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Yelü as a surname[edit]

I've read that the ruling clan did not adobt Yelü as a surname until the 930s and so his given name would be just Abaoji. Fornadan (t) 11:07, 20 September 2006 (UTC)

That is not clear. It is clear that his wife's clan had adopted Shulü by the point of his marrying her, and this would appear to be strong circumstantial evidence that his own clan would already be Yelü by this point. I think that there is no reason to remove Yelü at the moment. --Nlu (talk) 17:37, 20 September 2006 (UTC)


1. Abaoji was not the founder of the Liao Dynasty. The dynasty was not declared until the 940s, well after Abaoji's death. It is a Chinese historical convention to date the dynasty back to 907, but does not relate to the reality of steppe politics of the era. The name of this article should not be "Emperor Taizu of Liao" because the Liao Dynasty did not yet exist at his death.

This point is partially, in my opinion, well-taken and partially not well-taken. While the name of the state was not Liao but Khitan (or Qidan, as it would be rendered now in pinyin) at that point, it was a continuous state that changed its name back and forth several times, but continued in a single dynasty. He was the founder of the Liao/Qidan state, although with the fact that the state's name was not Liao, I'd say "Emperor Taizu of Qidan" or "Emperor Taizu of Khitan" would be justified names, with "Emperor Taizu of Liao" being a redirect. (However, it should further be noted that the History of Liao, compiled by the Yuan Dynasty, referred to him as "of Liao," and so I think that the current title is more than justifiable. --Nlu (talk) 05:17, 19 October 2006 (UTC)
The fact remains that in his lifetime, Abaoji never referred to a Liao Dynasty nor referred to himself as Taizu. That moniker was posthumously assigned by CHINESE historians, not the Khitan. Also, the Yuan would not be an unbiased source as they would look to the Liao as the connection for the Mandate of Heaven, and official historians had twisted history in order to justify the claim of their patron dynasty. The Song Dynasty did the same with the writing of "The Five Dynasties History" in the 960s and 970s. Ludahai 10:03, 19 October 2006 (UTC)
Posthumous names and temple names are conventionally used in Wikipedia articles. See, e.g., Emperor Wu of Han and Emperor Taizong of Tang. I personally believed that personal names should be used, but given that the consensus is to use posthumous names where commonly used, I don't think that we can go against that consensus. And the moniker was not "posthumously assigned by CHINESE historians"; the Khitan themselves assigned that moniker. (You think that an ethnic Chinese official can dare to go against Empress Dowager Shulü without getting killed?) --Nlu (talk) 15:55, 19 October 2006 (UTC)

2. Abaoji Yelu was not his given name. The only clan that used a surname prior to Abaoji's death was the Yaolian, the imperial clan up until Abaoji became the Great Khan in 907. His own Yila tribe didn't adopt the surname Yelu until the 930s, the decade following his death. Thus, the name of the article should simply be "Abaoji" with redirects from the other two names.

This is a more than disputable point, as that is not what Zizhi Tongjian, among others, indicates. (See s:zh:資治通鑑:第266卷.) Since this is a disputed point, I'd say that it should be noted as a disputed point, but Yelu should be left in the article. --Nlu (talk) 05:17, 19 October 2006 (UTC)
Here is the chronology regarding monikers according to Princeton Professor F.W. Mote:
  • 907: Abaoji named Great Khan of the Khitan
  • 930s: Yila clan adopted the surname Yelu
  • 940s: Great Liao proclaimed

Ludahai 10:06, 19 October 2006 (UTC)

That's Professor Mote's POV. His belief is a tertiary source, and I don't think we can claim that a tertiary source is more reliable than a secondary source, when we don't have a primary source available before us. --Nlu (talk) 15:56, 19 October 2006 (UTC)

I am working on a more extensive article on this subject as well as correction of some more inaccurate/misleading information, but the name is the best place to start.

