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
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Ta-shih*, a member of the imperial clan, foreseeing the end, had withdrawn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,
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
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
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
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:
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.