Mahakhitan: A Chinese Buddhist Civilization in India

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Green Painting, Nov 27, 2017.

  1. Shoulder Monkays Well-Known Member

    Jun 11, 2018
    That lil' fishing village

    And we have 50 threadmarks WOW!
    canute likes this.
  2. Shoulder Monkays Well-Known Member

    Jun 11, 2018
    That lil' fishing village
    Just checking in to assure the translation for the newest chapters (31st and 32nd) are under way. They are, however, extremely difficult because of contents regarding architecture and non-western naming practices... I'm half way through Chapter 31 but it might still take up to two weeks to finalize.
    BootOnFace, Contrary, canute and 2 others like this.
  3. Shoulder Monkays Well-Known Member

    Jun 11, 2018
    That lil' fishing village
    Chapter 31 Gloaming Bells of Treasured Clouds: A Lousy Show-Around Trip with Me, and the 18th Century Major Political Event of Mahakhitan Reflected by a Grand Temple
    031 – 寳雲晚锺:一次被我牽著走的劣質旅行,和一座大寺折射的摩訶契丹18世紀政治大事件


    Say, you walk on the streets of the Mahakhitan Dongjing (Eastern Capital) city, casually pick any by-passer and ask, where’s Baoyun (寳雲, lit. “Treasured Cloud”) Temple?

    You are first answered with confused looks, for the typical, total outsider that you are.

    When you arrived here, didn’t you see the shine from the golden tower being reflected on the surface of Zhumuna (Jumna) River, hear the soul-astoundingly deep bell rings, or take note of the packs of men and women on their way to worship the Śarīra from Bhudda’s skullcap that are so thrilled and almost losing themselves at the scene?

    Umm, you say.

    Before you even say anything strange like how you are an uptimer and have just arrived in this city, I come through the surrounding crowd and pull you away from people’s sight.

    You are at the right time if you are looking for Baoyun Temple, I say.

    This is the 28th Year of Chuhe (儲和, “Preserving Peace”; 1769), the peak of prosperity enjoyed by the Grand Baoyun Temple as well as fifty-seven thousand major temples of Jambudvīpa. This time next year, everything will be so much different.

    I can’t help but add, or maybe it has been on a slippery slope long before?


    Long long ago, when the Khitans just entered South Asia, the native Buddhism here in Sindhu was already on the verge of collapsing. After losing the competition against Hinduism, Buddhism in the upper and middle Ganges River regions further suffered from large-scale damages at the hands of the Turks in 12th Century. The arrival of the Buddhist-believing Khitans saved the last samghāramas in northern India from the approaching footsteps of annihilation.

    In order to aid and support these famous ancient temples, the early Liao emperors and aristocratic clans, other than making large donations, also placed some of their newly conquered land to the temples, along with the corresponding peasants who subsequently became temple kappiyakāraka (淨人 or non-ordained Buddhist servants/helpers, lit. “clean one”, originally in Pali and can be shortened as kappiya). Nominally, these kappiya provide their labour for the sangha (group of ordained Buddhists) in place of the emperor and lords, and they were the original, earliest batch of temple-serving households. The aristocrats later began to use captives and criminals as kappiya, so the term has been explicitly despised. Later people simply regarded the group as temple serfs.

    But this is not really what we are talking about. I’d like to instead explain how these temples, during the span of several hundred years, accumulated a lot of gifted and donated land and received the tax-farming privileges from emperors, to possess the vast capital they had --

    As my endless gabbing continues, you get your first glimpse of Baoyun Temple.

    The fifty-chi gate of the temple is made of taintless red marble, imitating the wooden structure of major Khitan temples in the old days. Emerald jade and lapis garnish the curled grass, lotus pedals and thousands of buddha patterns, as they are displayed at the height of column tops in alternating red and white. The decorative bucket arch made of grazed bricks have altogether thirty-three layers, like colourful stalactites hanging in caves. When the gate suddenly appears in front of you, it is almost too close to distinguish the colours of the tiles, but only a beam of golden shine from the cornice. Several strings of embroidered colourful banners hanging under the eave together form a gathering of thousands of buddhas that is dizzying to watch. Above three door passings, lapis boards inscribed with golden Han and Sanskrit characters show “Sunyata” (Emptiness), “Animitta” (Signless) and “Akarmaka” (Intransitive), respectively. The passing of Sunyata is not opened unless His Majesty visits. I pull you back as you are almost doomed by stepping on the imperial path, and take you through the passing of Akarmaka, as it is marked.

    Between the brass Chaturmahārāja (known in Chinese as Heavenly Kings 天王) glaring from within the gate there was once a quite broad flagging, but is now a mere narrow string as four hundred years of stone tablets recording donators inched into and occupied it. As narrow as this has become, we still have to avoid stepping on uncles and aunties coming from Persia, who will further go to Puti Circuit to visit the holy relics, so we keep our head low while walking carefully, and missed the dozens-of-chi-long relief sculptures that depict the pure land on the arched ceiling of the gateway.

    When you have been completely dazzled by the sutra illustration relief sculptures between the three layers of hall columns in the main courtyard, and in turn looking at the hundreds of worshippers that are surrounding and kowtowing to the the five gold stupas on the vajrasana pagoda, you try to avoid the glaring light reflected on the gold towers and ask me about the story of this grand temple as well as how it accumulated astonishing amounts of wealth, thus having formed such a sophisticated style of decoration.

    I take you up the hundred-and-thirty-nine-chi-tall, brass sutra tower surrounded by coiled loong and cloud patterns, try to redirect your attention from the red-paint, gold-plated, pumice stone zhuanlunzang (轉輪藏, literally, “turning wheel storage”, a round barrel-like form of Buddhist bookshelves) the worshippers are slowing turning, and say “it is very hard to identify the original buildings from three hundred years ago of this central, high-rise skullcap Śarīra-storing vajra-based pagoda, the surrounding three-storey monk’s dormitories, and the bell tower and sutra tower on east and west respectively, even just in the main courtyard within your sight.”

