Texts on Song-Liao Political Relations

The Shanyuan Treaty: Pivotal Point in the Song-Liao Relationship

The conclusion of the Shanyuan Treaty (1004) was the pivotal point in relation between the Northern Song (960-1127) and the Liao Dynasties (916-1125). The ruling class of the Liao were a people of nomadic origin, the Qidan, who rose in the northeast around present-day Helongjiang Province. The signing of the Shanyuan Treaty was the first time that the Liao forced the Song, who considered themselves the natural heirs to political dominance as the Central Kingdom, to recognize their legitimacy. After many years of fighting with one another, the Song and the Liao finally decided to negotiate a peaceful relationship, which was achieved through the Shanyuan Treaty. This relationship lasted until 1125, when the Song broke the treaty by inviting the Jurchen to attack the Liao. The Jurchen attack in fact brought an end to both the Liao and the Northern Song.

The Shanyuan Treaty was the conclusion of successive battles between these two political entities. It also legitimized the Qidan regime, to a certain degree, as one of the ruling powers of "China" in a broad sense. A quasi-imperial brotherhood relationship was established during the course of the negotiations, and the nomadic Qidan regime thus became, at least from the viewpoint of the Qidan, one of a succession of legitimized political entities.

The accounts of the treaty in the Liao History and the Song History cannot be reconciled with each other. The altering of some details exhibits a great deal of political boundary maintenance and an attempt at keeping a biased dignity--this is especially true in the Song History. Accordingly, the records of the key events in both histories as well as the treaty itself and biographies of several individuals who were crucial in the signing of the treaty are translated here.

After the treaty was signed, the nature of the relationship between these two states changed from one of purely political rivalry to a supposed fraternal relationship. For the first time in Chinese history there were two Sons of Heaven, recognized by each other.

When we read the histories, however, we find a biased view. The intention in this series of translations is to capture the voices from both sides and to ask you to rethink the history of this period, as well as the very process of compiling official histories.

(Hsingyuan Tsao)


The Treaty (Qidan):

Letter in Response to the Song's Oath

(The Song version is similar to this.)

On the twelfth day of the twelfth month in the 22nd year of Tohe reign, the cyclical year jiachen, the Emperor of the Great Qidan hereby makes his oath to the Song Emperor. We discussed withdrawing our troops, restoring our [previous] friendly relation, and considering each other's favor. Consequently, we reached an oath: to follow [each other's] customs, and to assist in the military expenses [of the north], so that [the Song] will pay 200,000 bolts of silk and 100,000 taels of silver each year. It is not necessary to send these to the Northern Court via a specified envoy; just have the Three Offices (State Finance Commission) take them to Xiongzhou and complete the transaction. District troops along the borders shall guard their own territories, and the inhabitants of either side should not invade the other. If there is a thief who flees to either side, it is not permitted for either side to hide him. As for the fields and crops, neither side should allow anyone to trespass the other's. All cities on both sides can maintain their original structures and moats. That is to say, any new constructions, including dredging waterways, are prohibited. No one should expect anything beyond what has been spelled out in the oath. [Both sides] will have to work in coordination and perpetuate the vow, so that peace can be maintained and the borders defended. With this as pledge to the gods of Heaven and Earth, and using this as a declaration to the ancestors and society, all generations should keep this oath and pass it down eternally. Whoever swerves from this oath will not be able to enjoy his state. With the clarity of the heavenly mirror, he will be killed by all. I [i.e., the Liao Emperor Shenzong] am not talented but will dare take this oath. Hereby, I swear to Heaven and Earth, as well as to generations to come. If I swerve from this oath, all gods shall punish me with the extreme [punishment] that will not be spelled out here.

(Tr. Hsingyuan Tsao, from Quan Liao wen, Chen Shu, ed., Beijing: 1982, p. 12)


Biography of Cao Liyong (Song History, juan 290)

Cao Liyong, whose zi is Yongzhi, was a native of Ningjing in Zhaozhou District. His father, whose name was Jian, was awarded a degree of Metropolitan Graduate; the highest-level office he obtained was that of Right Rectifier of Omissions; because of his talents in military strategy he was re-appointed Commissioner for Fostering Propriety. Liyong liked debating when he was young; he was ambitious and vehement. After the death of Jian, [Liyong] was appointed Palace Recipient of Edicts and was later changed to Duty Attendant of the Right Group, and later was selected Mounted Courier of the Fuyan Region.

In the first year of Jingde (1004), the Qidan invaded Hebei, and Emperor Zhenzong (r. 997-1022) went to Shanzhou (Shanyuan) and killed the Qidan general, Dalan, with an arrow. The Qidan wanted to withdraw their army, and sent Wang Jizhong to negotiate peace with the Song. When the selection of the envoy to the Liao [for the negotiation] was considered, Liyong happened to be there, and was recommended by the Bureau of Military Affairs. Emperor Zhenzong stated: "This is an important matter, no one should be chosen lightly." The next day, after the Military Affairs Commissioner, Wang Jiying, recommended Liyong again, he was granted the titles of Audience Usher and Duty Attendant to carry a letter to the Qidan troops. The Emperor told Liyong: "When the Qidan come south, they would either ask for land or seek gifts. The land south of Guan has long been ours; you must not agree to give it to them. There is a precedent. Han bestowed on Shanyu [the chieftain of the Xiongnu] jade and silk." Liyong was outraged by the Qidan and responded, with a disturbed complexion, to the emperor, "If they were to make any such presumptuous demand, I would not dare to come back alive." The emperor considered his word to be splendid.

