Goryeo–Khitan War

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Goryeo-Khitan Wars)
Jump to: navigation, search
Goryeo–Khitan War
Date 993, 1010, 1018-1019[1]
Location Northern Korean Peninsula

Partial Goryeo victory[2][3]
Withdrawal of Khitan Forces[4][5]

  • The Khitan Liao Dynasty cedes territory around the Yalu River basin to Goryeo[6]
  • Goryeo pays tribute to the Liao Dynasty to establish diplomatic relations
Goryeo Liao dynasty
Commanders and leaders
King Hyeonjong
Gang Gam-chan
Seo Hui
Gang Jo 
Yang Gyu 
Emperor Shengzong
Xiao Xunning
Xiao Baiya
Second conflict: Approximately 300,000;
Third conflict: Approximately 208,000
First conflict: Approximately 60,000;
Second conflict: Approximately 400,000;[7][8]
Third conflict: Approximately 100,000

The Goryeo–Khitan War was a series of 10th- and 11th-century conflicts between Goryeo and the Khitan Liao dynasty near the present-day border between China and North Korea.


During the Three Kingdoms of Korea period, Goguryeo occupied the northern Korean Peninsula and parts of Manchuria and inner Mongolia. With Goguryeo's fall in 668, Silla unified the Three Kingdoms, while northern parts of Goguryeo territory were briefly occupied by Silla's ally, Tang China. A former Goguryeo general revived Goguryeo's Manchurian territory as the new kingdom of Balhae.

Right after the fall of Goguryeo, the Göktürks were divided and eventually driven out from most of Central Asia by the Tang. Another Turkic tribe, the Uyghurs, replaced the Göktürks, but their control was weak.

As Balhae, the Uyghur and the Tang Dynasty weakened, the Khitan people, a nomadic confederation in Manchuria and eastern Mongolia, grew stronger and began to expand their territory. Following Tang's fall in 907, China experienced a long period of civil war.

In 911, threatened by Khitan expansion, Balhae sought help from the declining Silla of the Korean Peninsula. Records stated that Balhae also requested help from Silla's successor dynasty Goryeo during the Later Three Kingdoms.

In 916, the Liao dynasty was founded by the Khitan chief Yelü Abaoji, who was enthroned as Emperor Taizu of Liao, replacing the Uyghurs as the dominant power of what is now Mongolia after the Yenisei Kirghiz and the Tang dynasty defeated the Uyghur Khaganate and left a power vacuum.

Goryeo-Khitan relations[edit]

On the Korean Peninsula, Silla was succeeded by Goryeo in 918. The Khitan in 926 destroyed Balhae, and many of Balhae's ruling class moved south and joined the newly founded Goryeo Dynasty.

The Khitan took control of the Sixteen Prefectures south of the Great Wall for helping the foundation of the short-lived Later Jin Dynasty (936-947), which ruled only a small part of China.

In 922, the Khitan leader Yelü Abaoji sent horses and camels to Goryeo as gifts of friendship. However, when Balhae fell to the Khitan a few years later, King Taejo embraced refugees from Balhae and pursued a policy of northern expansion (possibly enabled by the absence of a fellow Korean kingdom in what was once Goguryeo territory). In 942, the Khitan sent another 50 camels to Goryeo, but this time Taejo refused the gift, exiled the envoy to an island, and had the camels starved to death.

Succeeding Goryeo rulers continued the anti-Khitan policy. Jeongjong, 3rd Monarch of Goryeo, raised an army of 300,000 to defend against the Khitan. Gwangjong of Goryeo built fortresses along the northwest and aggressively developed the military fortifications of present-day Pyongan and Hamgyong provinces.

Liao's expansion[edit]

In 962, Gwangjong allied with the Song dynasty of central China and pursued a northern expansion policy. Additionally, some Balhae refugees had formed a small state called Jeongan in mid-Yalu River region and allied with Song and Goryeo against the Khitan.

The Khitan eventually regained internal stability under the strong leadership of Emperor Shengzong of Liao, who sought to counter regional isolation. After conquering Jeongan-guk in 986 and attacking the Jurchens on the lower Yalu River in 991, the Khitans initiated attacks against Goryeo.

First Invasion[edit]

In 993, the Khitan invaded Goryeo's northwest border with 800,000 troops.[7][9] They forced Goryeo to end its tributary relations with the Song dynasty, to become a Liao tributary state and to adopt Liao's calendar.[10][11][12][13][14][15] The Goryeo diplomat Seo Hui negotiated and obtained Liao consent to incorporate the land between the border of Liao and Goryeo up to the Yalu River, which was at the time occupied by troublesome Jurchen tribes, citing that in the past the land belonged to Goguryeo, the predecessor to Goryeo.[16][17][18] With this agreement, the Khitans withdrew. However, in spite of the settlement, Goryeo continued to communicate with Song,[19] having strengthened its defenses by building fortresses in the newly gained northern territories.[20]

Second Invasion[edit]

In 1010, the Khitan attacked Goryeo again during an internal Goryeo power struggle. King Hyeonjong was forced to flee the capital, which was occupied and burnt.[21][22][23] The Khitan forces withdrew after Goryeo admitted the Khitan's suzerainty over it.[24]

Third Invasion[edit]

When Goryeo continued to refuse to submit or return the northern territories, the Khitan attacked once more. Goryeo generals, including Gang Gam-chan, were able to inflict heavy losses on the Khitan army in the Battle of Kuju in 1018. In the next year, however, the Liao assembled another large army.[25] Understanding the difficulty of achieving a decisive victory, the two nations signed a peace treaty in 1022.