    Back then when the Renzong (仁宗, lit. “Benevolent Ancestor”) Emperor ruled, the Eastern Capital city was struck by epidemic just as it was newly built. His Majesty himself also fell ill in Central Capital, and only gradually recovered after the court prayed for grace day and night. Since, the emperor, long known for his devotion, made a pledge to grant donations to the four holy sites in Puti Circuit.

    When the grand temples in these four holy sites were finally finished after more than ten years during the era of Qianyou (乾佑, lit. “Heaven’s Blessing”), the emperor was already in his twilight years and seriously ill. However, he recovered after barely managing to conclude his tour in palanquin. So he made a another pledge, to build an enormous grand temple in the Eastern Capital city to worship Buddha’s Śarīra, and this was the origin of Baoyun Temple. According to the records of the Ministry of Works, every design of the temple back then imitated Bodh Gaya and Nalanda, therefore the looks of this temple contrast the official Khitan-style major temples in the western part of the country, in that it is taller and more compact. The Xiangtai (香臺, lit. “incensed base”) Hall, the lecture hall on the northern end of the main courtyard, was on the other hand built during the era of Jingyun under the Anzong (安宗, lit. “Tranquil Ancestor”) Emperor according to the Khitan style of grand imperial temples, in order to meet the need of larger and more dharma assemblies being held.



    Imperial Grand Baoyun Temple, back cell of Xiangtai Hall
    --But it would be gravely wrong for one to think this is all of Baoyun Temple. In the past four hundred years the emperors as well as lords from various places made donations year after year, and this giant temple had repeated renovations. The imperial family has been living in the Eastern Capital during the past close to two hundred years, so they have helped this largest temple in the capital expand and renovate continually – the courtyards of similar size but show various differences around the main courtyard are all results of these expansions.

    I start to name these courtyards while pointing at them, having no regard whether or not you will be able to remember them or get bored:

    Endless (無盡/Wujin) Court

    Epiphyllum (曇花/Tanhua) Court

    Enlightenment (正覺/Zhengjue, highest level of Buddhist Practice) Court

    Iśvara (自在/Zizai, lit. “at will”, “unrestricted”, “boundless”, etc.) Court

    Lotus Seat (蓮臺/Liantai) Court

    Sea Reflection (海印/Haiyin) Court

    Guanyin/Avalokiteśvara (觀音) Court

    Vaidūryanirbhāsā (淨琉璃/Jingliuli, lit. “dust-free glaze/crystal”) Court (Main Eastern Courtyard)

    Akanistaka (有頂天/Youdingtian, lit. “heaven with top”) Court

    Suvarṇaprabhāsa (金光明/Jinguangming, lit. “Golden Light”) Court

    Gangā-Nadī-Vālukā (恆河沙/Henghesha, lit. “Ganges River Sand”) Court

    Amitābha (無量光/Wuliangguang, lit. “Infinite Light”) Court (Main Western Courtyard)

    Every court here is able to host hundreds of monks, and they are all essentially independent academies typically with their own programs and focuses. Some courts shoulder special duties. Guanyin Court, for example, is the private court of the imperial clan. Its stone gate has never been seen open, but incense smoke and smell can be constantly noticed to go beyond the court walls. Another instance is that half of the Eastern Capital residents received primary education and learned how to read and write in Vaidūryanirbhāsā Court or Amitābha Court. Most of the sutras in various languages are not stored in the zhuanlunzang in the tower we are currently in, but instead in the open shelves in the stone-structured Sea of Wisdom Court. Furthermore, monks in Sea Reflection Court can all write beautiful small-character regular script (小楷), Dongjing Sanskrit script and Tianfang script, and have even started applying lithography on sutra printing. Now, about the Endless Court…

    You ask me why suddenly stop the introduction. I say, just enjoy the view in front us; we can get back to Endless Court later.

    It is five o’clock sharp in the afternoon when we see the last sunshine falls on the bronze bell-hosting tower in front of us. In the scale-like golden spots of light, nine monks is just pulling out an unknown ebony machine and then pounding the thirty thousand-jin lion bell with the ram on the machine. The low, deep bell tone triggers a humming resonance from the zhuanlunzang by our side, which is a few hundred chi away. People on the ground in the main courtyard, together with the high-up visitors like us, all lower our waist, as if because of the fear that the bell tone will shatter our intestines. In the flame-like splendor from the golden tiles of the various courtyards, flags and banners in the entire Baoyun Temple tremble with the deep roars of the bell, causing the crows previously resting on tree branches in the nearby square neighbourhoods to take off abruptly. Subsequently, evening bells from every other temple in Dongjing begin. The famous crow flock of the Eastern Capital, just having scattered atop the main streets between the squares, now disorderly gather on top of the Zhumuna River before they further fly toward the direction of Sirius.

    It takes a quarter for everything to quiet down again. I begin to talk about the wealth of this grand temple. But, it is rather dark an achievement to accumulate such wealth, I say. I didn’t want to spoil the fun before we enjoy the fabulous view.

    We were talking about Endless Court, weren’t we? That is the place responsible for managing the properties of the temple. Currently the temple expands its wealth through large-scale loan-lending.

    Across the country, temples of various sizes are in a habitual wave of conducting loan-lending businesses, and it is perhaps the common scene in contemporary Mahakhitan temples. Major temples like Baoyun Temple offer relatively merciful conditions like a monthly compound interest of five percent (5%). For these major temples, the empire used to try to set the yearly interest no higher than 60% (which still is an astounding number to westerners), but in practice, this was bypassed with practices such as “donations” (香火錢, literally “incense money” which was/is synonymous to donations made to temples), so that for every one hundred Tiangang borrowed, the borrower can only get ninety.

    Monks would also privately offer loans with their own money as well as part of the temple properties. Interests were naturally scarily high as the needed mortgage would be lower. But in this era of full-fledged commercialisation of the Ganges valley region, a twenty percent monthly interest would still be widely popular.

