History of Ningxia Hui AR - Sixth through 13Th Centuries
NingXia Hui AR of China
Overview of Asia showing Territories, Tribes and Nations around the Year 565 AD. CLICK MAP TO GO TO FULL VERSION !
In the 6Th Century Ningxia was part of the territory of the large and Powerful Gokturk Khanate and Islamic Nation which had reclaimed the fertile Yellow River from the Han Chinese. Parts of Gansu Province and the Hexi Corridor were held by the Chinese Northern Qi Dynasty with the defensive line roughly along the pathway of The Great Wall of China. The Ordos Desert of what is now Eastern Ningxia was hostile territory notorious for its appearing raiding parties.
becoming part of a minor emerging state, that of the Western Xia (西夏) also known as the Tanguts (1038 AD - 1127 AD), a confederation of Nomadic Tribes in the Region. According to the latest research they were the Donghu People of Mongolian origins. The term Tangut is most likely derived from the mongolian word T-onghu (Donghu).
The founder of the Tangut Dynasty was a Prince of the Tuyuhu or Tuoba Kingdom, which during earlier times had resorted under the Tang Dynasty Empire (618 AD - 907 AD) within a tributary relationship. In fact, the ties with the Tang were close enough for the Tuoba to be called in for help when the central rule was threatened by internal wars. After their military aid to the Tang Throne, the Tuoba Clan of Prince Tuoba Chici were able to lay claim to parts of what today is neighboring North Shaanxi Province, after which the Dynasty could find roots and begin its growth. After the demise of the Tang Dynasty in 907 AD, the Tuoba declared their non-allegiance and
Map Trade Routes in Asia in the 13Th Century.
A Schematic Map of the Eurasian Trade Routes existing in the 13Th Century. Clearly marked in Red Accent on the Map are the cities of the network of land-bound trading routes through Central Asia known as the Silk Road (the path of Marco Polo and others).
A second wave of Islamic Migrants reached western China during the religiously tolerant years of the Mongol Empire and the Yuan Dynasty (1271 AD - 1368 AD) of China, a time at which nearly the entire Eurasian continent was united eliminating various obstacles to immigration. Muslims, as allies against the Han in the subjection of China were especially welcomed by the Yuan Rulers and enjoyed a high social status. Following the routes of the Silk Road many of the new migrants found their way into Gansu, Shaanxi and also Ningxia. Here they settled within their own communities only slowly assimilating with mainstream culture. This new influx of people explains for a large part the eventual rise of Islam within Ningxia and in surrounding regions.
Although during the Xixia (Tangut) Rule the regions that are now Ningxia were exclusively Buddhist, there was already a strong presence of Islam within the Central Asia and in the Hexi Corrdior in today's Gansu Province. It is known that the Tanguts had contact with three Uighur Tribes in the West, at least one of had started to operate under the banner of the Islamic Religion. These were the Muslim Uighurs of the Karakhanid empire. In the closing years of the 11Th century the Islamic Karakhandid Uighurs
Of Dunhuang and Gansu Marco Polo wrote the people were "idolaters...they have many abbeys and many monasteries which are full of idols of many kinds, to which they do great sacrifice and great honor." He also mentioned the abundance of rubarb in the region.
Yellow River snaking through the Loess Plateux in North-Eastern Gansu Province.
To travel from Zhangye in Gansu Province to Ningxia and its Capital Yinchuan even today is quite a feat. Although modern railroads and lately the construction of airports have immeasurably eased communications between the Provinces of Gansu and Ningxia, to anyone traveling the landscape reveals how difficult communications must have been in the Past. And indeed they were. The eroded ridges of the Loess Plateaux are hard to traverse. Not only were population numbers far lower in the Times of Marco Polo, without any roads and without signs of civilization for weeks, travelers had to rely on natural roads and routes and so often traveled along river valley's.
