Dali Kingdom

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Dablit Guaif
Location of Dali (purple) in 1142
Capital Dali
Religion Buddhism
Government Monarchy
 •  937–944 Duan Siping
 •  1081–1094 Duan Zhengming
 •  1096–1108 Duan Zhengchun
 •  1172–1200 Duan Zhixing
 •  1251–1254 Duan Xingzhi
 •  Established 937 937
 •  Coup d'etat by Gao Shengtai 1095
 •  Reestablished 1096
 •  Ended by the Mongol Empire 1253 1253
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Kingdom of Nanzhao
Mongol Empire
Dali Kingdom
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 大理
Simplified Chinese 大理
Literal meaning State of Dali
Alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 大中國
Simplified Chinese 大中国
Later Dali
Traditional Chinese 後大理
Simplified Chinese 后大理
Bai name
Bai Dablit Guaif

The Dali Kingdom, known in Chinese as the Dali State (simplified Chinese: 大理国; traditional Chinese: 大理國; pinyin: Dàlǐ Guó; Bai language: Dablit Guaif), was a medieval kingdom centered in what is now Yunnan province, China, with Dali, in the valley boarding the Lake Erhai, and Kunming, the present capital of the province (on the shore of the Lake Dian), as its main cities. King Duan Siping established its capital at Dali in 937 and 22 kings of his dynasty ruled it until 1253, when it was conquered during the Mongol invasion of the area. The invaders received help from the dynasty itself, which continued to rule the area afterwards as Mongol vassals.[1]


The Dali Kingdom was preceded by the Nanzhao dynasty, which was overthrown in 902. Three dynasties followed in quick succession before Duan Siping seized power in 937, establishing himself at Dali.[2][3] Gao Shengtai forced the puppet king Duan Zhengming to abdicate and become a monk in 1095, and renamed the state "Greater China". He returned the power to Duan Zhengchun and his family upon his death, after which it is also known as the Later Dali.

Han Chinese ancestry was professed by the Duan clan,[4] their Han ancestors originated from Wuwei in Gansu province 武威段氏.[5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12]

The monk Li Xian Maishun came from India (821–824) to Dali where he built the Chongsheng Temple; he is considered as the first patriarch of the Azhali (阿吒力, from Sanskrit ācārya) religion, which became the particular form of esoteric Buddhism prevalent in the region. In 825 the monk Pulituoke came from India calling himself the holy Acuoye Guanyin from the western Lotus land, the monk Zantuojueduo/Shilidaduo (Candragupta) came in ca. 828 (or 839/840) from Mojiatao (Magadha) to Heqing (about 100 km north of Dali) where he built a temple and began proselytizing; his activity was incorporated into later Bai legends where he is described as having come from Tibet.[13] Meng Longshun (877–897), the 11th king of Nanzhao, established Buddhism as the state religion. Ten of the 22 kings of Dali gave up the throne and became monks.[14]

It is claimed that despite their military prowess and superior numbers, the Mongols could not breach the defenses of the Erhai valley, which was so suited to defense that even just a few defenders could hold out for years, it is said that the Mongols found a traitor who led them over the Cang Mountains along a secret path, and only in this way were they able to penetrate and overrun the Bai defenders. Thus ended three centuries of independence; in 1274 the Province of Yunnan was created by the Mongol Empire at the beginning of the Yuan dynasty.

Historians, however, relate that the "traitor" was the last king of Dali himself, who first fought and then surrendered to the forces of Kublai Khan, to be spared and later appointed by Möngke Khan as the region's first native chieftain (tusi).[15]

The Dali King Duan Xingzhi himself defected to the Mongols, and helped them conquer the rest of Yunnan with his troops.[16]

King Duan Xingzhi of Dali was then enfeoffed as Maharaja (摩诃罗嵯) by the Yuan Emperor Kublai Khan,[17] and the Dali Kingdom Duan royal family continued to hold the title of Maharaja in Yunnan as vassals to the Mongols under the supervision of Mongolian imperial princes and Muslim governors (Sayyid Ajjal Shams al-Din Omar). The Duan family reigned in Dali while the Governors served in Kunming, after the Ming dynasty conquered Yunnan from the Yuan,[18] The Duan royals were scattered in various distant areas of China by the Hongwu Emperor.[19]

Family Tree of the Kings of Dali[edit]


Kingdom of Dali Buddhist Volume of Paintings. Scroll, Ink and color on paper. 30.4 cm high. Located in the National Palace Museum, Taibei, the entire work is 16.655 meters and is in three portions. Completed in 1176.


  1. ^ Theobald, Ulrich (17 August 2012), "Dali 大理", China Knowledge .
  2. ^ Alfred Schinz (1989). Cities in China. G. Borntraeger. p. 302. ISBN 3-443-37009-8. Retrieved 15 May 2011. 
  3. ^ "Between Winds and Clouds: Chapter 3". 
  4. ^ Frederick W. Mote (2003). Imperial China 900-1800. Harvard University Press. pp. 710–. ISBN 978-0-674-01212-7. 
  5. ^ http://blog.cntv.cn/11002754-787613.html
  6. ^ "大理国的缔造者段思平-交通旅游-秀山街道-通海新闻网". 
  7. ^ http://www.wuweinew.com/NewsList.asp?ID=2129
  8. ^ http://paper.yunnan.cn/html/20060519/news_89_144905.html
  9. ^ http://www.lishifengyun.com/shiqianrewu/wudaishiguo/2990.html
  10. ^ "大理国_云之焦点_新闻_新浪七彩云南_新浪网". 
  11. ^ 段. "云南通海段氏族谱介绍_段氏_Netor族谱". 
  12. ^ http://dl.ynpost.com/MLDL/RWDL/200710/7401.html
  13. ^ Howard, Angela F. “The Dhāraṇī pillar of Kunming, Yunnan: A legacy of esoteric Buddhism and burial rites of the Bai people in the kingdom of Dali, 937–1253”, Artibus Asiae 57, 1997, pp. 33-72 (see p. 43-44).
  14. ^ "Nanzhao State and Dali State". City of Dali. Archived from the original on 2006-09-03. 
  15. ^ Du Yuting; Chen Lufan (1989). "Did Kublai Khan's Conquest of the Dali Kingdom Give Rise to the Mass Migration of the Thai People to the South?" (free). Journal of the Siam Society. Siam Heritage Trust. JSS Vol. 77.1c (digital): 2–4. Retrieved March 17, 2013. ... Duan Xingzhi, the king of the Dali Kingdom, who originally showed resistance but later was willing to surrender, was bought over and made use of. As a result, the measures taken by the Mongolian aristocracy towards the king of the Dali Kingdom rapidly took effect; in 1255 and 1256 Duan Xingzhi was presented at court, offering Mengu ... maps of Yunnan and counsels about the vanquishing of the tribes who had not yet surrendered.... 
  16. ^ http://www.siamese-heritage.org/jsspdf/1981/JSS_077_1c_DuYutingChenLufan_KublaiKhanConquestAndThaiMigration.pdf
  17. ^ "Between Winds and Clouds: Chapter 5". 
  18. ^ Frederick W. Mote; Denis Twitchett (26 February 1988). The Cambridge History of China: Volume 7, The Ming Dynasty, 1368-1644. Cambridge University Press. pp. 144–. ISBN 978-0-521-24332-2. 
  19. ^ "Between Winds and Clouds: Chapter 4". 

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