Even though China was the economic powerhouse of East Asia, with by far the largest population, it
was and had to adjust to .
this period when the was a major weapon of war, the grasslands
north of China offered greater military advantage than China’s industrial prowess.
During the Song period, three non-Chinese
groups formed states that controlled the grasslands to the north of
the Song, where
the colder, drier climate favored animal husbandry over crop agriculture.
Over the course of four centuries, these Inner Asian states gained
more territory occupied primarily by Chinese.
The , beginning in the 10th century, gained a strip of land that included modern Beijing. The , after defeating the Khitans in the early 12th century, went on to push Song out of North China. The , after defeating the Jurchen in the early 13th century, went on and fully defeated the Song to control all of China.
Silver ingot, Song dynasty, 11th or early 12th century
From Dayingzi Rural Area, Linxi County
Length: 14.8 cm; width: 9 cm
Cultural Relics Management Institute of Linxi County
© Asia Society
“This silver ingot has an inscription
engraved in Chinese on one side, part of which reads ‘forty-nine
taels and seven,’ referring to the weight of the ingot. The ingot
is most likely an example of the tribute items presented by the
Song dynasty to the Liao empire. As a result of the Treaty of Shanyuan
in 1005, the Liao received an annual payment of a hundred thousand
taels of silver and two hundred thousand bolts of silk from Song
China. In 1042, the amount increased to two hundred taels of silver
and three hundred thousand bolts of silk.”
more at the Asia Society website “Gilded Splendor: Treasures
of China’s Liao Empire.” The ingot above can be found in
the Image Gallery titled Luxuries and Necessities.
From the perspective of the Song, these three northern rivals had much in common. They all were who were very hard for the Chinese to defeat in open battle. Their basic social structure was tribal, but they had adopted many elements of Chinese statecraft.
Beginning in 1004, the Song made efforts to buy peace by agreeing to
make annual payments of money and silk to them in exchange for their
agreement not to invade.
The Khitan, Jurchen, and Mongol states all ruled over their Chinese
subjects in ways that drew on Chinese traditions, making distinctions
between Chinese subjects and other subjects (which included several different
northern ethnic groups). All three non-Chinese states made concerted
efforts to maintain their own ethnic identity and to keep themselves
from being absorbed by the numerically much more numerous Chinese.
Splendor: Treasures of China’s Liao Empire [Asia
This excellent interactive website explores the complex cultural and religious legacy of the Khitan and their reign over China during the Liao Dynasty (907-1125). Features an extensive image gallery of objects (organized into the following topics: 1) Nomadic Heritage; 2) Chinese Tomb Tradition; 3) Luxuries and Necessities; 4) Religious Life); an interactive tour of two Liao tombs; plus an interactive map of recently excavated Liao sites in Inner Mongolia (with images); two additional historic maps; and a timeline.
of Nomads: Rediscovering the Forgotten Liao
A short article about recent archaeological work that reveals the cultural tensions,
past and present, between the Han Chinese and Khitan Liao. From the November/December
2007 issue of Archaeology magazine.
• The Mongols in World History [Asia for Educators]
A teaching unit about the Mongol empire. Covers the following topics — The
Mongols’ Mark on Global History; The Mongol Conquests; The Mongols in
China; Key Figures in Mongol History, The Mongols’ Pastoral-Nomadic Life.
With more than 25 full-color images, several online readings, an extensive
bibliography, class materials, maps, and related links.