This left Marco Polo with two options for traveling on further into Yuan Dynasty era China. First he could continue along the main route of the Silk Road, which had for over a 1000 years led through Wuwei and Lanzhou onto Chang'An (Xi'An), the ancient Han and Tang Dynasty Capital. A second route into China (Cathay) was the more logical for Marco Polo. With as his target the new Capital Khanbalik in the North, it made more sense to travel Northward from Zhangye into Inner-
Mongolia, and from there cut Eastwards heading for Khanbalik (Beijing). This alternative route followed the flow of the Hei River (Ejin Gol) -at the Time a virtual green highway in the Desert- to the location of the Ancient Tangut Capital of Ezina (Kharakoto, now:Heicheng) on the Mongolian Border. From there it leads, as Marco Polo put it 'for 40 days' through absolute nothing North to Karakoram, or Eastwards to the Green Desert Oasis of Ningxia. Marco Polo traveled via Karakoram right through what today is called the Tengger Desert, one of China's most arid regions and thus no eye-witness accounts of 13Th Century Yinchuan are mentioned anywhere in Marco Polo's Travel accounts.
Schematic Map depicting the Position of Ningxia in relation to the main path & cities o/silk road & Hexi Corridor in Gansu Province.
managed to conquer the strategic city of Khotan, now a lost Buddhist Kingdom along the southern Silk Road in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. Its ruins were rediscovered in 1900 AD by the renowned Asian explorer Sven Hedin. In order to stop the arising threat against their realm and Buddhist Culture the Xixia (Tanguts) were subsequently allied with a 2nd tribe of Uighurs who derived from Gaochang (a city near Lop Nor) and were also Buddhists. Thus, Islam had advanced along the Silk Road, however as long as the Tangut (Xixia) Empire was in place, the progress was halted. Hence, a large turnabout was made with the arisal of the Mongol Empire.
Soundbonus - Popular Balad 'Ningxia Chuang', By Unknown Chinese Artist.
A color-glazed ceramic cornerpiece in the shape of a horned dragon, part of the roof-lining of a Xixia (Tangut) Royal Temple. One of the fantastic exhibits at the Xixia Wanling Museum outside of Yinchuan, Ningxia AR.
opposition to the newly emerging Song Dynasty of central China in 982 AD. The chosen path was then clear. The Tuoba Clan would strike out for its self, finally enthroning the Grandson of Tuoba Chici as Emperor of the Tanguts in 1038 AD. The first emperor was Li Yuanhao from then on also known as Emperor Jingzong of Western Xia. He had become King of the Tanguts upon his fathers death in the year 1032 AD. After declaring war on the neighboring Uighurs in the West in 1036 AD, the Tanguts added considerable parts of current day Gansu Province to their realm which gave them enough confidence to declare themselves equal to the Song. Emperor Li Yuanhao, Jingzong then lived another ten years as Emperor of the Tanguts until his death in the year 1048 AD. He died at the hands of various of his councilors, who plotted to have him killed. Although the attempted murder failed to inflict instant death the attack left him badly mutilated. Briefly after, the Emperor died nevertheless from the ensuing infections. The one year old son child of Jingzong (Li Yuanhao) was then ceremoniously crowned Emperor. Naturally, the real power then lay behind the throne in the hands of a Dowager and the plotting councilors.
The Tanguts saw their final demise due to their powerful neighbors, the Mongol People who around the same Time organized themselves under the Leadership of Genghis Khan (1162 AD - 1227 AD). After rising tensions in the early 13th century, the Mongols opened their offensive with some probing raids into Tangut Territory, hoping the Tanguts would realize their precarious position and yield to the pressure by "voluntarily" submitting to their northern neighbors. When no such thing occurred and the Tanguts stood fast, the Mongol Armies mounted a full scale invasion. Not before long the maneuverable Mongol Armies had crossed the seemingly impassable
Delicate colored drawing on a wood panel depicting pious Tangut Pilgrims equipped with various items for their journey along the Silk Road. In the collection o/t Xixia Wanling Museum near Yinchuan, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.
