15 - The forest peoples of Manchuria: Kitans and Jurchens Cambridge Histories Online - Cambridge University Press

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15 - The forest peoples of Manchuria: Kitans and Jurchens

  • Online Publication Date:
  • March 2008
  • Print Publication Year:
  • 1990

  • Hardback ISBN:
  • 9780521243049
  • Online ISBN:
  • 9781139054898

The political fragmentation of China in the 10th century A.D. and most of her history under the Sung dynasty (960–1234) was coeval with the emergence of states on her borders which were founded by non-Chinese peoples but largely patterned on Chinese models. Of these peoples the Kitans and the Jurchen are of special importance because they both succeeded in extending their domination over large parts of Northern China. In this respect they were the precursors of the Mongols whose final subjugation of the entire Chinese territory in the 13th century was made possible, or at least easier, because they were no longer faced with a unified China but by a Sung China which had been severely weakened by the Kitan and Jurchen conquests on her northern border. Another factor of general historical interest is that both for the Liao state of the Kitans and the Chin state of the Jurchen we have detailed dynastic histories written in Chinese. Unlike earlier invaders who settled for a while on Chinese soil such as Hsiung-nu, Hsien-pi and other tribal groups whose history is known only through Chinese eyes, we have for the 10th to 13th centuries historical sources which provide a very full documentation on states founded by non-Chinese peoples. The multi-state system of those centuries can therefore be studied not only from the Chinese angle but also from the Kitan and Jurchen viewpoints as well. For the first time in Inner Asian history we have in that period a wealth of information on “barbarian” peoples and their history that can be paralleled with the purely Chinese (and therefore necessarily China-centred) sources.

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