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Guest Lectures

“Dading Ranks First of All Under Heaven”: Social Changes in the Mid-Liao from the Perspective of Inscriptions Unearthed in the Liao Central Capital Region

Speaker: Dr. Lance Pursey (JSPS Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Waseda University)

Topic: “Dading Ranks First of All Under Heaven”: Social Changes in the Mid-Liao from the Perspective of Inscriptions Unearthed in the Liao Central Capital Region

Discussant: Dr. Ya-hwei Hsu (Professor, Department of History, National Taiwan University)

Moderator: Dr. Yung-chang Tung (Assistant Research Fellow, IHP, Academia Sinica)

Date: January 24 (Wednesday), 2024, 3:00 p.m.

Venue: Room 703, Research Building, IHP, Academia Sinica

Organizer: History Department, IHP, Academia Sinica


  1. The lecture will be given in Chinese. Registration is not required.
  2. Participants who are experiencing a fever and/or respiratory symptoms are recommended to wear a face mask.

Contact: Ms. Luo, (02) 2782-9555 ext. 351

In the early 11th century, following the signing of the Chanyuan treaty, the Central Capital of the Liao (Zhongjing) was constructed. These two key political events can be seen as a macrohistorical watershed dividing the early Liao from the mid late Liao. However, from a microhistorical perspective, there are traces of ongoing longer term processes of change within Liao society. These changes manifest in three major trends, namely 1) the transition from personalized power of governors and leaders of touxia prefectures to centralized imperial power; 2) the maturation and strengthening of central bureaucratized government; and 3) the reforms that saw retainers and other bonded people become free persons.

Owing to a dearth of transmitted materials, Liao history must incorporate inscriptions. However, these inscriptions do not serve only to supplement the histories, but to generate their own new and unprecedented research questions. Through a multi-dimensional analysis (incorporating aspects such as the archaeological context, location, engraving, materials, calligraphy) of the inscriptions from the Liao Zhongjing region over a hundred year period, we can reveal the various layers of its culture and society. In particular, in this shared urban and regional space, how the Kitan aristocracy and the transplanted populations that were labelled “Han” interacted and maintained boundaries of identity. Through a combination of macrohistorical and microhistorical approaches this paper presents a picture of society in Liao Zhongjing, and the function of Liao Zhongjing in the social changes of the Liao dynasty.

Lance Pursey is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Waseda University, funded by the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science. He completed his PhD at the University of Birmingham in 2020. He has published on epigraphy, urban history, and mobility in the Liao dynasty. He is working on a monograph on the relationship between the Liao state and the Kitan aristocracy through Amsterdam University Press.

Published on 2024-01-08