1. Shangjing (Linhuang) was ranked first of five capitals that were established by Liao, all of which served concurrently as regional capitals of a circuit. The other four capitals included Nanjing (Xijin, today's Beijing), Dongjing (Liaoyang), Xijing (Datong) and Zhongjing (Dading, today's Ningcheng).
Almost immediately after its founding, the Khitan Empire began a process of territorial expansion, with Abaoji leading a successful conquest of Balhae. Later emperors would gain the Sixteen Prefectures by fueling a proxy war that led to the collapse of the Later Tang (923–936) and would establish tributary relationships with Goryeo after losing in Goryeo–Khitan Wars (1018) against Goryeo. In 1004, Liao Dynasty launched an imperial expedition against the Northern Song. After heavy fighting and large casualties between two countries, the two sides worked out the Chanyuan Treaty. Through the treaty Liao forced the Northern Song to recognize them as peers.
Tension between traditional Khitan social and political practices and Chinese influence and customs was a defining feature of the dynasty. This tension led to a series of succession crises; Liao emperors favored the Chinese concept of primogeniture, while much of the rest of the Khitan elite supported the traditional method of succession by the strongest candidate. So different were Khitan and Chinese practices that Abaoji set up two parallel governments. The Northern Administration governed Khitan areas following traditional Khitan practices, while the Southern Administration governed areas with large non-Khitan populations, adopting traditional Chinese governmental practices.
Differences between Chinese and Khitan society included gender roles and marital practices: the Khitans took a more egalitarian view towards gender, in sharp contrast to Chinese cultural practices that segregated men's and women's roles. Khitan women were taught to hunt, managed family property, and held military posts. Many marriages were not arranged, women were not required to be virgins at their first marriage, and women had the right to divorce and remarry.
The Liao dynasty was destroyed by the Jurchen-led Jin dynasty in 1125 with the capture of Emperor Tianzuo of Liao. However, the remnant Khitan, led by Yelü Dashi, established the Western Liao dynasty (Qara Khitai), which ruled over parts of Central Asia for almost a century before being conquered by the Mongols. Although cultural achievements associated with the Liao dynasty are considerable, and a number of various statuary and other artifacts exist in museums and other collections, major questions remain over the exact nature and extent of the influence of the Liao Khitan culture upon subsequent developments, such as the musical and theatrical arts.
The Liao dynasty was officially known as the Khitan (now known as Cathay) or Khitan state in 916. The name "Great Liao" began to appear as the country name between 936 and 947. The dynasty name "Liao" refers to the Liao River in southern Manchuria, the traditional Khitan homeland. Since 983, the state became again known as the Khitan, but "Great Liao" reappeared as the country name in 1066, which lasted until the end of the dynasty.