Warfare in Chinese History

By Hans J. Van Der Ven | Go to book overview
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The winter of 1004 was extremely cold. Even the Yellow River that ran through the prefecture city of Shanyuan (or Shanzhou, modern Puyang in Hebei) froze, not to mention the military water network that the Northern Song dynasty (960–1127) had constructed to impede the cavalry of the Liao dynasty (907–1125). At this juncture the Liao invaded with the largest army since its extermination of the Later Jin (936–946) of the Five Dynasties (907–960) fifty-seven years previously. Under the command of Dowager Empress Xiao (953–1009) and Emperor Shengzong (971–1031), reportedly 200,000 Kitan crack troops penetrated the northern territories of the Song in sixty days, reaching the outskirts of Shanyuan, where they met the Song counterattack headed by Emperor Zhenzong (968–1022). Less than 300 miles away from Shanyuan was the Song capital Kaifeng (modern Kaifeng City in Henan). Finally, as neither side was confident of a showdown, the Liao and the Song reached a peace agreement in early 1005, the so-called Shanyuan Accord.

Some questions arise. Why did the Liao decide to make war in 1004? In the previous six years between 998 and 1003, the Liao had already invaded the Song four times, the first two of which were also led by Dowager Empress Xiao and Emperor Shengzong. What prompted them to invade all out this time? What were their goals of war? And how did these goals affect the Kitans' tactics in the battlefield and their demands in negotiations? Since it was the Kitans who initiated the war, these questions ought to be answered from their standpoint: how did they understand the situation before the war?

Historians used to believe that the Kitans were induced by the military weakness of the Song, and their goal of war was simply wealth, which was fulfilled in the Accord by demanding the Song


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Warfare in Chinese History


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