  1. ^ Twitchett & Tietze 1994, p.101: "Third invasion, 1018-19".
  2. ^ The History of China. PediaPress. p. 365. Retrieved August 8, 2015.  "Eventually, Shengzong ordered a withdrawal of the entire Khitan force; the Khitans lost the war..."
  3. ^ Kim, Djun Kil (May 30, 2014). The History of Korea, 2nd edition. ABC-CLIO. p. 66.  "Later, in 1018, however, a third large-scale invasion from the Khitan was thwarted by Goryeo forces led by the general Gang Gamchan (948-1031). The Khitan thereafter gave up trying to subjugate Goryeo by force."
  4. ^ Miller, Owen (December 15, 2014). Korean History in Maps. Cambridge University Press. p. 72. Retrieved June 6, 2015.  "In both 1011 and 1018, Goryeo forces achieved decisive victories over retreating Khitan forces."
  5. ^ The History of China. PediaPress. p. 366. Retrieved June 6, 2015.  "General Gang knew that the Khitan army would withdraw from the war, and waited for them at the fortress of Kwiju, where he encountered the retreating Khitans in 1019 (Battle of Kwiju). Discouraged and starving, the Khitans lost the battle. Following his victories in the Third Khitan War, peace was made."
  6. ^ Shin, Hyeongsik (January 1, 2005). A Brief History of Korea, Volume 1. Ewha Womans University Press. pp. 64–65.  "On the 9th year of Hyeongjong (1018), Khitan launched another invasion with a 100,000 strong army, but the army was crushed by general Gang Gamchan at the Great Battle of Guiju. Thus, Goryeo expanded its territory to the north as far as the Yalu River basin."
  7. ^ a b Nahm 1988, p. 89.
  8. ^ Twitchett & Tietze 1994, p.111.
  9. ^ Twitchett & Tietze 1994, p. 103.
  10. ^ Ebrey & Walthall 2014, [1], p. 171, at Google Books: Liao forces invaded Goryeo territory in 993. Instead of pushing for total victory, the Khitans negotiated a peace that forced Goryeo to adopt the Liao calendar and end tributary relations with Song (a violation of King Taejo’s testamentary injunction never to make peace with the Khitan)."
  11. ^ Hyun 2013, p. 106: "the Khitan army attacked Goryeo, who was forced to accept the status of a Liao tributary in 994."
  12. ^ Yun 1998, pp.63-65.
  13. ^ Hatada, Smith Jr & Hazard 1969, p. 52: "In the thirteenth year of the reign of King Sŏngjong (994), Koryŏ submitted to the Khitan and adopted their calendar".
  14. ^ Simons 1995, p. 95: "In 994, during the reign of King Songjong, Koryo was forced to acknowledged the dominance of Khitan".
  15. ^ Twitchett & Tietze 1994, p.103: "The Korean king was invested with his title by the Liao emperor."
  16. ^ Yun 1998, p.64: "By the end of the negotiation, Sô Hûi had ... ostensibly for the purpose of securing safe diplomatic passage, obtained an explicit Khitan consent to incorporate the land between the Ch’ôngch’ôn and Amnok Rivers into Koryô territory."
  17. ^ Twitchett & Tietze 1994, p.102: "Until the 980s Khitan-Koryǒ relations had been at arm’s length, for the Jurchen tribes and Ting-an had provided a buffer zone between Koryǒ's northern frontier and the Liao border". p.103: "Koryǒ was left free to deal with the Jurchen tribes south of the Yalu Valley".
  18. ^ “自契丹东京至我安北府数百里之地,皆为生女真所据。光宗取之,筑嘉州、松城等城,今契丹之来,其志不过取 北二城,其声言取高勾丽旧地者,实恐我也”(高丽史)
  19. ^ Hyun 2013, p.106: "Even though the Goryeo court agreed to set up tribute exchanges with the Liao court, that same year [=994] it also sent an envoy to the Song court to appeal, but in vain, for military assistance against the Khitan."
  20. ^ Twitchett & Tietze 1994, p.103.
  21. ^ Ebrey & Walthall 2014, [2], p. 171, at Google Books: "In 1010, on the pretext that the rightful king had been deposed without the approval of the Liao court, the Khitan emperor personally led an attack that culminated in the burning of the Goryeo capital."
  22. ^ Simons 1995, p. 95: "a prelude to more invasions during the reign of King Hyonjong (1010-1031) and the occupation of Kaesong, the Koryo capital."
  23. ^ Hatada, Smith Jr & Hazard 1969, p. 52: "in the reign of King Hyŏnjong (1010-1031) there were numerous Khitan invasions, and even the capital Kaesŏng was occupied."
  24. ^ Simons 1995, p. 93: "a second Liao incursion resulted in heavy losses, the sacking of Kaesong, and the imposition of Liao suzerainty over the Koryo state."
  25. ^ Twitchett & Tietze 1994, p.112.


External links[edit]