|Kara Khitan (喀喇契丹)
大遼 (Great Liao)
|Sinicized nomadic empire|
Qara Khitai in Asia, c. 1200.
|Languages||Khitan, Middle Chinese(For administration, court and dignitaries only), Persian, Old Uyghur|
Church of the East
|-||1124–1143||Dezong (Yelü Dashi)|
|-||1144–1150||Xiao Tabuyan (regent)|
|-||1150–1164||Renzong (Yelü Yilie)|
|-||1164–1178||Yelü Pusuwan (regent)|
|Historical era||Middle Ages|
|-||Fall of Liao dynasty||1125|
|-||Yelü captures Balasagun||1134|
|-||Kuchlug usurps power||1211|
|-||Kuchlug executed by Mongols||1218|
|-||All former territories fully absorbed into Mongol Empire||1220|
|-||1210 est.||2,500,000 km² (965,255 sq mi)|
|Today part of|| China
The Qara Khitai (alternatively spelled Kara Khitai, Mongolian: Хар Хятан; Persian: خانات قراختایی, 1124–1218), also known as the Western Liao (Chinese: 西遼; pinyin: Xī Liáo) or Kara Khitan Khanate, officially the Great Liao (Chinese: 大遼; pinyin: Dà Liáo), was a sinicized Khitan empire in Central Asia. The dynasty was founded by Yelü Dashi, who led the remnants of the Liao dynasty to Central Asia after fleeing from the Jurchen conquest of their homeland in the north and northeast of modern-day China. The empire was usurped by the Naimans under Kuchlug in 1211; traditional Chinese, Persian, and Arab sources considered the usurpation to be the end of the Qara Khitai rule. The empire was later taken by the Mongol Empire in 1218.
Kara Khitan (Hala Qidan) was the name used by the Khitans to refer to themselves. The phrase is often translated as the Black Khitans in Turkish, but its original meaning is unclear today. In Mongolian, "Kara-Khitan" literally means "Khar (Хар) Kidan (Хятан). Since no direct records from the empire survive today, the only surviving historical records about the empire come from outside sources. The empire took on trappings of a Chinese state, so Chinese historians generally refer to the empire as the Western Liao dynasty, emphasizing its continuation from the Liao dynasty in north and northeast China. The Jurchens referred to the empire as Dashi or Dashi Linya (after its founder), to reduce any claims the empire may have had to the old territories of the Liao Dynasty. Muslim historians initially referred to the state simply as Khitay or Khitai; they may have adopted this form of "Khitan" via the Uyghurs of Kocho in whose language the final -n or -ń became -y. Only after the Mongol conquest did the state begin to be referred to in the Muslim world as the Kara-Khitai or Qara-Khitai.
Founding of the Qara Khitai Empire
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|History of Xinjiang|
The Qara-Khitai empire was established by Yelü Dashi, who led nomadic Khitans west by way of Mongolia after the collapse of the Liao dynasty. The Jurchens, once vassals of the Khitans, had allied with Song China and overthrown the Liao. Yelü conquered Balasagun from the Kara-Khanid Khanate in 1134, which marks the start of the empire in Central Asia. The Khitan forces were soon joined by 10,000 Khitans, who had been subjects of the Kara-Khanid Khanate. The Khitans then conquered Kashgar, Khotan, and Beshbalik. The Khitans defeated the Western Kara-Khanid Khanate at Khujand in 1137, eventually leading to their control over the Fergana Valley. They won the Battle of Qatwan against the Western Kara-Khanids and the Seljuk Empire on September 9, 1141, which allowed the Khitans to gain control over Transoxiana.
Yelü died in 1143 and was followed by his wife, Xiao Tabuyan, as regent for their son. Their son, Yelü Yiliu, died in 1163 and was succeeded by his sister, Yelü Pusuwan. She sent her husband, Xiao Duolubu, on many military campaigns. She then fell in love with his younger brother, Xiao Fuguzhi. They were executed in 1177 by her father-in-law, Xiao Wolila, who then placed Yelü Zhilugu on the throne in 1178. The empire was weakened by rebellions and internal wars among its vassals, especially during the latter parts of its history.
The Khitans ruled from their capital at Balasagun (in today's Kyrgyzstan), directly controlling the central region of the empire. The rest of their empire consisted of highly autonomous vassalized states, primarily Khwarezm, the Karluks, the Kingdom of Qocho of the Uyghurs, the Kankali, and the Western, Eastern, and Fergana Kara-Khanids. The late-arriving Naimans also became vassals, before usurping the empire under Kuchlug.
The Khitan rulers adopted many administrative elements from the Liao dynasty, including the use of Confucian administration and imperial trappings. The empire also adopted the title of Gurkhan (universal Khan). The Khitans used the Chinese calendar, maintained Chinese imperial and administrative titles, gave its emperors reign names, used Chinese-styled coins, and sent imperial seals to its vassals. Although most of its administrative titles were derived from Chinese, the empire also adopted local administrative titles, such as tayangyu (Turkic) and vizier.
