Also found in: Dictionary.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(also Kitai), tribes of the Mongolian group that in antiquity roamed the territory of the present-day Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region (in the People’s Republic of China) and the Mongolian People’s Republic. They first became known to history in the fourth century.

In 907 the leader of the tribe, Ila-Abugi, proclaimed himself emperor of the Khitans and, after subjugating a number of neighboring tribes, extended the empire to the west and north. In 926, he conquered the Pohai kingdom in the east. In 947, the state was named Great Liao; in 983, the Great State of the Khitans; and in 1066, the Great Liao once again. The Liao state, which stretched from the Sea of Japan to eastern Turkestan, was the mightiest power in East Asia. After losing a war with the Khitans, China began to pay them a yearly tribute in 1005. At the end of the 11th century, the decline of the Liao state began, and in 1125 it was destroyed by the Jurchens. Some of the Khitans (the Kara-Khitans or Karakitai) moved westward to Middle Asia.

Two types of Khitan written language are known. The Russian name for China (Kitai), which came from the Mongols and the Turks, is derived from the name “Khitan.”


Rudov, L. N. “Kidani.” In the collection Dal’nii Vostok: Sb. statei po filologii, istorii, filosofii. Moscow, 1961.
Starikov, V. S. “Formal’nyi analiz funktsional’noi struktury teksta.” In the collection Materialy po deshifrovke kidan’skogo pis’ma, book 1. Moscow, 1970.
Wittfogel, K. A., and Feng Chia-Sheng. History of the Chinese Society Liao. Philadelphia-New York, 1946.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Fascinating details of this process are preserved in a text compiled by one of his former students, Yelu Youshang [phrase omitted] (1235-1320), a Khitan and distant descendant of the Liao ruling house.
Why not just get rid of the people and use it as grazing land?' The Khitan official Yelu Chucai [phrase omitted] (1190-1244) argues that the Chinese could be useful; one just had to know how to tax them effectively.
Early Song records described the Khitans of the Liao as "barbarians," behaving like "dogs and goats" (Wang 1983, 52-53).
"Barbarians or Northerners: Northern Sung Images of Khitans." In China Among Equals: The Middle Kingdom and Its Neighbors, 10th-14th Centuries, ed.
At the end of the ninth century, the Khitans began wars against tribes that lived in their proximity.
(60) According to Kyaw, by 1071 CE the mother of a chief over governors in the internal palace of the Liao emperor (Khitan dynasty) had built a cedi in which she placed the revered tooth relic; it was located on the southeastern corner of the enclosure of the Lingguang monastery to the west of Beijing.
The book's final article on the Khitans, Cai Meibiao's "Khitan Tribal Organization and the Birth of the Khitan State," covers a long span of time, from the historical appearance of the Khitans in the late fourth century C.E.
It is characteristic of these poems that the writers derive from the objects inspi ration for Confucian meditations on history and contemporary policy, as Mei does when he expresses the hope that an ancient bronze crossbow trigger will be used as a model to construct new weapons and might help to stave off border incursions by the Tanguts and Khitans; "Don't let our border troops keep dying off like flies.!" (22)
The same scholars who presumed Kirghiz domination of the Mongolian plateau after 840 also supposed that the Kirghiz were pushed out of the region by the expanding power of the Khitans when their dynamic ruler Yeh-lu A-pao-chi entered the Orkhon region with his troops in 924.
Faced with this intricate international system, the author has concentrated on the major foreign policy concerns of the Sui and Tang empires, particularly the Turks, Uighurs, Koreans, Tibetans, and Nanzhao, although there are also substantial references to other peoples, such as the Khitans, Tuyuhun, etc.
The existence of a significant corpus of Mongolian loan words used to translate these terms, combined with the fact that some of them occur in Jurchen, suggests that among the northern border peoples there may have been a kind of tradition of Lunyu interpretation which began in the twelfth century with the reign of the Jurchens, and possibly even as early as the tenth century with the Khitans. The Manchu words for dao and li are interesting both for their divergence from the meanings of the Chinese words that they translate and for their inherent semantic congruity.
al-Khitan: ray al-din wa-al-Wilm fi'khitan al-awlad wa-al-banat.