The Western Xia Dynasty
The Western Xia Empire(1038-1227) is kind of mysterious. It was in the area of the northwest where a lot of nomads traveled. They controlled the Gansu Corridor where Gansu Province is now. Then the Mongols devastated the empire so that little records or architecture remained. They fought the Mongols especially fiercely as they moved down from the north to form their Yuan Empire. So historians don’t understand much about their ethnic background or their culture, even though they had advanced weaponry and architecture for their times, they had their own writing system, and their music and literature was described as "sparkling." The Western Xia Empire lasted for less than 200 years and fought off attacks by much bigger empires, and then it disappeared.
Western Xia Historical Relics
Although Western Xia Dynasty existed for a very short period, it left numerous marks. Most of the historical relics about the dynasty are scattered in Ningxia Autonomous Region and Gansu Province, in Northwest China. Ningxia Provincial Musuem in Yinchuan displays some Western Xia artefacts and writing and a sample of the Helan Shan rock carvings. Find below a list of most famous Western Xia Sites；
- Western Xia Mausoleum：Located at the eastern foot of the Helan Mountain, 30 kilometers west of Yinchuan, the capital of Ningxia, it is the cemetery of generous of emperors of the Western Xia Dynasty.
- Chentian Pagoda: A Western Xia Pagoda in Yinchuan.
- Haibao Temple: Also called Bei Ta ( North Pagoda), it was built during the Western Xia Dynasty.
- Rock Carvings: Thousands of rock carvings are found on the cliff and rock faces on the Helan Mountains. Most of those carvings were chiselled during the Western Xia Dynasty.
- Western Xia Steles: the most famous steles of the Western Xia Dynasty is located in Wuwei.
Take a China Highlights tour to Yinchuan and the surrounding areas to explore the mysterious culture of Western Xia Dynasty.
The small empire was in an interesting region of the world controlling the portal to the east and west. They had a strategic location. Those who controlled the Gansu Corridor (also called the Hexi Corridor) that is a wide and long area of lowland about a thousand kilometers long between mountains and plateaus also controlled easy access to the Far East and trade and military movements east and west. The Mongols wanted the area because they could move their armies back and forth to expand their empire, and they could also obtain control of the trade in the area.
The rulers of the Western Xia were the Tangut people. The mixture of people in this area was called "Qiang," by those in the Song Empire, but it isn’t certain which specific tribes of people were called "Qiang." One of their ancestral rulers was named Tuoba Xianbei. He ruled the Tuyuhu Empire from 284 to 670. Tuoba led troops to suppress a rebellion on behalf of the Tang Dynasty at the end of the Tang Dynasty. When the Tang Empire collapsed anyway, the Tanguts refused to submit to the expanding Northern Song Empire. In this way, they established their own small empire in 1038.
The newborn empire faced aggressive bigger empires to the east and south. In ensuing war with the Northern Song Dynasty, the battles ended in stalemate. The Song could not conquer them or capture their territory, and the Tangut’s aggressive attacks against the Song ended in failure. A major battle in this war was lost by a leading scientist and scientific writer of the Song named Shen Kuo (1031-1095) who wrote a scientific book called The Dream Pool Essays. He led an army against the Western Xia, but they lost, and they lost a lot of land that was earlier taken from the Tanguts. However, the Liao Empire to the east defeated them and received tribute from them.
The Northern Song Dynasty attacked the Liao Empire together with the Jurchens who were vassals of the Liao Dynasty. They defeated the Liao Empire, but then the Jurchens attacked the Song Empire and captured Kaifeng that was the Song capital city in 1129. The Western Xia rulers submitted to the Jurchens and became their vassals, and the Tanguts took over much new land as the Song Dynasty retreated across the Yangtze River. Many natural disasters occurred then, and the Western Xia ruler who was named Renzong worked to rebuild the empire.
When Genghis Khan rose to power to become the main Mongol leader, he had a dream of conquering everybody. Tribal groups joined him including the Xianbei and the Uighurs. Mongols repeatedly attacked the Western Xia Empire from 1202 to 1227. In 1227, Genghis Khan died during one of these attacks. The Mongols conquered and destroyed the empire. They absorbed Western Xia troops into their army.
- Chinese Dynasties
- The Xia Dynasty
- The Shang Dynasty
- The Zhou Dynasty
- Spring and Autumn Period
- Warring States Period
- The Qin Dynasty
- The Han Dynasty
- Three Kingdoms
- The Jin Dynasty
- The Sui Dynasty
- The Tang Dynasty
- The Western Xia Dynasty
- The Song Dynasty
- The Yuan Dynasty
- The Ming Dynasty
- The Qing Dynasty
- The Kingdom of Dali