Ludahai 00:19, 19 October 2006 (UTC)

More Disputes[edit]

901 - Abaoji did not become chief of the Khitan, but only of his own clan, the Yila Clan. It was in 907 that Abaoji became the Chief Khan of the Khitan, not the leader of a military alliance. In fact, he had been the Khitan military leader since 903. Also, the article implies that writing was commissioned on or after 927. In fact, Large Script was commissioned in 920 and small script in 925. Ludahai 10:10, 19 October 2006 (UTC)

Again, disputable point that is inconsistent with Chinese sources. While the dispute should be noted, for you to claim that the dispute is settled is itself violative of NPOV. --Nlu (talk) 15:55, 19 October 2006 (UTC)
I have not claimed any disputes are settled, so I am not exhibiting POV here. You are more along those lines than I am.

As for sources, Professor Mote uses a multitude of sources. His works cited list is 26 PAGES LONG! That is pretty extensive. On the chapter that is basically a bio of Abaoji, he refers to, among other things, the Liao History written during the Yuan Dynasty that you mentioned.

Professor Mote is a PROFESSIONAL historian using modern methodology including multiple sources of inquiry. The Yuan Dynasty historians weren't looking for objectivity, they were looking to legitimize their claim to the Mandate of Heaven. Chinese writings of non-Chinese people are notoriously unreliable, and sole/primary reliance on them is a serious breach of POV. Also, we are supposed to rely on published sources of scholars where available. I am presenting mine. Ludahai 13:37, 21 October 2006 (UTC)