    Under collusion between temples and the authorities, those in debt were either dumped into debt prisons or became lifelong slaves working in temple-owned farms. The monks would also threaten the people with a dedicated finger-chopping Naraka (Buddhist hell), so the debtors would jitter in fear, while the monks themselves made handsome profits.

    This way, past donations and gifts from emperors and aristocrats either helped generate profits in loan-lending institutions like Endless Court, becoming the basis of the luxurious lifestyle in grand temples like Baoyun Temple, or were turned into private properties of the monks and then transferred to their private subsidiary temples for further loan-lending for even more profits. These monks are generally not discipline-abiding and often act lawlessly.

    Aristocrats who were down and out also tend to offer mortgage on their land to temples. Their accumulated debt often makes them bankrupt swiftly. By 1680, the amount of concentrated land on temple checkbooks was increasingly astounding.

    Temples, therefore, are in the meantime the biggest landlords. In places where currency circulation is insufficient, temples lend seeds but in turn require peasants to leave their land as a pledge on high interests. Another way of loan-lending by temples is not requiring payback of the principal sum but on the other hand collecting interests annually. The latter seems gentle but is in fact much harsher. As peasants cannot pay interests back when natural disasters strike, all fertile land within an entire township or county would often fall into the hands of a certain temple within a few years, with the people all becoming temple kappiyakārakas.

    By early years of the Chuhe era, nearly twenty million households were under temples and monasteries across the country, feeding several million monks. Just Baoyun Temple in front us alone had hundreds of thousands of temple-serving households in the Eastern Capital Area, Hejian Circuit and Puti Circuit. Gradually, even the administration was pursued for debt repayment by major temples. Since the 14th Year of Yiqing (儀慶, lit. “Ritual Celebration”) under the Chengzong (成宗, lit. “Accomplished Ancestor”) Empress when the authorities first borrowed from Baoyun Temple due to the campaign against Pasai, the imperial house has been in debt of the monks. Subsequently more and more monks entered the core of the empire and by the 1730s, the power wielded by temples and monasteries within the whole empire reached its peak.

    You say, so is this Great Liao State doomed like this?

    I continue to tell you don’t get desperate yet. In recent years things have been in the change quietly. The merchants, active in coastal regions and having become the new aristocracy, have often been heavily rewarded thanks to the recent Nine Year's War. They have on one hand gained momentum while cooperating with the temples and on the other hand realised the latter were in fact the biggest obstacle on their path pursuing even more profits. In the meantime, the old aristocracy with long histories began to form a coalition with these merchants and to gradually mobilising their own military forces when the temples are facing problems keeping their power with no capable successor. The ordinary folks do not really grasp this much. They are devoted to the Vajrayana Buddhism that has absorbed Brahmanist traditions, but also eagerly long for an opportunity leading to the removal of their own debts or the tight control imposed by the temples.

    Everyone can feel the heavy atmosphere in Dongjing city today, heeding the evening bells and the sound of the crows. Now all eyes are watching out for the sagely king remaining within the nine layers of gates in central city to make a gesture. The several recent emperors all seemed content to their status as the highest religious leader and donator, the wheel-turning sagely king. Being a figurehead and seeing the collapse of the central administration, the current emperor does not feel like bothering himself with politics either. However, everyone wants to know what can happen if he does indeed pick a side.

    The narration of the future will slowly drift away from the high-up emperor(s) and officials. For introduction to the cause and effect of the chaos unleashed by the personal involvement of the emperor, we are going to take a different perspective and form – oral literature. We will use a series of widely-known and popular stories (yay stories again) to reflect the world seen by the Mahakhitan people during this great epoch, as well as their own wishes and expectations. The bigshots we previously mentioned will be mercilessly ridiculed too.

    In addition, we will also get to talk about the glorious tradition of the prosperous Mahakhitan oral literature.

    Please stay tuned.


    Last edited: Dec 23, 2018
  4. phrynolatry Well-Known Member

    Dec 16, 2018
    Another great episode, as always!
  5. Kaushlendra pratap singh Well-Known Member

    Aug 12, 2018
    In India without democracy no empirical power rise due to-
    1-25 percent people are noble of noble
    2-25 percent is a warrior in which every wealthy man thinks himself as a king
    3-25 percent businessman who control autonomy in business till 1700
    A 4-25 peasant who as much industrial that there needs complete in the 1km square area
    5-Starting king in India takes minimum taxes than any other king in there time as Mayura take only 1/6 in name of farm tax.

    One phrase is famous in India "when some become king from bagger who knows "
    Means in India your bloodline is not imported but your work is imported by which you can make king like Chandragupta Mayura who was a peasent in pataliputr after that he become the first emperor of whole India
  6. Shoulder Monkays Well-Known Member

    Jun 11, 2018
    That lil' fishing village
    Chapter 32 On Modern Liao-Sindhu Names
    032 –近世遼竺辽名姓考


    Before continuing the stories, I feel like it is time to write about the names of the Mahakhitan people. I have prepared for this topic for a long time, and I shall sort it out today~

    As a matter of fact, people in ancient India were not as fixated on names as ancient East Asians. Since Mahakhitan settled down after the southward expedition from Central Asia, due to its loose governing structure after the Qianhe Reform (乾和變法), the state also did not have the power to extend its influence to such a personal field. However, as the gradual popularisation of the central household registration system and the opening up of the imperial examinations to civilians, the Liao-style naming practices had transitioned from being monopolised by the ruling class to the universal standard in South Asia as well as parts of West Asia and Southeast Asia controlled by the empire.

    Examples for Name Registration《籍名氏例》released by the Ministry of Revenue in the 30th Year of Duanning (1500) had been in use for more than three hundred years with minor revisions. This pamphlet inspired by the empress was first written in plain daily language, then translated into various local dialects and gives instructions with regard to regulations on how Offices of Revenue (戶房, lit. “household [registration] chamber”) under local governments should register names of the people. Skipping the foreword, let us go the page one, and there is the basic of Liao names: family name first, followed by given name; names in Han characters are regarded as the standard reference, while the Sanskrit forms are supplemental.

