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The Khitan Portal


The Khitan people (Chinese: 契丹; pinyin: Qìdān) were a nomadic people from Northeast Asia who, from the 4th century, inhabited an area corresponding to parts of modern Mongolia, Northeast China and the Russian Far East. They spoke the Khitan language, which appears to be related to the Mongolic languages. As the Liao dynasty, they dominated a vast area north of and including parts of China. After the fall of the Liao dynasty in 1125 following the Jurchen invasion, many Khitans followed Yelü Dashi's group westward to establish the Qara Khitai, or Western Liao dynasty, in Central Asia, which lasted several decades before falling to the Mongol Empire in 1218.

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Guyaju ruins, Yanqing county, Beijing.JPG

Pictured left: The cliff dwellings in Yanqing County of Beijing were inhabited by the Xi.

The Kumo Xi (traditional Chinese: 庫莫奚; simplified Chinese: 库莫奚[1], call Xi since the Sui dynasty) was a steppes people located in what is now the current Manchuria (North East China). Their history is widely linked to the more famous Khitan, being united into a tribal Kumo Xi entity. Khitan split away in the 388's battle against Northern Wei, leaving the Kumo Xi be crushed alone, and establishing themselves as an autonomous tribe.

After the Khitan's Li-Sun Rebellion (696-697) and the Khitan's Ketuyu revolt (720-734), the Xi were back to the leading position, being forcefully active from 755 to 847, providing wide support to the An Shi Rebellion (756-763), plundering their neighbours frequently. This aggressive policy seems to have consumed Xi demographic forces compare to more calm Khitan, being heavily and disastrously defeated in 760's, 795, 830, 847.

When the Uyghur Empire (744-840) collapsed in the 840's with Tang dynasty already displaying signs of division, the Xi rose in rebellion (847) and were quickly crushed by Zhang Zhongwu. The Xi were never able to recover, while calm Khitan regained sufficient strength to eventually absorb the remaining Xi people, and established the Han Dynasty.

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Credit: China Art Pic Stock

Khitans using eagles to hunt (Eagle hunting), painted during the Chinese Song Dynasty (960-1279)

Featured Quote

"There are three things, which should the real man have: fast horse, hound-tazy (a kind of dog) and killing Golden Eagle." (Steppes' proverb, Source: Eagle hunting)

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Current working collaboration
Read the Xu Elina-Qian's PDF :
  • Xu Elina-Qian, Historical Development of the Pre-Dynastic Khitan, University of Helsinki, 2005. 273 pages.
and complete the article 'History of the Khitans'.

Article to create:

The Five Liao capitals: the Supreme Capital (Balin left banner), the Central Capital (Ningcheng county), the Eastern Capital (Liaoyang), the Western Capital (Datong), and the Southern Capital (Beijing)
Source : asiasociety.org > Selected Liao-Dynasty Sites (Each site have some picture and an introduction)

Portal notes

To be clear, there are just two dozen articles relating to Khitans and their history. The largest ones are the Liao Dynasty and the History of the Khitans currently under expansion, but there are also respectable starts such as Abaoji, Goryeo-Khitan_Wars (1-2-3), Yelu clan, Kara-Khitan Khanate (thanks to Nlu, Eiorgio, Historiographer, Confuzion, Ludahai who attacked these articles from Chinese or Korean side :) !). Most issues are still relatively under-developed : we, together with Xu Elina-Qian's work and wikipedians such as Nlu are here to change this, both by expanding current articles, creating new entries, improving their reliability, and organizing all these articles on this portal.

Also, I'm currently doing my best to improve the 'History of the Khitans' entries, hoping that some of you will join the boat to both learn more about Khitans' lives and history, and share their discoveries here, by writing down nice articles. Let's roll! (talk), portal creator, 2008/05/20


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Web resources

  • "Kingdom of Khitans: Sudden Rise, Sudden Fall." From China Daily.


The following Wikimedia Foundation sister projects provide more on this subject:






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  1. ^ Xu Elina-Qian, p.296b
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