The Khitans maintained their old customs, even in Central Asia. They remained nomads, adhered to their traditional dress, and maintained the religious practices followed by the Liao dynasty Khitans. The ruling elite tried to maintain the traditional marriages between the Yelü king clan and the Xiao queen clan, and were highly reluctant to allow their princesses to marry outsiders. The Qara-Khitai Khitans followed a mix of Buddhism and traditional Khitan religion, which included fire worship and tribal customs, such as the tradition of sacrificing a gray ox with a white horse. In an innovation unique to the Qara-Khitai, the Khitans paid their soldiers a salary.
The empire ruled over a diverse population that was quite different from its rulers. The majority of the population was sedentary, although the population suddenly became more nomadic during the end of the empire, due to the influx of Naimans. The majority of their subjects were Muslims, although a significant minority practiced Buddhism and Nestorianism. Although Chinese and Khitan were the primary languages of administration, the empire also administered in Persian and Uyghur.
Legacy of Chinese rule in Central Asia
The military victories of the Tang in the western regions and Central Asia have been offered as explanations as to why western peoples referred to China by the name "House of Tang" (Tangjia) and another theory was suggested that China was called "Han" because of the Han dynasty military victories against peoples in the north, and the Turkic word for China, "Tamghaj" has been possibly derived from Tangjia instead of Tabgatch (Tuoba).
In the Chu valley in Central Asia Tang dynasty era Chinese coins continued to be copied and minted after the Chinese left the area.
An indelible impression was left on eastern Xinjiang's administration and culture in Turfan by the Chinese Tang rule which consisted of settlements, and military farms in addition to the spread of Chinese influence such as the sancai three colour glaze in Central Asia and Western Eurasia, in Xinjiang there was continued circulation of Chinese coins.
Turkic Empires after the Tang gained prestige by connecting themselves with north Chinese states with the Qara-Khitay and Qara-Khanid khans using the title of "Chinese emperor", Khitay was used by the Qara-Khitay and Tabghach was used by the Qarakhanids. The entry into the previously Indo-European Soghdian and Tokharian speaking Central Eurasia and Xinjiang of tribes of Turkic speaking origin and the started of Turkicisation originate in the 7th century with the disintegration of the Turkic Khaganate, resulting in Eurasia being populated by many peoples who consider themselves Turks..
Persian, Arab and other western Asian writers called China by the name "Tamghaj".
The Qarakhanid ruler of Kashgar was called Tamghaj Khan, while the Khitan ruler was called the Khan of Chīn, some Khitans migrated into western areas like the Qarakhanid state even before the establishment of the Kara-Khitan state.
In 1124 the migration of the the Khitan under Yelü Dashi included a big part of the Kedun population, which consisted of Han Chinese, Bohai, Jurchen, Mongol tribes, Khitan, in additon to the Xiao consort clan and the Yelü royal family on the march to establish the Qara-Khitan.
The Khitan Qara-Khitai empire in Central Asia kept Chinese characteristics in their state since the Chinese characteristics appealed to the Muslim Central Asians and helped validate Qara Khita rule over them, despite the fact that Han Chinese were to be found among the population of the Qara Khitan because it was comparatively small so it is clear that the Chinese characteristics were not kept to appease them, the Mongols later moved more Han chinese into Besh Baliq, Almaliq and Samarqand in Central Asia to work as aristans and farmers.
The Qara Khitai used the "image of China" to legitimize their ruler to the Central Asian Muslims since China had a good reputation at the time among Central Asian Muslims before the Mongol invasions, it was viewed as extremely civilized, known for its unique script, its expert artisans were well known, justice and religious tolerance were among the virtues attributed to Chinese despite their idol worship and the Turk, Arab, Byzantium, Indian rulers, and the Chinese emperor were known as the world's "five great kings", the memory of Tang China was engraved into the Muslim perception so their continued to view China through the lens of the Tang dynasty and anachronisms appeared in Muslim writings due to this even after the end of the Tang, China was known as chīn (چين) in Persian and as ṣīn (صين) in Arabic while the Tang dynasty capital Changan was known as Ḥumdān (حمدان).