    Family Names (姓)

    The earliest Liao family names were completely in shape by around 1300. They have roughly three origins: Khitan family names, Han family names and Uyghur family names.

    About Khitan family names:

    When the Khitans started moving to the west, they originally only had Yelü and Xiao as family names. Along with the gradual enfeoffment in Western Regions, Hanshan and India, quite many branch clans began to grow stronger and more prosperous, hence gaining the need to mark their own unique statuses. These Khitan aristocrats usually tended to look for inspirations from their own family histories – some while going over their genealogy books came up with clan names (氏) with the origins of the thirty-four Khitan clans during the era of Liao Shengzong (聖宗, lit. “Sagely Ancestor”), important imperial clan relative, or the even older eight Khitan clans, and gradually used them to replace their original family names (姓). In modern Liao, if you see names such as Hengzhang Xun (橫帳勛; family name 橫帳/Hengzhang - a special Khitan word to refer to a high-level category of aristocrats with the literal Han Chinese meaning of “horizontal tent”; 勛/Xun - “merit”, “honour”, etc.), Wuyuan Guanyin (五院觀音; 五院/Wuyuan – lit. “five courtyards” that refers to a high-level title/position in charge of Khitan clan-related affairs) and Yishi Garuda (乙室迦樓羅; 乙室/Yishi - one of the eight early [main] Khitan tribes), you should probably be able to get a hang of their thousand-year-long aristocratic origins. Quite some Khitan aristocrats also chose to adopt their locations of enfeoffment as clan names late. The Xiao family in the east is a typical example of putting this to an extreme – as too many descendants of the family became branch clans like the Shicheng (石城, lit. “stone city”) clan and Boshi (博石) clan, there are not a lot of them who actually go by Xiao as their registered family name. Xiao Gu from the Small Theatre series (Lord Xiao the main envoy to England) is one of the rare examples.

    About Han family names:

    These not only include Han family names. Among the empire’s Han subjects, the Han (韓), Liu (劉), Shi (史), Zhang (張) are the four major clans of the Yan-Yun (燕雲) Han people, while various common family names found in northern China, although all available in Mahakhitan, make up different proportions in contrast to the case in inland (China Proper). The Han family names that came along during the Western Liao era include Suo (索), Yin (陰), Zhang (張), Li (李) from Shazhou (沙州, Dunhuang IOTL), Chen (陳), Long (龍), Bai (白), Yuchi (尉遲) from the old Gaochang Uyghur territory, Da (大) from Bohai and so on. The “Song people” that migrated from southern Mahā-cīna-sthāna (摩訶震旦) have a much more varied collection of family names, bringing some common ones in southern Chinese coastal regions like Lin (林), Huang (黃), etc.

    Uyghur, Turkic family names:

    These are mostly from the people’s own family names before, or their hometown heritages (地望) or enfeoffed territories. People from Kangzhou, Hezhong Prefecture (河中康州府, or Samarkand, Transoxiana) often have the family name Kang (康); those from Bāmiyan, Hanshan Circuit often have the family name Fanyan (梵衍, shortened from Fanyana, the Chinese transliteration of Bāmiyan), you get the idea. Lord Yangi Vyāsa from the Grand Theatre series is also such an example. If your family had a name like Chuye before they were drafted for work, they would of course have kept it.

    The three categories of family names cover one-third of the entire population. Among these people, there are also Sindhu natives who are servants having adopted their masters’ family names.

    The rest are the Sindhu family names. As dictated in Examples for Name Registration, everyone must have a family name. Apart from aristocratic family names that existed way back in India, people could take their previous castes, hometown heritages, patronymics and legendary heroes’ names as their family names.

    So save for the decorated, prestigious major clans like the clan of Pala - royal house of Shanyang and Puti, or that of Malla – royal house of Nepal, if you ever see names such as Gupta Sheng (笈多晟; 笈多/Jiduo - ancient Chinese transliteration of Gupta; 晟/Sheng - roughly “prosperous noon sun”), Śākya Jinzang (釋迦金藏; 釋迦/Shijia - Chinese transliteration of Śākya; 金藏/Jinzang - literally “gold stock”, a Buddhist metaphor to refer to the precious Buddhist nature of all beings) and Pāṇḍu Jiao (般度皎; 般度/Bandu - Chinese transliteration of Pāṇḍu; 皎/Jiao – description of the glowing moon), please don’t panic… whereas family names like Triveda (三吠陀) are a way of showing-off one’s origin. (Later, documents from the Ministry of Revenue began to advise people against using castes as family names, but these families usually just abbreviated their family name for a little bit and anyone would still be able to recognise them.)

    Given Names (名) and Courtesy Names (字)

    School names are often Han (“Liao”) names, with good meanings or following Buddhist traditions. Such names are for going to school, getting household registration and dealing with authorities.

    Say you randomly pull up a page from the records, names such as Dahe Hao (大賀灝; 大賀/Dahe – one of the eight early [main] Khitan tribes; 灝/Hao – roughly “vast”, “immense”, etc.), Liu Fobao (劉佛保; 佛保 – literally “Buddha bless”), Qunü Yuanming (曲女元明; 曲女/ Qunü – “hunched maidens”, likely a reference to the city of Kannauj; 元明/Yuanming – Buddhist term to describe the inherent, “clean and bright/清淨光明” nature of all lives), Wupo Junhong (烏頗君弘; 烏頗/Wupo – shortened form of Upadhyay) and so on would reflect how fused it has become.

    When it comes to school names, Khitan aristocrats occasionally give their children Khitan names, except no one understands their meanings anymore. Rigid Song families still retain the concept of generations (輩分) with regard to naming, whereas the Sindhu people often conventionally attach patronymics to autonyms, leading to long, long full names. Apart from all this, due to the poor status of women in modern Mahakhitan, females do not get school names.

