Yanchege (耶律罨撤葛), initially the Prince of Taiping (created 928), later the Prince of Qi (created 969, d. 972), posthumously honoured as Crown Prince QinJing
    • Yelü Tiande (耶律天德) (executed 948)
    • Yelü Dilie (耶律敵烈), the Prince of Ji (created 969, killed in battle 979)
    • Yelü Bishe (耶律必攝), the Prince of Yue (created 969)
    • Yelü Lübugu (耶律呂不古), initially the Grand Princess of Qian, later the Great-Grand Princess of Yan, wife of Xiao Siwen (蕭思溫)
    • Yelü Chaogui (耶律嘲瑰), wife of Xiao Haili (蕭海璃)


Emperor Taizong of Liao
House of Yelü (915–1125)
Born: 902 Died: 947
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Emperor Taizu
Emperor of the Liao Dynasty
Succeeded by
Emperor Shizong
Preceded by
Li Congke of Later Tang
Emperor of China (Beijing/Tianjin/Northern Hebei/Northern Shanxi)
Preceded by
Shi Chonggui of Later Jin
Emperor of China (Central)
Emperor of China (Central Shanxi)
Succeeded by
Liu Zhiyuan of Later Han