Muslim Muslim writers like Marwazī and Mahmud Kashghārī had more up to date information about China in their writings, Kashgari viewed Kashgar as part of China. Ṣīn [i.e., China] is originally three fold; Upper, in the east which is called Tawjāch; middle which is Khitāy, lower which is Barkhān in the vicinity of Kashgar. But know Tawjāch is known as Maṣīn and Khitai as Ṣīn" China was called after the Toba rulers of the Northern Wei by the Turks, pronounced by them as Tamghāj, Tabghāj, Tafghāj or Tawjāch. India introduced the name Maha Chin (greater China) which caused the two different names for China in Persian as chīn and māchīn (چين ماچين) and Arabic ṣīn and māṣīn (صين ماصين), Southern China at Canton was known as Chin while Northern China's Changan was known as Machin, but the definition switched and the south was referred to as Machin and the north as Chin after the Tang dynasty, Tang China had controlled Kashgar since of the Tang's Anxi protectorate's "Four Garrisons" seats, Kashgar was among them, and this was what led writers like Kashghārī to place Kashgar within the definition of China, Ṣīn, whose emperor was titled as Tafghāj or Tamghāj, Yugur (yellow Uighurs or Western Yugur) and Khitai or Qitai were all classified as "China" by Marwazī while he wrote that Ṣīnwas bordered by placed SNQU and Maṣīn. Machin, Mahachin, Chin, and Sin were all names of China.
Muslim writers like Marwazī wrote that Transoxania was a former part of China, retaining the legacy of Tang Chinese rule over Transoxania in Muslim writings, In ancient times all the districts of Transoxania had belonged to the kingdom of China [Ṣīn], with the district of Samarqand as its centre. When Islam appeared and God delivered the said district to the Muslims, the Chinese migrated to their [original] centers, but there remained in Samarqand, as a vestige of them, the art of making paper of high quality. And when they migrated to Eastern parts their lands became disjoined and their provinces divided, and there was a king in China and a king in Qitai and a king in Yugur., Muslim writers viewed the Khitai, the Gansu Uighur Kingdom and Kashgar as all part of "China" culturally and geographically with the Muslim Central Asians retaining the legacy of Chinese rule in Central Asia by using titles such as "Khan of China" (تمغاج خان) (Tamghaj Khan or Tawgach) in Turkic and "the King of the East in China" (ملك المشرق (أو الشرق) والصين) (malik al-mashriq (or al-sharq) wa'l-ṣīn) in Arabic which were titles of the Muslim Qarakhanid rulers and their Qarluq ancestors.
The title Malik al-Mashriq wa'l-Ṣīn was bestowed by the 'Abbāsid Caliph upon the Tamghaj Khan, the Samarqand Khaqan Yūsuf b. Ḥasan and after that coins and literature had the title Tamghaj Khan appear on them and were continued to be used by the Qarakhanids and the Transoxania based Western Qarakhanids and some Eastern Qarakhanid monarchs, so therefore the Kara-Khitan (Western Liao)'s usage of Chinese things such as Chinese coins, the Chinese writing system, tablets, seals, Chinese art products like porcelein, mirrors, jade and other Chinese customs were designed to appearl to the local Central Asian Muslim population since the Muslims in the area regarded Central Asia as former Chinese territories and viewed links with China as prestigious and Western Liao's rule over Muslim Central Asia caused the view that Central Asia was a Chinese territory to reinforce upon the Muslims; "Turkestan" and Chīn (China) were identified with each other by Fakhr al-Dīn Mubārak Shāh with China being identified as the country where the cities of Balāsāghūn and Kashghar were located.
The Liao chinese traditions and the Qara Khitai's clinging helped the Qara Khitai avoid Islamization and conversion to Islam, the Qara Khitai used Chinese and Inner Asian features in their administrative system.
Kuchlug's usurpation and end of the Khanate
In 1208, a Naiman prince, Kuchlug, fled his homeland after being defeated by Mongols. Kuchlug was welcomed into the empire of the Qara-Khitans, and was allowed to marry Zhilugu's daughter. However, in 1211, Kuchlug revolted, and later captured Yelü Zhilugu while the latter was hunting. Zhilugu was allowed to remain as the nominal ruler but died two years later, and many historians regard his death as the end of the Qara-Khitan empire. In 1216, Genghis Khan dispatched his general Jebe to pursue Kuchlug; Kuchlug fled, but in 1218, he was finally captured and decapitated. The Mongols fully conquered the former territories of the Qara-Khitans in 1220.
The Qara Khitais became absorbed into the Mongol Empire; a segment of the Qara-Khitan troops had previously already joined the Mongol army fighting against Kuchlug. Another segment of the Qara-Khitans, in a dynasty founded by Buraq Hajib, survived in Kirman as a vassal of the Mongols, but ceased to exist as an entity during the reign of Öljaitü of the Ilkhanate. The Qara-Khitans were dispersed widely all over Eurasia as part of the Mongol army. In the 14th century, they began to lose their ethnic identity, traces of their presence however may be found as clan names or toponyms from Afghanistan to Moldova. Today a Khitay tribe still lives in northern Kyrgyzstan.
The most enduring trace of the Kitan's power is the name Cathay, China's medieval Latin appellation, still current in many modern usage and in the Russian, Bulgarian, Uzbek and Mongolian name of the country.