The History of Liao account was corroborated, indirectly if not directly, by the History of the Five Dynasties, Zizhi Tongjian, and New History of the Five Dynasties -- all Song Dynasty sources. What the Song Dynasty sources lacked was access to the Liao archives, which the Yuan Dynasty did, albeit must be in an incomplete state after Liao was conquered by Jin and Jin then failed to carry out a drafting of Liao's history. The fact that Professor Mote is a professional does not mean that we should accept his POV where it directly contradicts secondary sources. Professors are human. As long as you note that it is his view, I think it can be included, but the views of the secondary sources should not be eliminated on account of a tertiary source. --Nlu (talk) 16:34, 21 October 2006 (UTC)
There's clear evidence that the ruling elite descendants of Abaoji, from Emperors of the Liao to rulers of the Kara-Khitai, continued to refer to Abaoji as Taizu. They also claimed direct descent from him as members of the Yelu clan. If you had asked later Liao or Kara-Khitai to write about him, they most likely would've used Emperor Taizu, for political reasons. Emperor Taizu, or some variant thereof, would be the best choice. If you're going to use Abaoji, Yelu Abaoji would be better than just Abaoji, because, again, his later descendants would've never referred to him that way. The use of Abaoji would've been favored by their enemies, the Jurchen Jin.
The Liao Shi and other Yuan/Song sources were somewhat inconsistent. Qing scholars were aware of the problems, so they researched and recompiled much of Liao/Khitan history.
All professors have a POV, and some of them have a very strong POV. If you compare papers written by Chinese and Western scholars on Chinese history, you will notice a big gap in the intrepretation of similar information. An objective view may be derived by analyzing both viewpoints and synthesizing a more NPOV version than that provided by either.
My suggested rewrite of the intro: Emperor Taizu was the posthumous title of Yelu Abaoji, or Abaoji. He was a Khitan leader who organized and unified the Khitan, laying the foundation for the establishment of the Liao Dynasty by his son, Taizong of Liao.--Confuzion 04:08, 22 October 2006 (UTC)
There should be some mention of the fact that during his lifetime, he was known solely as Abaoji as the adoption of the surname Yelu occurred after his death. As for the Qing Scholars, did they have access to Khitan language materials? The Khitan small script has been deciphered and is now available to be used as a source of information. Frankly, if they could ever decipher the "large script", it would be interesting what new information they could find. Hopefully, they can find some sort of rosetta stone in the future.
As it is, I am planning on doing a major expansion of this article after I address shortcomings in the entries of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms era. I have added articles and expanded stubs dealing with the Five Dynasties. Once done with them, I will tackle the Ten Kingdoms. THEN, I will get to Abaoji. Ludahai 01:09, 23 October 2006 (UTC)
Confuzion, I don't think that is accurate. I think something more like this: Emperor Taizu, posthumously regarded as the first emperor of the Liao Dynasty was born in 872 with the name Abaoji. Posthumous sources also assign him the name Yelu Abaoji, but there is reason to believe that the surname Yelu was not used by his family until after his death.Ludahai 05:44, 24 October 2006 (UTC)
I don't think that states the situation fairly and is argumentative (again, Song Dynasty sources do not indicate that the adoption of "Yelu" was after his death). I can live with something like, "..., personal name Yelü Abaoji (耶律阿保機), ..." with a footnote that reads, "Song Dynasty sources such as the Zizhi Tongjian and the New History of the Five Dynasties indicate that his clan adopted the surname "Yelü" in his lifetime, but other sources suggest that the surname "Yelü" was not adopted until after his death." --Nlu (talk) 10:24, 24 October 2006 (UTC)
What I am presenting is from a published source that has solid veracity. Where is your evidence for your assertion? Also, remember, modern historians have more at their disposal than did Chinese historians of the era who were not familiar with even Khitan small script writing, which modern historians have access to. I have seen no evidence of the Yila clan adopting the Yelu surname in Abaoji's lifetime, must less by the time he was born when his clan was not nearly as important as Abaoji made it. Ludahai 23:31, 24 October 2006 (UTC)
Regardless of whether you agree with the validity, Song Dynasty and Yuan Dynasty sources are established sources that simply shouldn't be ignored just because you don't like them. The difference in opinion should at least be noted in a NPOV manner, not in the blatantly POV manner that you're proposing. --Nlu (talk) 05:05, 25 October 2006 (UTC)
Except that those sources likely did not have Khitan sources available because few (if any) Chinese scholars bothered to learn Khitan. While Khitan large script has yet to be deciphered, the small script has, and modern historians have access to it. As for the Song and Yuan Dynasties, both existed AFTER Abaoji's death, the Song had POOR relations with the Liao for the first century of its existance, and the Yuan had their own rationale for making Liao claims look as strong as possible. They had far more reason for POV than a modern American historian looking at a MULTITUDE of sources. The other proposal was actually POV from the Chinese perspective of a non-Chinese dynasty and of a people who were barely sinified (unlike the Shatuo Turks and the later Yuan leadership.) Ludahai 05:34, 25 October 2006 (UTC)
The suggestion that Song historians had motive to invent a non-existent name for him is belied by the fact that having a name is not defamatory and, more importantly, that all of the Song histories had rather positive things to write about him and his wife Empress Shulü. If they wanted to defame him, there were much easier ways of doing so. --Nlu (talk) 05:53, 25 October 2006 (UTC)
  • 1. You're giving a false impression of the body of work available in Khitan script. Per Michal Biran (The Empire of the Qara Khitai in Eurasian History, 2005), even the small script is not yet fully deciphered. If you're a bit aware of cryptography, then you would realize that the body of work available in Khitan is probably quite small. Most modern information on the Liao empire is still derived from Chinese sources, supplemented by archaeology.
  • 2. The Qing historians apparently did a good job - Biran says of the Liao shi shi yi and the Liao shi shi yi bu: "... their results for Liao history are impressive". All modern scholars use them, or a derivative, as one of the foundations for studying Liao history.
  • 3. "The other proposal was actually POV from the Chinese perspective of a non-Chinese dynasty and of a people who were barely sinified (unlike the Shatuo Turks and the later Yuan leadership." - This is flat out wrong; Biran calls the Liao a Sino-Khitan empire; politically and administratively, they became highly sinified, so much so that the Arabs/Persians considered them to be Chinese. You're projecting, too strongly, modern concepts of ethnicity into the past. The point I mentioned earlier, and one that you have chosen to ignore, is that the Khitan wanted to be referred to as the Liao.
  • 4. You also conveniently neglect to mention that even in the small Khitan script, "Liao" was one of the names used by the Khitans to refer to their empire (from a recently discovered archaeological find).
  • 5. "I have seen no evidence of the Yila clan adopting the Yelu surname in Abaoji's lifetime" - The Liao Shi states, rather dryly, that Abaoji's surname is Yelu.--Confuzion 00:19, 26 October 2006 (UTC)

Expansion and disputes[edit]

I have begun expanding this page. However, while I have re-written the introduction, I would like to run it by others first before I change it. I think it addresses some of the disputes in a mutually agreeable manner that can result in removal of the dispute tag.