    Our actual focus here is the courtesy name.

    Sanskrit characters are usually used in Mahakhitan. People go by courtesy names in their daily life.

    For example, Shi Cunjing from our Grand Theatre series had Cunjing (存敬, lit. “Maintaining Respect”) as his school name, whereas Arjuna (阿周那/Azhouna) was his courtesy name. Family members and colleagues usually called him Arjuna, but on official records he would be always referred to as Cunjing.

    Sometimes there are cases in which the school name and courtesy name converge, like the Minister of Rites Yangi Vyāsa, where Vyāsa was his school name. In such a case the courtesy name would be unnecessary, but this had been unheard of in Ming…

    Liao Buddhists usually follow traditional South Asian naming habits. Quite a number of parents also turn to gurus for courtesy names for their children.

    And that is how those school names above turned into how everyone addresses them in daily life: Dahe Pila (比羅/Biluo – shortened from Kapila), Liu Krishna (奎師那/Kuishina), Qunü Yogesh (由瞿舍/Youqüshe), Wupo Geluohe (葛羅訶*)…

    *Kara does not remember where this came from... no trace on the internet either. The Pinyin transliteration is put there as a place holder until if and when she gets back to me about this.

    Moreoever, in Muslim communities, the practice to use religious names (經名, lit. “classic/sutra names”) is also pravelent, such as Malik (摩離/Moli) and Ahmed (艾鶴/Aihe). This is absolutely common among His Majesty’s most loyal Persian Circuit subjects.

    Some supplement – About Names of Females

    As we have mentioned above, due to limitations of the time, girls usually do not get school names, but there have in fact been exceptions.

    In old Khitan aristocratic families where females enjoy a relatively higher status, there have been quite some cases girls are given official names (just that compared to the overall population, they are pathetically rare). Some famous examples include the Chengzong Empress Yelü Mingxu, whose Sanskrit name (courtesy name) was Vina (維娜/Weina), a stringed instrument.

    Most girls from common families only get Sanskrit names (equivalent to courtesy names of men), which is a sort of de-facto equal situation as everyone is used to refer to each other with Sanskrit names. But some families do not even bother to come up with decent Sanskrit names and instead only say daughter of family xxx, x-st daughter (where x-st is an ordinal number; “daughter” here in its original Chinese form is 娘, carrying a similar connotation as “lass” in English does – like 三娘/“third daughter”) and so on, which is not good. Another case is where the family members follow the old Han convention of adding up the ages of the parents when they gave birth to the child, and using the number as his/her unofficial name, which I will absolutely fight against as I would be called “Chuye Fifty-third (朱耶五十三)”.

    Also, at this point in early 19th Century, the tradition of females assuming the names of their husbands upon marriage has gradually become extinct, but this is still quite common in the southern circuits where Indian traditions are better maintained.

    The next chapter will be in the form of stories. Let the curtains of modern era unfold.
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2019
  7. phrynolatry Well-Known Member

    Dec 16, 2018
    Intersting insight on Mahakhitan names.
  8. Shoulder Monkays Well-Known Member

    Jun 11, 2018
    That lil' fishing village
    Original Historical Material: The Mahakhitan Chronicle (1761-1821)


    "Long Long Live the Emperor/Empress"

    Originally, I wanted to talk about the events by the end of 18th Century in Mahakhitan in stories, but since the stories aren't going to be smoothly delivered (I'm busy & lazy), plus now that I think about it, things are actually pretty complicated at this special point of time, I find it somewhat inappropriate to depict the whole picture with the few strokes I will be able to brush in stories. Therefore, ehem, I still decided to compile and post the timeline of the period, and then write about the rest.

    As we approach the modern era, I feel stronger and stronger impluses to write about politics and military stuff - in a period of transition, too many events have to be mentioned for the continuation of the story. But anyways, in this series the political history will always serve as the skeleton instead of the main content.


    Now let's go over the events that took place in these sixty years:

    • The emperor remained neutral before he felt the monesteries were completely losing the struggle and he would be implicated as the supreme religious leader. He then drastically sided with the aristocrats, entered the conflict as an arbitrator, and issued a series of verdicts to regularise monesteries which eventually led to the collapse of their theocratic power (1769-1770).

    • The populace that devoted to the Buddhist belief rioted for multiple times under the influence of some monks.

    • The aristocrats greedily snatched the wealth of the monesteries. The whole event was later called "Chuhe Buddhist Calamity (法難)", gravely affecting the reputation of the imperial house.

    • The comeback of the inland feudal powers, the eventual deterioration and decline of the inland, and the shift of the economic centre(s) to coastal regions.

    • The emperor was forced to again use military might to repress some of the aristocrats. The aristocratic class splitted, engaged in small-scale civil wars, and caused the chaotic situation in the central known as "Thiry Chancellors in Ten Years". Continuous religious riots (1781-1800s).

    • The various parties were finally exhausted and came to an impermanent compromise, after which a hybrid, peculiar advisory institution (1805).

    • Trade decline caused by the French Revolution and Continental Blocade. The newly emerged bourgeoisie class at home was encouraged by the French Revolution.

    • Diplomatic disarray caused by the abrupt participation into the war on the side of the anti-France coalition. Major defeats on land in several campaigns. The loss of power of the military aristocrats and the concession made to the British ally (1809-1815).

    • Natural disasters, natural disasters, natural disasters.

    In such a complete mess, the Great Liao stumbled into the modern era.


    *As always, the list of events in the original chronicle will not be translated. For the updated list of emperors/empresses, refer to Chapter 0 Catalog, Yearbooks, and One More Thing.



