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Origin of the Qidan

The Khitan (or Qidan in Chinese) tribe, together with the Xi tribe were part of the so-called Eastern Hu people that roamed the northeastern steppes in modern Mongolia and Manchuria. The name Qidan first appears in Northern Wei (386-534)  documents.

The Khitan people was divided into eight tribes and inhabited the area between the Huangshui River (today's Xilamulun River in Inner Mongolia) and Huanglong (today's Chaoyang in Liaoning). They had commercial relationships with the Northern Wei court and exported horses and animal skins.

During the Tang Dynasty (618-907) they fought against the Turks (or Tujue in Chinese), and their ruler, Kuge of the Dahe clan, who had united the Khitan tribes in a federation was installed as governor of the Songmo region and given the imperial family name Li. His descendants acted as local governors for several decades before Li Jinzhong rebelled against Empress Wu Zetian. Later, Li Shihuo was given a Chinese princess named Yongle. Shortly before the An Lushan rebellion, the Khitan again showed hostility against the Tang Dynasty, but for the rest of the Tang period there were good relations.

In 730 the Yaonian clan became dominant. From 907 on the Yelü clan took over the Khitan federation. In 916 Abaoji called himself king of the Khitan state; after 947 the state was called Liao after the old Liaodong region.

The Liao Empire

Yelü Abaoji (posthumous title: Liao Taizu) installed his new capital at Linhuang (today's Balinzuo Banner in Inner Mongolia) and employed Chinese advisors to construct a regular central government. At the same time he promulgated laws and directives to bypass the power of the Khitan nobility that until then elected the leader of their federation.

Yelü Diela, brother of Abaoji, created a Khitan script based on the Chinese characters. Emperor Yelü Abaoji underwent military campaigns to expand the territory of his empire, submitted the Uighurs (or Huihe in Chinese), the states of Fuyu and Bohai where he created the "Eastern Khitan" -- Dongdan State with his own son Yelü Bei as ruler.

With the help of Empress Shulü, Prince Yelü Deguang (posthumous Liao Taizong) inherited the throne in 926. Yelü Deguang interfered in the politics of the Five Dynasties (907-960) in the north of China and was able to control the succession of the Later Jin Empire. He conquered the capital Kaifeng (in today's Henan) and proclaimed the Empire of Liao. After he had plundered the capital of the Later Jin Empire he returned to Linhuang without amplifying the already existing roots of the Chinese-style administration system.
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