Sovereigns of Qara Khitai
|Temple Names (廟號 miàohào)||Posthumous Names (諡號 shìhào)||Birth Names||Convention||Period of Reign||Era Names (年號 niánhào) and their according range of years|
|1. Dezong (德宗 Dézōng)||Emperor Tianyou Wulie (天祐武烈帝 Tiānyòu Wǔliè Dì)||Yelü Dashi (耶律大石 Yēlǜ Dàshí or 耶律達實 Yēlǜ Dáshí) 1||use birth name||1124–1144||Yanqing (延慶 Yánqìng) 1124 or 1125–1134
Kangguo (康國 Kāngguó) 1134–1144
|Not applicable||Empress Gantian (感天皇后 Gǎntiān Huánghòu) (regent)||Xiao Tabuyan (蕭塔不煙 Xiāo Tǎbùyān)||"Western Liao" + posthumous name||1144–1150||Xianqing (咸清 Xiánqīng) 1144–1150|
|2. Emperor Renzong (仁宗 Rénzōng)||Too tedious thus not used when referring to this sovereign||Yelü Yilie (耶律夷列 Yēlǜ Yíliè)||"Western Liao" + temple name||1150–1164||Shaoxing (紹興 Shàoxīng) or Xuxing (Xùxīng 續興)2 1150–1164|
|Not applicable||Empress Dowager Chengtian (承天太后 Chéngtiān Tàihòu) (regent)||Yelü Pusuwan (耶律普速完 Yēlǜ Pǔsùwán)||"Western Liao" + posthumous name||1164–1178||Chongfu (崇福 Chóngfú) 1164–1178|
|3. Did not exist||Mozhu (末主 Mòzhǔ "Last Lord") or Modi (末帝 Mòdì "Last Emperor")||Yelü Zhilugu (耶律直魯古 Yēlǜ Zhílǔgǔ)||use birth name||1178–1211||Tianxi (天禧 Tiānxī) 1178–1218|
|Did not exist||Did not exist||Kuchlug (Ch. 屈出律 Qūchūlǜ)||use birth name||1211–1218|
|1 "Dashi" might be the Chinese title "Taishi", meaning "vizier"; or, it could mean "Stone" in Turkish, as the Chinese transliteration suggests.
- Buraq Hajib
- History of the Khitans
- Kara-Khanid Khanate
- List of emperors of the Liao dynasty
- Northern Liao
- Rene Grousset, The Empire of the Steppes: A History of Central Asia, (Rutgers University Press, 1991), 165.
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- Rene Grousset, 165.
- 1124 is the year in which Yelü Dashi proclaimed himself king, while still in Mongolia
- The Empire of the Qara Khitai in Eurasian History: Between China and the Islamic World, pp. 2
- The Empire of the Qara Khitai in Eurasian History: Between China and the Islamic World, pp. 216-217
- Sinor, D. (1998), "Chapter 11 - The Kitan and the Kara Kitay", in Asimov, M.S.; Bosworth, C.E., History of Civilisations of Central Asia, 4 part I, UNESCO Publishing, ISBN 92-3-103467-7
- The Empire of the Qara Khitai in Eurasian History: Between China and the Islamic World, pp. 215-217
- Grousset, Rene, The Empire of the Steppes: A History of Central Asia , (Rutgers University Press, 2002), 165.
- Gurkhan was probably a title originating from Central Asian nomads. The Empire of the Qara Khitai in Eurasian History: Between China and the Islamic World, p. 1
- The Empire of the Qara Khitai in Eurasian History: Between China and the Islamic World, pp. 93-131
- The Empire of the Qara Khitai in Eurasian History: Between China and the Islamic World, p. 94
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- Belyaev, Vladimir; Nastich, Vladimir; Sidorovich, Sergey (2014). "Fan and Han: The Origins and Uses of a Conceptual Dichotomy in Mid-Imperial China, ca. 500-1200". The coinage of Qara Khitay: a new evidence (on the reign title of the Western Liao Emperor Yelü Yilie). Moscow: Russian Academy of Sciences. p. 3.
- James A. Millward (2007). Eurasian Crossroads: A History of Xinjiang. Columbia University Press. pp. 41–. ISBN 978-0-231-13924-3.
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- Michal Biran (15 September 2005). The Empire of the Qara Khitai in Eurasian History: Between China and the Islamic World. Cambridge University Press. pp. 99–. ISBN 978-0-521-84226-6.
- Michal Biran (15 September 2005). The Empire of the Qara Khitai in Eurasian History: Between China and the Islamic World. Cambridge University Press. pp. 102–. ISBN 978-0-521-84226-6.
- Michal Biran (15 September 2005). The Empire of the Qara Khitai in Eurasian History: Between China and the Islamic World. Cambridge University Press. pp. 102–. ISBN 978-0-521-84226-6.
- Michal Biran, p. 87
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