Liyong went swiftly into the Qidan army, and the mother of Yelu Longxu (i.e., Emperor Shengzong of the Liao) received him in a carriage. A horizontal board was laid over the yoke, and culinary utensils were placed on it. Liyong was asked to have some food with her. Her subjects and attendants sat there in multiple lines. After the meal, the conversation moved expectedly to the issue of the land south of Guan, and Liyong rejected the request.

[Later] Han Ji, a Qidan subject, came to report the Qidan's desire [for further negotiation], and Liyong went to the Qidan again. The mother of the Qidan said, "The Jin [936-943, i.e. the Later Jin, ruled by Shi Jingtang, who gave sixteen districts to the Qidan] gave us the land south of Guan, but it was taken away by Emperor Shizong of the Zhou (r. 955-959). You should return it to us now." Liyong responded, "That the Jin gave the Qidan this land and that the Zhou took it away is not part of the knowledge of our court. Even if you ask for gold and silk to assist in your military needs, I would not know whether our emperor would agree to it. I would not dare to entertain the request of ceding territory." Gao Zhengshi, Drafter of the Department of Administration, hastily came forward and said, "We came here with our people to recover the lost territory. If we go back only with gold and silk, that would be to disgrace our countrymen." Liyong said, "Why don't you think carefully on behalf of the Qidan and make them adopt your advice? I am afraid that meeting on the battlefield and not being able to cease the war would not be advantageous to our states." The Qidan pndered that [Liyong] could not be subdued further. The peace accord was reached and Liyong went back with the leter of agreement. He was then promoted to Upper Eastern Duty Attendant, Commander of Zhongzhou District, and the actual titles were granted at the capital. When the Qidan sent envoys, Liyong was ordered to receive them. . .

(Tr. Hsingyuan Tsao)


Selections from two imperial biographies of the emperors involved in the signing of the treaty, from both the Liao History and the Song History:


The section relating to the Treaty from the Biography of Emperor Zhenzong (Song History, juan 7)

In the third month [in the first year of Jingde reign (1004)]. . . Defense General of Captive Guard Troops defeated the Qidan by the Great Wall and chased them to the north past Yangshan Mountain, killing and capturing many of them. . .

In winter during the tenth month. . . [the officials of] Linfu District led a section of their troops into Suozhou and defeated Dalang Shuici. . . Bao Mozhou, Captive Guard Kelan Army, and Beipingci all attacked and defeated the Qidan. . . Then, when Wang Jizhong pleaded with the emperor that the Qidan sought peach, Audience Usher, Cao Liyong, was ordered to respond to the request. . .

During the eleventh month. . . the Qidan led attacked Yingzhou, but Prefect Li Yanwo led his troops to inflict defeat upon them, killing and injuring over 100,000. They withdrew. . . The Qidan threatened Jizhou, and Prefect Wang Yu drove them back. . . The weather was very cold. When he was offered a fur coat and hat, the emperor refused them and said, "All my subjects are suffering for the cold weather; how could I wear them?" Wang Jizhong came many times and asked for peace talks. The Emperor said to his Grand Councillor, "Jizhong says that the Qidan requests for peace talks. Even if I allow it, now that the [Yellow] River is frozen and the situation looks as though there are quite a few deceptive ruses, and we cannot but be prepared." The Qidan forces approached the north of Shanyuan, and directly attacked the west line-up of the troops in front. Their Grand General, Dalan, led his soldiers and was killed shortly after. The emperor then came to Shanyuan and crossed the [Yellow] River to comfort and encourage his generals and soldiers in the North Building of the city. At Yunzhou, a Qidan spy was captured and was executed. . . Cao Liyong returned from the Qidan.

In the twelfth month. . . the Qidan sent Han Ji to negotiate for peace. . . Duty Attendant of the Right Group, Cao Liyong, was promoted to become Upper Eastern Duty Attendant and Commander of Zhongzhou District. . . the Qidan's oath was sent [to the Song] through an envoy. . . The Qidan troops moved out of the border. . .

(Tr. Hsingyuan Tsao)


The section relating to the Treaty from the Biography of Emperor Shengzong (Liao History, juan 14)

In the intercalary month [of the 22nd year of the Tonghe reign]. . . the Liao army fought against the Song soldiers at Tangxing and inflicted a crushing defeat upon the Song. . . General Xiao Daling battled the Song troops at Shuicheng and defeated them. . .

In the tenth month. . . attacked Yingzhou but did not win. . .

In the eleventh month. . . the Great King of the Southern Court, Shanbu, reported that the Song had sent bow and arrow [as a present] to Wang Jizhong and discreetly asked him to negotiate a peace treaty. [The emperor] ordered [Wang] Jizhong to meet with the envoy and allowed peace [with the Song]. . . [The Liao troops] defeated the Deqing Army . . . and stayed in Shanyuan. Xiao Dalin was hit by an arrow from an ambusher and died. . . The Song sent the Vice-Commissioner for Fostering Propriety, Cao Liyong, to negotiate for peace; the Flying Dragon Commissioner, Han Ji, was sent on a return visit to the Song with a letter. . .

In the twelfth month. . . the Song sent Cao Liyong again without any intention of returning the land. The Grand General of the Gate, Yao Jianzhi, paid a call to the Song with a letter. . . The Song later dispatched Li Jichang to sue for peace. [The Song] offered to consider the Empress Dowager of the Liao aunt ; would agree to send 100,000 taels of silver and 200,000 bolts of silk annually. This was approved, so the Memorial Reception Attendant, Jing Zheng, was dispatched with an oath to the Song. . . The martial law was lifted, and all troops were victoriously withdrawn. . .

(Tr. Hsingyuan Tsao)