Taizu of the Liao Dynasty was emperor of the Khitan Empire (907-926). His given name was Abaoji (阿保磯). Some sources also suggest that the surname Yelü(耶律) was adopted during his lifetime, though there is no unanimity on this point.

This does several things. One, it is quite obvious at any reading of Khitan history and culture that the Yila Tribe did NOT use surnames when Abaoji was born. Regardless, surnames are not regarded as given names anyway, so even if it were, Yelu would not be regarded as a given name. Two, it mentions the lack of unanimity on the date of the adoption of the surname.

I will make the other additions in the coming minutes and on Thursday, but I will leave the intro alone for now. ludahai 魯大海 06:45, 19 December 2006 (UTC)

That looks fine to me, but I think all of the possible names should be bolded. --Nlu (talk) 06:48, 19 December 2006 (UTC)
No problem with bolding all other names. Let's wait to see what others think. ludahai 魯大海 09:51, 19 December 2006 (UTC)


Abaoji=Apaochi??? Maybe is the same person?-- (talk) 05:37, 1 March 2015 (UTC)

Of course it's the same person. Timmyshin (talk) 08:25, 21 June 2015 (UTC)

Requested move 21 June 2015[edit]

The following is a closed discussion of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on the talk page. Editors desiring to contest the closing decision should consider a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.

The result of the move request was: Move. Cúchullain t/c 19:14, 6 July 2015 (UTC)

Emperor Taizu of LiaoAbaoji – See Google Ngrams, there aren't even Ngram results for "Taizu of Liao" or "Liao Taizu". From a historical standpoint, the country name "Liao" (clearly a Chinese name) was not even adopted until 947 when they conquered Later Jin (Five Dynasties) in the Chinese heartland, when Abaoji had already been dead for over 2 decades. This is not atypical for a conquest dynasty, many of which only started adopting Chinese names for their country until they conquered a major Chinese territory/region, such as Liao dynasty, Yuan dynasty and Qing dynasty. Nobody in the west calls Genghis Khan "Emperor Taizu of Yuan" even though it's the name used in Chinese historiography, as Genghis Khan had already been dead for 40+ years when the Mongols established the "Yuan". Similarly nobody calls Nurhaci "Emperor Taizu of Qing", as "Qing" was not established until he was dead for almost 2 decades. In the same vein, the name "Emperor Taizu of Liao" should also not be used for Abaoji's page title. Also see the discussions on this page above. As for the alternative title of "Yelü Abaoji" discussed above, keep in mind that despite most of their surviving history being in Chinese, the Khitans did not practice the Chinese naming system of "surname+given name" order. Yelü clan is nothing but a "clan name" but even if you treat it as a Chinese-style surname, recent scholarships attempting to decipher Khitan scripts in surviving tombstones suggest that the clan name/surname is never used in Khitan tombstones, unlike their Chinese counterparts. Some of the scholars in the west focusing on the Liao dynasty (not many of them) have also avoided appending "Yelü" to a Khitan person's name, e.g. Naomi Standen's Unbounded Loyalty: Frontier Crossing in Liao China. Another example is F. W. Mote's Imperial China: 900–1800, just look at the title for Chapter 2. --Relisted. George Ho (talk) 19:52, 28 June 2015 (UTC) Timmyshin (talk) 08:25, 21 June 2015 (UTC)

The above discussion is preserved as an archive of a requested move. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made in a new section on this talk page or in a move review. No further edits should be made to this section.