    The future updates will be so much fun--
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2019
  9. Quintuplicate Well-Known Member

    Nov 20, 2018
    Let's just hope it doesn't become a colony of anyone.
  10. Shoulder Monkays Well-Known Member

    Jun 11, 2018
    That lil' fishing village
    No need to worry about that:

    Happy New Year! A Minor Update: Flag, FAQ, and Recent Plans
  11. Quintuplicate Well-Known Member

    Nov 20, 2018
  12. Shoulder Monkays Well-Known Member

    Jun 11, 2018
    That lil' fishing village
    I'm not following, but yes.
  13. Quintuplicate Well-Known Member

    Nov 20, 2018
    I nominated you for the Turtledoves.
  14. Shoulder Monkays Well-Known Member

    Jun 11, 2018
    That lil' fishing village
    Hey just checking in here.

    I will be busy until the end of the month, but will make sure to post at least two chapters in March. Sorry for keeping you guys waiting as Kara has posted several updates already.
  15. Shoulder Monkays Well-Known Member

    Jun 11, 2018
    That lil' fishing village
    Chapter 33 Life of Master Jiuhai, Liao Language Literature of Mahakhitan, and Liao’s Social Ecology in late 18th Century
    033 – 《久海大師傳》和摩訶契丹遼語文學,以及18世紀末遼國社會生態

    Above is how textbooks in the future will definitely present it. Description like this carries some sort of atmosphere that seems to include all yet is hollow inside, being so generalised to the point as if nothing has been said. To really touch the outlook of Liao language literature, we have to go through detailed explanations and examples~

    As a matter of fact, in contrast to the subtext of “take this and that and everything then mash them together to form the Mahakhitan literature” within the description above, the reality is when the Mahakhitan culture was first formed from 13th to 14th Century, it was already an organic, fused entity.


    Creators from the early days almost never thought about trying to fuse anything, for they were merely simultaneously influenced by various art and literature traditions, and then naturally came up with works loved by their audience. If we have to ask what kind of literature tradition influenced them the most, it should be the legends (傳奇) and Bianwen.

    The most famous works during the 13th and 14th Centuries are probably Tale of Huaniang Leaving Home (花娘出塞故事: Huaniang/花娘, lit. “Flower Maiden”; 出塞, lit. “going abroad via [border] garrison”), Romance of Huaniang’s Hundred Sons in Northern Desert (朔漠花娘百子演義), and Record of Crown Prince Yong Visiting Underworld (永太子入冥記).

    The previous two works both come from the stories of the early 13th Century Khitan princess Yelü Huaniang being married to the Mongol Empire. The plots are similar as well, both about how Huaniang, the grand-daughter of the Gur Khan, becoming the wife of Ögedei Khan. The former carries more mysterious elements, focusing on how Huaniang heard from an old monk about the prophecy of her bearing one hundred sons, how ninety-nine of them would die before she does, and how the prophecy was realised step-by-step, as well as how these children paid back the debt they brought from their previous lives.

    The latter is much more inspirational in comparison, focusing on how Huaniang protected her children in the internal strife of the Mongol imperial court, and how she assisted her husband to gain the favour of Genghis Khan. These one hundred children, each very distinct with their own strengths, grew up and joined forces with the Kipchaks and Uyghurs, to fight the sons of the evil Jurchen concubine and the sons of Chagatai and Tolui. The youngest son of her that survived the final epic show-down, Jamugha Khan, became the great khan of all of Mongolia. The story can be found to have been somewhat influenced by Mahabharata (but it is quite interesting the hundred sons are the righteous side) – of course, Mahabharata and Ramayana were also translated by the authorities and adapted into all sorts of dramas and Bianwens, which were widely popular among the Liao people.

    The story itself originated from the historical event of the Liao princess Yelü Huaniang (1195-1231) being married to Ögedei in the 7th Year of Tianying (1211). But obviously Huaniang did not actually give birth to one hundred children – she died during labour at the age of 36, leaving four sons and three daughters behind. However, her youngest son did eventually become Khan, although the part in Romance of Huaniang’s Hundred Sons in Northern Desert where grand-dad emperor of Khitan commanded one hundred thousand “iron sparrowhawk (鐵鷂)” heavenly warriors, stormed into Karakorum and cleaned up the baddies is pure fantasy from Khitan storytellers. After the youngest son of Huaniang passed away, the title of Great Khan of Mongolia fell into the hands of other bloodline branches, leading to the eventual loss of the Liao Upper Capital. This part naturally was not mentioned at all in the book.

    The other piece of work, Record of Crown Prince Yong Visiting Underworld, is more like a copy of Record of Taizong Emperor of Tang Visiting Underworld (唐太宗入冥記) circulated in China. And the so-called Crown Prince Yong, is in fact the crown prince Yelü Kuanwen (耶律寬文) under Emperor Zhezong of Chunhe. He was under imperial command to go on an inspection tour to the eastern zhous and xians when he suddenly died on the way in the 28th Year of Chunhe (1396). This was one of the biggest mysteries in the history of Mahakhitan, and favourite material among storytellers. The usual plotline among various versions is how the crown prince was assassinated during his tour (which is possibly true in reality), summoned to the underworld, outwitted Yama, eventually rewrote his span of life and also punished the enemies. There is a more imaginative after story about the crown prince returned to the world of men in disguise and became immortal – as such tales would be easily exploited by those with an agenda, the authorities had been wanting to ban it, but never succeeded in doing so.



    By the 15th Century, it is noteworthy that with the introduction of highly developed Ming novels, creators of Liao language literature were greatly inspired. Due to the close tie between the Liao language and the Middle Chinese vocabulary as well as the adherence to Chinese of the ruling class, the pace of the translation and introduction of Ming novels was incredibly intense.

    In the meantime, some interesting original works emerged. The first of these was Record of Flying Dragon (龍飛傳), also known as Romance of Shizu’s Expedition to Sindhu (世祖征天竺演義). This book was obviously influenced by The Bright and Valiant of Great Ming (大明英烈傳), but it also demonstrates a dense local style. For example, according to bibliology studies, as time passed, various branches were added to the main story of Record of Flying Dragon – mostly from aristocrats trying to glorify themselves. The general pattern is roughly “when the Shizu Emperor Yelü Dashi arrived in Pradesh ***, our ancestor ****** promptly surrendered to him with grace and dignity, led the way for His Majesty, and helped him conquer ********** (insert name of enemy state)”, sigh.

