BabelStone Blog

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Khitan Geography Part 1

Having taken a look at Tangut geography and Jurchen geography, I thought I might as well make a series of it, and take a look at place names written in the Khitan scripts. For convenience, I am dividing it into two parts, this post on place names written in the Khitan Large Script, and a future post on place names in the Khitan Small Script.

In contrast with the Jurchen script, for which we have a key (the Ming dynasty Sino-Jurchen Vocabulary of the Bureau of Interpreters 女真譯語) but very few extant inscriptions to read, we have no key to help us read either of the two Khitan scripts, but there is a relatively large corpus of Khitan inscriptions (about 18 known monumental inscriptions in the Khitan large script, and about 38 known monumental inscriptions in the Khitan small script). Without any surviving dictionaries or glossaries of the Khitan language both Khitan scripts remain largely undeciphered, and we are only able to read with certainty a limited set of Khitan vocabulary (such as calendrical terms, numbers, official titles, some personal names and some Chinese loan words).

I have gone through about a dozen published Khitan Large Script epitaphs, all dating from the Liao dynasty (907–1125), and have extracted all the place names that have been identified by scholars working on these texts (in a few cases I have omitted place names which I think have been misidentified). In many cases the identification is provisional, and should be treated with caution. It is certain that some place names remain to be identified in the extant inscriptions, and I will update the tables below when I find new place name identifications.

For the convenience of the reader I have added reconstructed readings for the Khitan Large Script characters as given by Liu Fengzhu 劉鳳翥 and Wang Yunlong 王雲龍 in their 2004 study of the Epitaph for Yelü Changyun 耶律昌允 (KL:M12). These readings are even more tentative than the place name identifications, and may not always represent scholarly consensus. The readings are helpful for understanding the relationship between the Khitan place names and the Chinese place names that in most cases they transcribe, but they are little more than educated guesses and should not be treated as definitive.

Many or most Khitan Large Script characters are written with somewhat different glyph forms in different (or even the same) inscriptions, and as there is little certainty as to which of the variant glyph forms is the orthographically correct way of writing the character I have arbitrarily standardized differing glyph forms in different inscriptions to a single glyph form.

Index of Liao Dynasty Khitan Large Script Place Names


Source Khitan Name Chinese Name Country
KL:M09 (1)
N176 (9.6)

mɑi [?-?] qu-lɑ khitɑ-i kur
大中央哈喇契丹國 Great Central (Qara?) Khitan Kingdom
KL:M12 (5)
mɑi khitɑ-i qu-lɑ kur
KL:M13 (1)
mɑi qu-lɑ kur
KL:M14 (1)
mɑi [?-?] khitɑ-i kur
KL:M11 (1)
qu-lɑ khitɑ-i kur
KL:M05 (3)
dɑn kur
東丹國 Dongdan
KL:M13 (21)
[?] [?-?] kuei
西夏國 Western Xia


Source Khitan Name Chinese Name Location
KL:M09 (23, 25)
KL:M12 (8, 16)
KL:M13 (23)
KL:M14 (6)

u-rə kiŋ
Superior Capital
Modern Baarin Left Banner 巴林左旗, Inner Mongolia
KL:M12 (15)
tʃiu-uŋ kiŋ
Central Capital
Modern Damingzhen Township 大明鎮, west of Ningcheng 寧城, Inner Mongolia
N176 (9.1)
tʃu-uŋ kiŋ
KL:M08 (16)
KL:M12 (15, 16)

to-rə kiŋ
Eastern Capital
Modern Liaoyang 遼陽, Liaoning
Western Capital
Modern Datong 大同, Shanxi
Southern Capital
Modern Beijing 北京


Source Khitan Name Chinese Name Location
Superior Capital Circuit
Centred on the Superior Capital
Central Capital Circuit
Centred on the Central Capital
Eastern Capital Circuit
Centred on the Eastern Capital
Western Capital Circuit
Centred on the Western Capital
Southern Capital Circuit
Centred on the Southern Capital

Superior Prefectures

Source Khitan Name Chinese Name Location
Dading Superior Prefecture
Prefectural seat at the Central Capital
Datong Superior Prefecture
Prefectural seat at the Western Capital
KL:M12 (12)
qoŋ lu-uŋ pu
Huanglong Superior Prefecture
Prefectural seat at modern Nong'an 農安, Jilin
Liaoyang Superior Prefecture
Prefectural seat at the Eastern Capital
Linhuang Superior Prefecture
Prefectural seat at the Superior Capital
Xijin Superior Prefecture
Prefectural seat at the Southern Capital
KL:M12 (14)
xi-əŋ tʃu-uŋ pu
Xingzhong Superior Prefecture
Prefectural seat at modern Chaoyang 朝陽, Liaoning


Source Khitan Name Chinese Name Location
KL:M12 (1)
si tʃiu
Ci Prefecture
Modern Ji County 吉縣, Shanxi.
Within Song territory.
KL:M12 (1)
bun tʃiu
Fen Prefecture
Modern Fenyang 汾陽, Shanxi.
Within Song territory.
KL:M13 (11, 15, 21)
pu tʃiu
Fu Prefecture
Modern Fu County 富縣, Shaanxi.
Within Song territory.