Tengger Desert and appeared outside what today is known as the Three Gates Pass (San Guan Gou, since the year 1531 AD of the Jiajing Reign of the Ming Dynasty (1368 A.D. - 1644 A.D.) a location of the Great Wall of China), a gateway through the Helan Mountains only 40 kilometers due south-west of the Tangut Capital. Even worse, even though the pass was guarded by a fortress holding a substantial garrison, its men were lured out into the desert and the Tangut defenses were crushed and overrun. So was the Capital. As parts of it burned and all of it was ransacked and pillaged, the Royal Family was spared to sign itself into submission. The Tanguts were forced to consign to the defeat however, and paid homage to their new overlord Genghis Khan, however apparently they had their own feelings about matters.
In the aftermath of the disastrous destruction brought onto Yinchuan by the Mongolian Invaders, in that same year of 1209 A.D. that the Tangut Capital was moved from (Xingching) Yinchuan in Ningxia to the more safer location of Heicheng situated on a fertile river delta in the Western Deserts, far away from Mongolian Armies. The Tanguts, although now in tribute to their more powerful neighbor, still had relative independence thus the move was possible.
The Xi Xia established their Capital Xinching in the Flow-plain of the Yellow River at Yinchuan and during the 11Th and 12Th Century became rich and influential due to the strategic location of their cities along essential trade-routes in the Region. The Tangut Empire included fertile Ningxia as well as large parts of Western Inner-Mongolia. The Tanguts had their own language and script, a strong military and had adopted the Tibetan form of Buddhist faith. The little Empire blossomed, lived dangerously and enjoyed considerable success until the year 1205 AD when the first Mongol military campaign against the Tanguts took place.
Although their religion was Buddhist, the Tanguts were by no means a peaceful people. That is, before,
The magnficent Twin pagodas of Baisikou (Hundred Temple Pass), the two most splendid examples of surviving Tangut Pagoda and Temple architecture today. Until the 1960's there as many as 100 temples within this pass to Inner-Mongolia.
during and immediately after the establishment of the Tangut Dynasty, they were at war with various tribes in surrounding regions. They also actively battled the Song and were thus known to the Song Chinese as a ferocious, seriously independent and somewhat barbaric people.
The Dowagers Reign in name of the new Child Emperor was a less successful period. It started a year after the coup when the neighboring Liao Dynasty of northern China opened the attack on the Tangut Nation forcing it through a crushing military defeat to become a vassal state of Liao. The court in Xinqing was however allowed to blunder on. In the year 1056 AD the ruling Dowager was killed (likely through a plot) and her powers landed in the hands of the Child Emperors uncle.
The intrigues continued and by 1061 AD, even before the boys coming of age, the Regent Uncle and his cousin were exposed to be involved in a plot for a final take over. They were executed on the orders of the Boy Emperor who henceforth ruled independently.
The Yinzong reign of the Tangut Dynasty was thereafter of mixed success. Tangut armies were better organized and the provinces brought under strict control allowing the Emperor to focus on further conquests. The
Marco Polo had to await his official invitation to the Kubilai Khan's Court in Khanbalik (Beijing) after passing into Chinese Territory (the Cathay Khanate). He did so at Zhangye in Gansu, where he stayed for about one year. From Zhangye Marco Polo traveled due North along the Hei River and on the Karakoram in Mongolia, thus completely bypassing Ningxia and the Yellow River Basin. It was a much easier route than trudging along the wild and dangerous Yellow River, through impossible gorges under steep cliffs, the main features of the Loess Plateaux.
In effect, the fragmented presence of Muslims along the Silk Road in parts of what is now western China (Gansu and Xinjiang-Uighur Autonomous Region) ends with the Mongol conquest of the 13th century, when large numbers of Muslims, mainly from the Turkic lands of central Asia, settled in the Hexi corridor, but also in Yunnan Province and the lower Yangtze valley. As, during the early rise of the Mongol Domain the Muslim Tribes had eagerly united with the Mongols in their battle against the Xixia, and later against the Song Dynasty, they were welcomed into the now opened China by their Mongol peers. The Islamic Religion, although it had already been well established in the harbors of southern China, was now allowed to reached the heartlands of China through the landbound Silk Road. As a result of this huge migration process many parts of Western China are predominantly Muslim to this very day. The huge land-area involved lies roughly between Kashgar on the western border of China and the region of Yan'An City in Shaanxi Province. Ningxia was colonized by immigrants, as were large parts of western and southern Gansu Province, as well as the easternmost region of Qinghai Province (East Tibet). Among the Muslims in Qinghai are the Hui, Sala(r) and the Dongxiang People. Ningxia's people are all mixed
Between the years 1264 and 1270 AD Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region was visited by the renowned medieval European traveler Marco Polo during his first Journey to the Far East, a journey he made together with his elder brothers. The Book however only describes the 2nd Journey which did not pass through Ningxia but followed a more Northernly Route to Khanbalik (Beijing).
