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Kingdom of Khitans: Sudden Rise, Sudden Fall
The Khitan tomb in the Tuerji Mountains, excavated from March to May, is the second well-preserved large tomb from the Liao Dynasty (916-1125) found in China.

The first was the tomb of Princess Chen'guo unearthed in 1986, also in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

The Khitans led a nomadic life on the boundless grassland in what is now Inner Mongolia from the 4th century. They ruled a vast area in northern China for 209 years at their prime but have left few relics that have survived until today.

Most relics of the Khitan culture were destroyed when the kingdom fell. Tombs were disinterred in acts of revenge by the Nuchen (Nuzhen) ethnic group, which had been oppressed during the Khitan reign.

Research into the lost kingdom was made even more difficult as the Khitans were only recorded in a simple way in historical documents, which were often compiled by Han people.

Like the Mayans, the Khitans seemed to arise and become prosperous suddenly, only to fall and disappear suddenly after their last king was captured by enemy troops of the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234) established by the Nuchen (Nuzhen) ethnic group.

From the fragments of historical records, we know today that the Khitan tribes prospered in the 9th century upon the fall of the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907). They borrowed the Hans' political system, founded the Khitan kingdom in 916, and built its capital in Shangjing -- today's Balinzuo Banner (county) in Inner Mongolia.

Yelu Deguang, the Khitan king, led his army south in AD 947 and conquered Kaifeng in Central China's Henan Province, which was then capital of a Han regime, the Later Jin Dynasty (AD 936-946).

In Kaifeng, Yelu changed the name of his kingdom to Liao. The territory of the Liao Dynasty covered most of northern China, including Youzhou (today's Beijing).

In the 10th century, the Khitans conquered the Bohai kingdom and the Gaoli kingdom and extended their territory to Northeast China, Northwest China and the Korean peninsula.

In the Russian language even today, the word "Khitan" means "China."

As their kingdom spread over the "grassland silk road" that connected the East with Europe, the Khitans adopted an unusually open attitude to the cultures and political systems of other ethnic groups. Their culture was a multi-ethnic one formed by those from the Han Chinese, the Persians, Egyptians, Syrians, Europeans and their own.

(China Daily June 19, 2003)

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