History Files

Far East Kingdoms

East Asia


Dongdan (Korea)
AD 926 - 936

The Korean kingdom of Barhae (or Balhae) had been founded in 698 to replace its lost predecessor, Koguryo. Many refugees had headed southwards into the rival state of Silla, especially the nobility which was largely transported there en masse by Silla itself, but several movements also formed throughout now-Tang-dynasty-occupied Koguryo territory with the aim of reviving the kingdom. They succeeded, temporarily and in reduced form, although the focus of this effort soon moved south to Bodeok.

Other refugees had headed towards the northern boundaries of Koguryo's former territory under the leadership of General Dae Jung-sang and his son, General Dae Joyeong. Their band managed to find security in the Dongmo Mountain area (in what is now the Jilin Province of China), where Dae Joyeong founded Barhae.

In time Barhae encompassed much of central and northern Koguryo but it also stretched far to the north of that to incorporate just about all of the territories of Korean cultural development and the semi-legendary state of Old Choson.

Barhae's own source material after 830 did not survive the kingdom's collapse, so its later events are viewed from an external perspective. Less than a century after this the later Tang were being subsumed by the Liao dynasty of the Khitan, and northern Korean territory was on their doorstep. Those Liao steppe nomads in Manchuria and Outer Mongolia had been growing in strength for some time, founding several of their own dynasties on the periphery of Chinese domains.

In 926 they invaded Barhae and captured the capital following a ten day siege. With the kingdom effectively ended (although not destroyed, as later events would show), the Khitan established the short-lived puppet Dongdan kingdom in its place.

South Korea's flag

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from A New History of Korea, Lee Ki-baik (1984), from Pacific northeast Asia in prehistory: hunter-fisher-gatherers, farmers, and sociopolitical elites, C Melvin Aikens (WSU Press, 1992), from The Origins of Northern China's Ethnicities, Zhu Xueyuan (Beijing 2004), from A History of Korea, Charles Roger Tennant (Routledge, 1996), and from External Links: Three Kingdoms (Encyclopaedia Britannica), and Capital Cities and Tombs of the Ancient Koguryo Kingdom (UNESCO), and Encyclopaedia Britannica.)

926 - 930

Yelü Bei

Khitan crown prince, governing from Sanggyeong. Fled.


The Khitan crown prince, Yelü Bei, is placed in command of Dongdan, from the fortress of Huhan in Barhae's former capital of Sanggyeong. Almost immediately, though, his father dies and his younger brother accedes as the senior Khitan leader.

This brother, Yelü Deguang, orders Yelü Bei to relocate his capital to a site which is closer to core Khitan territories but the act leaves eastern Manchuria much more free to agitate against Khitan overlordship.

Map of East Asia AD 927
In 927 a number of the remaining members of Barhae's royalty, military, and general populace founded the independent successor enclave of Later Barhae out of the core of its eastern territories (click or tap on map to view full sized)


Although the Khitan have been attempting to capture and execute members of the royal family who remain in Dongdan, some of them band together to create an independent enclave which is centred on Holohan fortress in the eastern centre of the former Barhae lands. This independent state is known as Later Barhae.


Yelü Bei flees into China proper during the 'Five Dynasties' civil war period to escape expected assassination by his own people (only to be murdered there in 937). Bei's eldest son remains, however, and it is presumed to be he who succeeds as the subject ruler of Dongdan.

930 - 936

Yelü Ruan?

This son or another. Khitan subject ruler. State extinguished.


Dongdan is annexed directly under Liao control, but what had been Barhae's eastern territory apparently remains independent. The people of Barhae are staunch in their opposition to their new Khitan rulers.

Taejo Wang Geon of Goryeo
Taejo Wang Geon of Goryeo set up a new Korean kingdom following a regime change, and quickly went on to conquer the southern Korean kingdoms, but he also welcomed in Korean refugees from the former Barhae kingdom to the north

Numerous other revival movements also take place during the next century, notably those of Heungyo and then Daebalhae (in 1116, but information about it is unavailable). The first of these, Later Barhae, has already undergone a regime change and is now known as Jeongan.

Images and text copyright © all contributors mentioned on this page. An original king list page for the History Files.