Qarakhitay (Hsi Liao) Cash Coins
Inscribed KANGGUO

Homage to the late Mr.Wei Yueh Wang
Dr.Tjong Ding Yih,
The Netherlands

ONS Newsletter 158,
February, 1999
Mr. Wei Yueh Wang from Huahote, Innermongolia, became a ONS member in 1985. He was a council member of both the Chinese and Innermongolian Numismatic Societies. Furthermore, he was one of the editors of the newsletter of the latter society. One of his fields of interest and expertise was the coinage of the Liao dynasty. My first correspondance with him dated from early 1985.
       Several years ago I received from him an illustration of rubbings of several Kangguo pieces. On my further inquery whether he had those rubbings from a numismatic book or whether even he himself had the coins and made the rubbings, I did not receive an answer. Only recently I was informed that Mr. Wei Yueh died on 23 june 1994 (age 74).
       In the following a historical background of the Qarakhitay and a description of the rubbings are given.

       In the beginning of the tenth century several nomadic peoples such as the western Xia, Jurchen and Khitan developed their milatary power and conquered parts of norh China. In 907 Abaoji (Taizu) declared himself emperor of the Khitan and founded the Liao dynasty. In 1125 the last Liao emperor Tianzuo was defeated and captured by his former vassals, the Jurchen Tatars who established the Chin dynasty (1115-1234). Nearly one year before Yeh-lü Ta-shih*, a member of the imperial clan, foreseeing the end, had withdrawn himself to the northern fortress, K’otun on the Orkhon river. Around 1130 he invaded eastern Turkestan, while his army was strengthened by the arrival of a large number of Khitan tribesmen, who had been in the service of the ruler of Samarkand as mercenaries.
       Moslem sources mention a number of cities such as Balasaghun, Kashgar and Khotan assaulted by the Qarakhitay. The city of Imil is reported to be founded by him. Around 1141 he defeated the Saljuqid sultan Sanjar near Samarkand and got into the possession of Transoxania (western Turkestan). He founded the western Liao (Hsi-Liao), also called the black Khitan (Qarakhitay) realm, and adopted the title of Gurkhan. He died in the tenth year of the Kangguo period (1143).
       The Qarakhitay as Budhists considered as infidels by their Moslem subjects, did not interfere with the political structure of their conquests, but maintained the local rulers and were satisfied with tribute only. After the destruction of the Qarakhitay realm by the Mongols under Genghiz khan in 1218, the majority of the Qarakhitay resumed their nomadic life. Only a small part under Buraq Hajib shifted to urban live and established a local dynasty in the southern Persian province of Kirman. The Ilkhanid Uljaytu ended this dynasty in 1306.

       * Ta-shih (the Qarakhanid state of eastern Turkestan)

       The Liao emperors did not mint many cash coins and exchange, especially of livestock remained an important way for payment throughout the whole dynasty. For the coinage the Liao emperors adopted the Chinese cash system. The production of cash, however, was small as compared with the huge production in the southern Sung realm. In the later years of the dynasty huge amounts of southern Sung cash circulated in the realm. From the last Liao emperor Tianzuo (1101-25) cash coins are known with the reign titles Qiantong (, 1101-11) and Tianqing (, 1111-21).
       With respect to the coinage of the Qarakhitay very little is known. Vassal countries like Samarkand and Bukhara were permitted to mint their own currency with the name of the local ruler. The gurkhans, however, issued special Hsi Liao money. A Sung source (1149) mentions a cash coin with the legend Kantian yuanbao . This coin should refer to the empress Kantian, the widow of the founder of the dynasty, although she occupied the throne for seven years under the reign title Xianqing. Another cash with the legend Kangguo has been attributed to Yeh-lü Ta-shih himself. Although both coins have been described, no specimen or even illustrations were known until recently. The major books on Chinese numismatics such as Schjoth, Ting Fu Pao or Lockhart does not mention these coins.

       Description of the illustrations
       The illustration sent by Mr.Wei Yueh Wang contained four rubbing-like drawings (nos. 1-4) and one inkt drawing (no. 5) of Kangguo pieces.





The position of the characters around the square hole are as follows:

top bottom right left
No.1 Kang Guo yuan bao
Nos. 2/3 Kang yuan Guo bao
Nos. 4/5 Kang Guo tong bao

Number 1 seems to be an higher denomination with a diameter of about 34 mm. The diameter of nos. 2, 3 and 5 is about 29 mm.; no. 4 is the smallest coin with a diameter of about 27 mm.
       The author welcomes all information concerning the presence of these pieces or their illustrations in Museum or private collections.
See also notes on this page.

Chinese Coinage Web Site