MOV File
Online Collections


Term Type

Art & Architecture Thesaurus

Preferred Term



Refers to a Northern Chinese dynastic period dating to 907 to 1125; it was founded by the proto-Mongolian Khitan people. It was contemporary to the Five Dynasties and Northern Song dynasty in the south. Based on the Buddhist idea of the five-fold structure of the universe, there were five capitals. The Khitan were a nomadic people that had little artistic tradition of its own. The artwork produced in this period was influenced by Tang forms and techniques. Liao architecture displays Tang influence and an adherence to Buddhism. Extant buildings include the Bai ta (White Pagoda) at Balin in Inner Mongolia, the Mu ta (Timber Pagoda) in Ying xian in Shanxi province, the oldest surviving timber pagoda, and the library for the Bhagavad sūtras (ca. 1038) of Huayan Lower Temple, Datong, also in Shanxi province. The last structure also contains 32 original Liao statues and wooden scripture cabinets in pavilion form. Liao ceramics were likewise influenced by those of the Tang period, although tomb excavations show that Song and other wares were imported as well. Gold and silver objects were also made using Tang and Song metalworking and gilding techniques. The Khitan were defeated by the invading Jin who went on to overthrow the Northern Song. Remnants of the Liao dynasty survived as the Western Liao in an area around the Tian shan range; it was later defeated by Genghis Khan.


China--History--Liao dynasty

Related Events
Related People
Related Literature
Related Terms
Related Artworks
IMLS logoNEA logoNEH logo

The Portland Art Museum’s Online Collections site is brought to you thanks to support provided by the State of Oregon through its second Culture, History, Arts, Movies, and Preservation funding program and generous awards from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Endowment for the Arts.