A unique Khitan large script text containing biographical records about
Liao emperors (from the collection of the IOM RAS): approaches to a
comparative analysis of Khitan and Chinese historical sources
(57th Annual Meeting of the PIAC Vladivostok, 2014)
The manuscript codex Nova N 176, written in the Khitan language using the Khitan large script (from the collection of the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts of the Russian Academy of Sciences), is the first and only Khitan book to have been discovered so far. Previous research on this book made by the author of this paper led him to conclude that the book’s text is not a single work but a compendium of eight texts, two of which (Text 2 and Text 3 according to the proposed classification) were recognized and proven to be fragments of Khitan historical works (Zaytsev, 2012).
The significance of these newly recognized texts is obviously high, especially for comparative analysis with data found in Chinese historical works, which have almost always been the main sources for Liao (907–1125) history for us. The problem is that our progress in the decipherment of the Khitan large script is not very successful up to now, and we understand only small parts of the texts written in it. This makes the use of original Khitan texts in historical studies very limited, but not impossible.
This paper deals with Text 3 of Nova N 176, which contains biographical records about the deeds of nine emperors of the Liao, and uses it as the subject of comparative analysis with data given in Chinese historical sources. The aim of this paper is to show approaches, current possibilities and limits of such analysis (when the text is written in an almost undeciphered script), as well as present the results of it.