In the history of China the relations between the Song and Liao Dynasty are very important. While pursuing various exchanges of political, economic, and cultural areas, the two nations had pursued almost similar policies to realize the grand national unification of China. In that respect, the Yongxi North Invasion(雍熙北伐) was one of the most important events in the relations between the Song and Liao Dynasty. With this battle, the two nations of Song and Liao started to keep a long period of confrontation. Especially, the Battle of Qigouguan(岐溝關) produced many important meanings as a big incident in the history of warfares between the two countries.
This paper is an analysis of the relations between Song and Liao in the period of before and after the Yongxi North Invasion, centered around their causes to effects, characteristics of the warfare. The invasion was made without any consideration of the other peoples like Qidans or Hans as they were all small ethnic groups belonging to the whole China. From this perspective, Yongxi North Invasion can hardly be said to be a war of justice.
Emperor Taizong of the Song Dynasty came to throne in October, 976 A.D. After he became a emperor, he wanted to recover the old lost territories to the north. The emperor wished to establish a bid unified nation by conquering the northern land occupied by Liao Territory, the southern land by Hans and the other disobeying nations. It is important to note that this hostile policy of Taizong was originated from his personal wish to keep his own political power. In June, 979 A.D. the Song army marched into Liao in order to conquer the area of Yanyun(燕雲). But they were almost completely destroyed at the battle of Gaolianghe(高梁河).
In January, 986 A.D., Emperor Taizong made the North Invasion into Liao with an army of 300,000 soldiers whom he forwarded in three different directions. At that time, as Emperor Liao Shengzong(聖宗) was still young, his mother Chengtienhou(承天后) presided over all political decision makings. Taizong wanted to use this unstable political and military conditions in Liao. Unexpectedly, however, Taizong big army were utterly defeated by the Liao Forces. Though he lost a battle at Qigouguan, however, the emperor resumed his attack on Liao and he made victories in 4 regions. In July of the same year, in the Song army were defeated again at the battle of Shouzhou(朔州) County. In December of the same year, Song was defeated again by Liao's General Yeluxiuge(耶律休哥) at Junziguan(君子館). With this defeat, Song could not help but change its original attack policy to a defense policy.
The Yongxi North Invasion made a great social influence on both Song and Liao Dynasty. This was the biggest battle between the two nations. With this battle the Song Dynasty tragically suffered from a war-failure pains. There are several important reasons for this failure. The battle was started for the maintenance of political power. Taizong could not make an objective estimation of the military power of the two countries. He was poor in establishing his military strategies, without consideration of geographical conditions. Meanwhile, the Liao Forces were better in the military organization and training. They had a well-trained soldiers on horse backs with new weapons and good logistics system.
With the failure at the Yongxi North Invasion, the great majority of high officials in Song became more suspicious about the possibility to recover the 16 counties of Yanyun to the north. Anti-war opinions became more strengthened. Officials repeatedly submitted their supplications of anti-war. Some criticised that the North Invasion was a mistake from the beginning. And others argued that they should pacify their people, normalizing the relations with Liao.
Since the late Tang Dynasty, China was separated for a long time. Reaching Liao-Song Period, a general consensus for a great reunification of China freshly appeared. This was what people wanted, a majority of opinion. Under these circumstances, the two countries of Song and Liao separately, one after another, unified the regions of in each neighborhood. Finally, the two nations succeeded in occupying about the half of China. It created a long-lasted confrontation between Southern and Northern dynasty. In order to unite these two nations, they needed a whole unification of China. The two nations of Liao and Song tried to realize the unification by the policy of defeating the other nation. But the war had lasted for many years and they both realized that none of them could reach the goal because of their similar military power. They came to know that it was still early to realize a grand unification of China. With this realization, the two nations came a cease-fire treatment, dividing the whole China in two big political bodies.