As can be deduced from the depicted Map, on the second Journey Marco Polo and his Travel party entered China along the Silk Road from the West thus entering current day China via Kashgar in Xinjiang. From that far away trading city the strenuous journey then continued through
Asia Report - Maps - Distribution Islamic Faith Asia, Africa , Europe
A Geographic Map depicting the Distribution of the Islamic Faith in China and Asia, as well as Europe and the majority of the continent of Africa.
Sunni Islamic Areas are depicted in Green, whereas the Shia (Minority) Areas are depicted Darker Green.
The predominantly Muslim Xinjiang-Uygur Autonomous Region of China, Parts of Gansu Province and Small Ningxia Hui clearly stand out as the main muslim areas in China.
the Song dynasty (960 AD - 1279 AD) North Prefecture (Ningxia) was split into two parts, resulting in one part in the South remaining under control of Jurchen Jin Dynasty (1115 AD - 1234 AD) Rulers, and the remainder of Ningxia including the fertile Yellow River plain
A historic Map of Ningxia Province and the Ordos Desert, showing roughly the lay of the border between the Tangut Kingdom (Western Sunrise 1038 AD - 1227 AD) and the territroies controlled by the Song Dynasty (960 AD - 1279 AD) of China in this period.
Tanguts successfully forced the surrender of the Oasis Kingdom in Turpan (currently in Xinjiang-Uyghur Autonomous Region of the Peoples Republic of China) and, importantly, Emperor Yinzong renewed his hostility against the Song Dynasty. During his later reign however he would become more diplomatic, trying to accommodate both the Liao and the Song Dynasties.
The Yinzong Emperor died suddenly in 1067 AD, leaving another child Emperor, aged 6, to take to the throne. The result was another spree of intrigue, with the mother of the boy hanging on to her powers as Dowager for as long as possible. When the Emperor finally came of age, his powers were denied and he thus was left miserable to die at the young age of 26.
In the following period the Tanguts saw a further decline, falling among things prey to manipulations of the Yurchen Liao Dynasty (907 A.D. - 1125 A.D.) court and its envoys.
China Report - Map Yuan Dynasty Mongol Empire in Time 1206 AD - 1294 AD
A Schematic Map of the Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan (TeMuJin) and descendants through its several stages of conquest in its short but Impressive Existance in History. Timeline depicts the Mongol Conquest starting in the Year 1206 AD, when Genghis Khan first united the Mongol-Turkic Tribes of Mongolia and Lake BayKal becoming Great Khan. The Timeline continues through the year 1219 AD, the year 1223 AD taking Transoxiania, 1227 AD, 1237 AD when the Northern Jin Dynasty of China was annihilated, 1259 AD conquering ancient China above the Jiangste River and 1279 AD when all of China was taken and the Yuan Dynasty Established under the Kublai Khan. Last is the Year 1294 AD when the
Mongol Empire reached its largest geographical size and Zenith, 22% of world land area, but through lack of central leadership and over-expansion fragmented into 4 large parts, then imploded upon itself.
In the ensuing years, the Great Khan Genghis had a fall-out with his far western neighbors, the Islamic Kwarezmian Empire, after which the angry Mongolian hordes moved hither with the Khan leading the way. Although Genghis had envisioned the Tanguts as a new province in his growing Empire, while he left to conquer other lands enough normalcy returned to the Tangut lands to allow their Nationalism to reemerge.
