Exploring Liao and Jin Dynasty Relics

After the collapse of the Tang Dynasty in the 10thc., the north of China came under control by semi-nomadic tribesmen from today’s Northeast China and Inner Mongolia. The Qidan founded the
Liao Dynasty (907~1125) and the Jurchen people established the following Jin Dynasty(1115~1134). Traditionally, historians have focused on the Song Dynasty in the South and have either neglected achievements by these two peoples or have simply brushed them off as copiers of Chinese civilization. However, with many archaeological discoveries over the past thirty years, there has been an amazing wealth of cultural relics that give credit to the Qidan and Jurchens for interesting cultural and historical achievements. The Beijing area was first used as a capital city under their governments and today relics and sacred sites afford an appreciation of that legacy. At first I concentrated on those places around Beijing, but I have later expanded my studies and explorations to include the full extent of their empires, emphasizing their Buddhist heritage.

By far the most common remnants of these two periods are the many Buddhist pagodas that still dot the landscape. A lot of them continue to have delicate bas-relief sculpture on their facades. Ruins of ancient walled towns, a few magnificent temple halls, some stone and pottery Buddhist sculptures, as well as large stone tablets inscribed with their own scripts can still be found. The Qidan are particularly known for fine metal workmanship as can be seen in their typical death masks of gold and silver. Both dynasties also had kilns producing many kinds of pottery. It has furthermore been exciting to go inside their tombs to appreciate murals that give us faces from their past.

For more, see Liao and Jin activities and articles in the Liao and Jin Latest section.

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