kuei tʃiu
Gui Prefecture
Modern Guizhou Township 歸州鎮, south of Gaizhou 蓋州, Liaoning.
KL:M12 (16)
kim tʃiu
Jin Prefecture
Modern Jinzhou District 金州區, Dalian, Liaoning
KL:M12 (1, 2)
sin tʃiu
Jin Prefecture
Modern Quwo County 曲沃縣, Shanxi.
Within Song territory.
KL:M08 (14)
KL:M12 (13)

tuŋ tʃiu
Tong Prefecture
Modern Zhonggu Township 中固镇, south of Kaiyuan 開原, Liaoning
KL:M12 (1)
si tʃiu
Xi Prefecture
Modern Xi County 隰縣, Shanxi.
Within Song territory.
KL:M12 (2, 17)
tʃo tʃiu
Zhuo Prefecture
Modern Zhuozhou 涿州, Hebei
KL:M12 (15)
[?]-ɑn tʃiu
[?]an Prefecture
KL:M12 (7)
[?]-əŋ tʃiu
[?]ing Prefecture

Other Places

Source Khitan Name Chinese Name Location
KL:M09 (2)
tɑi ŋ-wo-ɑn
Taiyuan 太原, Shanxi


Source Khitan Name Chinese Name Location
KL:M13 (23)
si ʃui kun
Qishui Commandery
KL:M12 (3)
si ʃui kun
KL:M09 (1, 6)
j-əŋ ni-əŋ kun
Yongning Commandery

* Liao dynasty commanderies (Chinese jùn 郡) are the ceremonial fiefdoms of Commandery Princes, and are not actual administrative regions within the Liao state.

Rivers and Mountains

Source Khitan Name Chinese Name Location
KL:M13 (29)
li ʃɑn
Lie Mountain
Chogt Mountain 朝克圖山 in Inner Mongolia
KL:M12 (19, 20)
bor ʃɑn
Fo Mountain (Buddha Mountain)
KL:M12 (22)
thɑ ʃan
Ta Mountain (Pagoda Mountain)


The sources for Khitan place names are listed in the tables below. A map showing the locations of Khitan Large Script inscriptions is available here. In the "Source" column of the tables above, the number in parentheses after the source ID is the line number of the inscription where the place name occurs (for the manuscript N176, the numbers are the page number and line number).

Khitan Large Script Monumental Inscriptions

ID Description Location Date
KL:M01 Commemoration of a battle victory by Hutenu (Yelü Zhaosan 耶律趙三) Khentii Province, Mongolia 1084
KL:M02 Inscribed sarcophagous Jianchang County, Liaoning
KL:M03 Memorial at Jing'an Temple (靜安寺) erected by the Lady of Lanling Commandery (蘭陵郡夫人) Ningcheng County, Inner Mongolia 1072
KL:M04 Epitaph for an unknown person Unknown 1056
KL:M05 Epitaph for Court Attendant Dorlipun 多羅里本郎君 (1037–1080) Unknown 1081
KL:M06 Epitaph for Court Attendant Li Ai 李爱郎君 Unknown 1176
KL:M07 Epitaph for the Grand Preceptor (太師) Unknown 1056
KL:M08 Epitaph for the Grand Prince of the North 北大王 (Yelü Wanxin 耶律萬辛, 972–1041) Ar Horqin Banner, Inner Mongolia 1041
KL:M09 Epitaph for the Princess of Yongning Commandery 永寧郡公主 (1033–1091) Bairin Left Banner, Inner Mongolia 1092
KL:M10 Epitaph for Xiao Paolu 蕭袍魯 (1018–1089) Faku County, Liaoning 1090
KL:M11 Epitaph for Xiao Xiaozhong 蕭孝忠 (d.1089) Huludao, Liaoning 1089
KL:M12 Epitaph for Yelü Changyun 耶律昌允 (1000–1061) Chifeng, Inner Mongolia 1062
KL:M13 Epitaph for Yelü Qi 耶律褀 (1033–1108) Ar Horqin Banner, Inner Mongolia 1108
KL:M14 Epitaph for Yelü Xinie 耶律習涅 (1063–1114) Bairin Left Banner, Inner Mongolia 1114
KL:M15 Epitaph for Yelü Yanning 耶律延寧 (946–985) Chaoyang County, Liaoning 986
KL:M16 Memorial from the mausoleum of Emperor Taizu of Liao (r.916–926) Bairin Left Banner, Inner Mongolia
KL:M17 Memorial from the ruins of the Liao capital Shangjing Bairin Left Banner, Inner Mongolia
KL:M18 Monumental stone inscription Dornogovi Province, Mongolia 1058

Other Khitan Large Script Sources

ID Description Location Date
N176 Manuscript codex Nova N 176 held at the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts in Saint Petersburg Found in Kyrgyzstan 1045+
KL:W01 Two wooden tablets from a Liao dynasty tomb Horqin Right Middle Banner, Inner Mongolia

Google Map of Khitan Large Script Place Names

To accompany this post I have created a map of Liao dynasty Khitan Large Script place names on Google Maps (click on the tags to see the Khitan names).

Google Maps map showing Liao Dynasty locations with place names in Khitan Large Script



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