Much to the enragement of Genghis, and likely his considerable surprise, the Tanguts subsequently rebelled and went their own ways as before.
All the Tangut moves however were to not much avail. That is, as they might have realized, their realm lay in a very strategic and thus in this case unfortunate position. The Tangut Kingdom and more specifically the Ningxia Plain provide an ideal springboard for an invasion of the Chinese heartlands, which was in the end Genghis largest goal. Thus, regardless their repeated the resistance, the Tanguts must be subdued.
In 1219 AD, just before the final fall of the Xixia, the southern regions of Ningxia were struck by a powerful earthquake, which centered on the region of what today is the City of Guyuan (The occurrence time of this earthquake should have been about 11 am, August
The Great Khan returned with his armies in the year 1227 A.D. in what would become his last Campaign of conquest. This time the Mongolian Armies invaded the Ningxia Plain by following the Yellow River down from within what is today Wuhai Prefecture of Inner-Mongolia Autonomous Region. Passing easily along the Eastern Bank and bypassing the waterless Ordos Desert, the Mongolians appeared behind the Tangut defenses and found temselves at the location Hengcheng (formerly the Yellow River port of Yinchuan and a strategic gap since closed by the westernmost parts of the Shuidonggou Great Wall of China built halfway during the Ming Dynasty Era) with only the shallow Yellow River to separate them from the heavily defended city. Crossing the river was easy and a battle for the main and only city in these parts, today Yinchuan, ensued.
Previously, the Mongolians had satisfied themelves with the mere humiliation of the Yanguts, however, as the Tanguts probably realized, the Mongolians would show no mercy this second time around. Coming not to plunder but to kill en destroy, the Mongolians then defeated the fortress city by simply sabotaging its ancient canal system (dating to the Han Dynasty Era (207 B.C. - 220 A.D.) and inundating all of the city. What the floods did not wash away, the Mongolians killed or destroyed leaving the city of Yinchuan plus the proud Tangut Kings Tombs and much of Ningxia in utter ruins.
And that was not all, the Mongolains then came looking for the Royal Family which had earlier removed itself to the far west of Inner-Mongolia Autonomous Region.
The new Tangut capital at Karakoto (Heicheng) at the Hei River Delta in Western Inner-Mongolia was eventually captured by Genghis Khan who was allegedly wounded in this Battle and died of his wounds very shortly afterwards (other legends hold it that Genghis Khan suddenly fell ill (not a battle wound) somewhere in Ningxia and was then taken to a velly near Mount Liupan, to subsequently succumb there. Read More: 'Landmarks & Monuments of Ningxia Hui AR').
After being conquered by the rapidly emerging Mongol Empire the Tangut civilization was absorbed into the larger Culture of the Mongolian Empire, however the legacy, language, script and cultural specifics of the Tanguts were preserved hidden inside a Stupa, and rediscovered in the early 20Th Century by Russian Archeologists/Explorers. The now famous archeological finds derived from several expeditions to the ruined site are today preserved in St. Petersburg and several world museums. Additional finds done during various excavations of Royal Tombs, Buddhist Temples and Palace sites in the vicinity of Yinchuan have yielded many more Tangut relics, many of whom can be seen on display in the Ningxia Provincial Museum and in the Museum affiliated with the Xixia Wanling World Cultural Heritage Site.
Today the Tombs of the Western Xia Kings near Yinchuan in Ningxia remain among the top tourist destinations of the Autonomous Region. Three of the five remaining pagodas from the Tangut Period can be seen in or near Yinchuan.
China Report - Map of the Great Wall during the Ming Dynasty
Satellite image of China and North-East Asia, with a super-imposed schematic Map of the location and Path of the Great Wall as constructed during the Reign of the Ming Dynasty. Included for reference are City names, geographical features of landscape, Names and locations of Passes on the Great Wall of China.
7 of that year devastating Towns and Villages in Guyuan County, Pingliang County and Longde (隆德) County.) In the aftermath of the earthquake a great famine occured in the regions. At the time, some took it as an omen of impending doom.