    Before the definitive edition in 18th Century, there were contradictory parts among different versions. The local version in Malwa, for instance, mentioned how the ancestor(s) of the local duke pledged allegiance to His Majesty the Shizu Emperor, totally beat the Duke of Gujarat as a brave Liao general, was eventually conferred his title as an aristocrat and lived happily ever after. In contrast, the local version in Gujarat had corresponding plotlines that told the story, uh, completely oppositely…

    Another example is the very beginning of this book, which records a well-shaped Mahakhitan creation methodology as the start of everything. The tale bears both steppe and Buddhist features and is the earliest material regarding the group identification of the Liao people as a nation. The plot is roughly as follows:
    Heh, they sure sugarcoated such a pretty embarrassing escape as something divine.

    Moreover, there is this book called Return to the East (東歸傳), about the story of the group of four led by Xuanzang returning to Chang’an after obtaining the classics from the west via the valley route in the snow mountain, past Tongtian River, accompanied by Siladitya. Do not assume it is a simple imitation of Journey to the West, for the book obviously more resembles Ramayana in terms of structure and language style and became a classic. A similar work from the same period is the story of Kumarajiva going to the east, which bears slightly less literary value, but more significant with regard to morals.

    Speaking of Journey to the West, I think of the Liao-Ming joint movie project Journey to the West and Return to the East will officially begin shooting early next year… (gets slapped)*

    *This is a meme mocking the actor who played the Monkey King Sun Wukong in the 1980s classic TV series version of Journey to the West. He has been very fixated on the role and basically cashing his past performance whenever possible.

    Oh and also, the entire series of Generals of the Yang Family (楊家將) is banned in Mahakhitan~


    As the publishing industry in Dongjing, Nanjing, Suluo and the Bengal region was enjoying expansive prosperity, more and more novels and scripts became available on the market during the 17th and 18th Centuries. They came in various forms including handwritten, cut blocks, Chinese character movable types, Sanskrit character movable types, you name it. But with the introduction of lead type printing, the ease of using Sanskrit characters to spell the Liao language in printing made publishing in Sanskrit characters the mainstream, which in turn expanded the size of readership of literature, prompting creators from everywhere to shift from various local speeches to Liao. As for the way of writing Liao in Sanskrit characters during this period, try to imagine a version of Youzhou (幽州) dialect of Middle Chinese being “spelled” with Siddham scripts, similar to Xiao’erjing, with a large amount of Sanskrit and other local colloquial words, as well as grammatical influences from Punjabi.

    The explosive expansion of the readership of Liao language literature then caused the literature itself to become more commonised and gain political importance. By late 18th Century, a series of stories gradually became the new bar of Khitan folk literature, with the protagonist Master Jiuhai (久海, literally “Lasting Sea”), a skinny, meany old monk, suddenly enjoying the status like a national hero.

    Life of Master Jiuhai (久海大師傳) is known by later generations as a humourous grassroot work of art that stemmed from the solemn era of the Cloud Treasure Style. Jiuhai as the protagonist was a weird monk practicing Zen Buddhism with no definitive agreement on where he lived. In different versions, he was either from Sind, Dongjing (near OTL Delhi) or Bengal. But the basic setting is the same, in which he was originally a monk in a major city temple, but later expelled for not adhering to the strict rules and often teasing some vile monks. He then began to wander in the square neighbourhoods and villages in poverty, defending the poor against injustice, and particularly teased old Khitan aristocrats, Song tycoons, usurious Vajrayana monks, eunuchs conducting misdeeds, and so on. The stories, when mentioning these rich and powerful people, never keep any reservation in terms of satire and mockery.

    Contemporary researchers have noticed the similarities between Jiuhai and some of the folk hero figures in other parts of the world. In fact, the mainstream view among the academia is that the stories of Jiuhai were at first the localised version of the Arabic Juḥā stories – the fact that the earliest stories of him were circulated in Tianzhu Circuit also supports this argument. If Juḥā doesn’t ring a bell, he has another name in the Turkic-speaking world, Afandi (Nasreddin).

    It is commonly believed that the popular Ji Gong (濟公) stories in southern Han regions also greatly influenced the figure of Jiuhai. Some short stories, especially those from Bengal, carry significant Gong’an (公案, literally “public case”, usually referring to complicated legal cases that are widely circulated) style cold humour. In addition, contemporary Mahakhitan scholars have noticed the early versions of Life of Master Jiuhai share a close relationship of inheritance between some native Indian literature works such as Panchatantra (Five Treatises) and Mrichchhakatika (The Little Clay Cart).

    What intrigues me even more is how a fictional, possibly foreign figure became so widely appreciated by the entire nation and reflected the social ecology of the Mahakhitan people of the 18th to 19th Centuries, as well as some of their simple wishes. The figure was even granted much political significance by future generations – the ruling class probably thought these stories about an old monk were just entertainment among peasants at first, but when the radicals surrounded the Zishi Hall (諮事堂, literally “Counseling Affairs Hall” - basically another name to refer to the previously mentioned 諮議局 Advisory Board) with the chariot of Master Jiuhai on their shoulders, they realised they were truly as dumb as the lords depicted in the stories.

    The following few stories are from the Nanjing Debu Prefecture version. These stories were formed by late 18th Century and they reflect the societal landscape back then quite well:

    (It’s absolutely fun to imitate the rough sense of humour like this.)


    On Naraka (Buddhist Hell) 地獄篇

    The auntie from the front street went to Jiuhai the old monk one day, telling him the monks from the grand temple threatened her those who owed the temple money and failed to repay would go to the finger-chopping Naraka. Auntie was worried her family would go to Naraka since they had difficulty paying back their debt and terrified.

