Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Khitans

The Khitans were an ethnic group whose language belonged to the Mongolic group. Khagan Ambagyan founded the Khitan Empire in 911.
The Khitan Empire covered a significant portion of what is now Mongolia including the basins of the three rivers Kherlen, Tuul and Orkhon. As it grew strong and occupied parts of China, it came to be called the Liao Dynasty. The territory of the Khitan Empire consisted of two parts: one populated by pastoral herders in the north and the other populated by croppers in the south. The two parts of the empire actively traded with each other. Lubugu, a grandson of Ambagyan, and a scholar named Tulyubu developed a Grand Alphabet based on the Chinese hieroglyphics in 920. Later, Tela, a son of Ambagyan, developed a Minor Alphabet based on the Uyghur script. A printing technology developed in the Khitan Empire. The Khitan language was widely studied abroad. The Jurchens, who were subjects to the Kidans, rebelled in 1113 and established in 1125 the Jin Dynasty which replaced the Liao Dynasty. A faction of the Kidans moved to the west, escaping subjugation by the Jurchens. Those Khitans established the Kara-Khitan Khanate in Eastern Turkestan.
The Khitan people were a nomadic Mongolic people, originally located at Mongolia and Manchuria (the northeastern region of modern day China) from the 4th century. They dominated a vast area in northern China by the 10th century under the Liao Dynasty, but have left few relics that have survived until today. After the fall of Liao in 1125, many Khitans moved further west and established the state of Kara Khitai, which was finally destroyed by the Mongol Empire in 1218.
There are basically three speculations. Feng Jiasheng argues that it comes from the Yuwen chieftains' names. Zhao Zhenji thinks that the term originated from Xianbei and means "a place where Xianbei had resided". Japanese scholar Otagi Matuo considers Khitan's original name is "Xidan", which means "the people who are similar to the Xi people" or "the people who inhabit among the Xi people".
The Khitan language is a now-extinct language once spoken by the Khitan people. Khitan is believed to be genetically related to Proto-Mongolic.
There were two writing systems for the Khitan language, known as the large script and the small script. These were functionally independent and appear to have been used simultaneously in the Liao Empire. They were in use for some time after the fall of that dynasty. Examples of the scripts appeared most often on epitaphs and monuments, although other fragments sometimes surface.
Many scholars recognize that the Khitan scripts have not been fully deciphered, and that more research and discoveries would be necessary for a proficient understanding of them.
Although there are several clues to its origins, which might point in different directions, the Khitan language is most likely a descendant of Pre-Proto-Mongolic (and thus related to the Mongolic languages). The Memorial for Yelü Yanning (dated 986 CE) is one of the earliest inscriptions in Khitan large script. The Memorial for Yelü Yanning is the oldest known Khitan inscription of significant length and for now the oldest major written attestation of a Mongolic (or Para-Mongolic) language. Dated 986, it is written in the Mongolic Khitan language using the Khitan large script. With 19 lines and 271 characters it was found in 1964 at Baimu Mountain, Chaoyang County, Liaoning, China. and is now kept in the Liaoning Province Museum, China.
The Liao Dynasty (Mongolian: Khitan Güren) was an empire in East Asia that ruled over the regions of Manchuria, Mongolia, and parts of northern China proper between 907 – 1125. It was founded by the Yelü clan  of the Khitan people in the same year as Tang Dynasty collapsed (907), even though its first ruler, Yelü Abaoji (Yaruud Ambagai Khan), did not declare an era name until 916. Although it was originally known as the Empire of the Khitan, the Emperor Yelü Ruan officially adopted the name "Liao" (formally "Great Liao") in 947 (938?).
The Kara-Khitan Khanate, or Western Liao (1124-1218) was a 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 North and Northeast of modern day China. The empire was usurped by the Naimans under Kuchlug in 1211; traditional Chinese, Persian and Arab sources consider the usurpation to be the end of the empire.[5] The empire was later destroyed by the Mongol Empire in 1218.
The Jīn Dynasty (Jurchen: Mongolian: Altan Ulus; 1115–1234), also known as the Jurchen Dynasty, was founded by the Wanyan clan of the Jurchens, the ancestors of the Manchus who established the Qing Dynasty some 500 years later.

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