    Jiuhai asked: “Say, you walk on the street. If some lord is taking the same route, what do you do?”

    Autie replied: “I would certainly need to prostrate myself and let their excellencies pass first.”

    Jiuhai asked: “Say, you are on your way to enter the city gate. If officials and soldiers need to go to the city too, what do you do?”

    Auntie said: “I would certainly get out of the gateway, lower my head and bow, only to pass after those working for the authorities do.”

    Jiuhai then said: “So rest assured. When it comes to the gate of the Naraka, His Excellency the Duke of the Prefecture and his hundreds of servants will all be lining up in front of you. The high-ranking officials and their families will be in front of you, so do the soldiers who love to bet on horses and football games, and the government staff of our zhou. You will be too busy making room for others to make it in.”

    On One’s Stomach 肚量篇

    *Stomach is the direct translation whereas in Chinese the word 肚量 often means one’s capacity of generosity and/or tolerance.

    The Duke of the Prefecture sent someone to invite Jiuhai the old monk, telling him as long as he did His Excellency a favour, he would receive a generous donation. Jiuhai and his disciple just happened to be out of food, so they agreed.

    The duke said: “In order to maintain the stature of this mansion, we are having a banquet, but expenses are high and it is hard to keep the balance. If the master could visit the grand temple and intercede for us, extend our current due, and help us get another loan of ten thousand Tiangang, I shall pay it off as soon as the tax is collected.”

    Jiuhai answered: “That’s easy and shouldn’t be a problem. But me and my disciple have been out of food for a while now, so if the lord could please make a small donation first…”

    The duke promptly complied. Jiuhai said: “I shall return very soon,” and left with ten silver Tiangang in his pocket.

    Half a day later, the guards reported there was a mess outside the Yi Gate (儀門, literally “Door of Etiquette”, usually the second gate of official buildings in ancient times), that the old monk and his dumb diciple were sitting there, with a crowd of bystanders surrounding, watching and cheering.

    The duke hurried to the gate, only to find there was a huge pile of naan the size of a small mountain there. Jiuhai was breaking e apart a gigantic piece of naan and trying to stuff it into the mouth of his dumb disciple, who could only cry and howl to resist.

    In a wave of sneers and catcalls, as he was trying to stuff the naan, Jiuhai loudly shouted: “Damn you deadbeat! Can’t even eat ten Tiangang worth of food – how is His Excellency supposed to clear off his feast of ten thousand Tiangang!”

    On Being Full of Wisdom 充盈的智慧篇

    Jiuhai returned to the grand temple and settled down. Although he was a senior monk, the monks in charge of managing the temple all hated him, and he, them.

    But on a gathering one day, Jiuhai flattered these monks like all the other monks, saying they were “full of wisdom, and abundant with virtue”.

    His disciple could not understand it, so he asked Jiuhai why he lied in front of everyone as he clearly disliked those people.

    Jiuhai replied: “I told nothing but truth. These people seldom use their brains, so they are filled with unused wisdom; they never show kindness, so their hearts are also stocked with moldy virtue.”

    On Treasures 珍寶篇

    It was the year in which His Majesty ordered to audit the (properties of) temples. Soldiers under the duke took the chance and went to rob the valuables from the grand temple. A group of them caught Jiuhai the old monk on the street and forced him to identify the place where the most valuable properties of the temple were stored.

    Jiuhai led them around in the temple and finally stopped in front of a small door, with a full room of sprouted potatoes behind it.

    The soldiers were so mad that they were to beat Jiuhai, but the latter said: “Those are the most valuable things the monks in charge gave me. Since you could only find a poor monk like me, I could only find such worthless things for you.”

    On Sewage 水溝篇

    The disciple asked Jiuhai the old monk why bad people could earn more and more money, but the kind-hearted could only become poorer.

    Jiuhai said: “Money is like water, flowing from somewhere high to somewhere low, eventually staying there. That’s why clean water from the sky turns into mud water, and ends up in the smelly sewage.”

    Last edited: Mar 15, 2019
  16. BootOnFace Buoyant Armiger

    May 15, 2012
    Commune of Cascadia
    I wonder if these Jiuhai parables are based on real Buddhist parables. They sound like it.
  17. Shoulder Monkays Well-Known Member

    Jun 11, 2018
    That lil' fishing village
    I'm not familiar with ancient Indian Buddhist stories, but these do sound like Afanti and Jigong stories I read in China.
    BootOnFace likes this.
  18. BootOnFace Buoyant Armiger

    May 15, 2012
    Commune of Cascadia

    Thank you. It looks like Ji Gong is going on my reading list.
    LostInNewDelhi likes this.
  19. EmperorBuaya Well-Known Member

    Dec 5, 2016
    Nusantara and Down Under
    Say, what is the title of Mahakhitan Emperor in the native language, is it Huangdi or Maharaja?

    Well, considering ITTL Khitans who're Sinicized elite and ruled large portions of Indian subcontinent.
    FluereL likes this.
  20. Shoulder Monkays Well-Known Member

    Jun 11, 2018
    That lil' fishing village
    It may have changed but we can pinpoint some of the versions given the exact timeframe, such as we did in a previous chapter:

    So I would imagine something like 中央胡里祇契丹國大皇帝 (Zhongyang Hulizhi Da Huangdi in modern Pinyin - which should be different to the Chinese based on Middle Chinese plus developments spoken in Mahakhitan) or 大遼國大皇帝 (again in Pinyin: DaLiaoguo Da Huangdi), where 大皇帝 means Great Emperor.

    That's of course the case in Chinese, which is one of the official languages. In terms of the Liao language, I don't think I can make a lot out of it. It's imaginary after all. But the Liao language is based on Punjab - Kara once wrote it should be a Pubjabi-based equivalance to Urdu (Chinese influences on Punjabi = Liao; Persian? influences on Hindustani = Urdu).
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2019