History of Ningxia Hui AR (5) Ningxia & The Peoples Republic
NingXia Hui AR of China
From 1949 to 1954 the province was subject to the authority of the Northwest Military Administrative Committee. Ningxia was then made directly subordinate to the central government as part of Gansu Province. At the same time, autonomous Hui prefectures were established on the east and west bank sections of the Ningxia irrigated yellow river plain and in the foothills of the Liupan Mountains. On October 25Th of 1958 AD these areas were combined to form the Hui Autonomous Region of Ningxia, an autonomous part of The Peoples Republic based on the Ethnic Majority Population of the Hui. Since, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region is the largest Hui Ethnic enclave in China (P.R.C).
During the 1960's Ningxia Region and its population saw two major and revolutions which changed the region and the people forever.
The First major and revolutionary change seen in Ningxia Region was a major drive for agricultural production. Explained in simple terms, before the 1960s the Ningxia Region entirely depended on a outdated and essentially medieval form of agriculture and irrigation which limited the use of land for agriculture to rather narrow margins along the yellow river. In those days, the population of Ningxia Region was also much smaller. As a result, large swaths of Ningxia and the flowbed of the uncontrolled yellow river which were seasonally flooded by the river, lay largely unused and undeveloped. Many of the elderly in the region remember Ningxia as it was then. A green province with farms set in between large swaths of yellow river swamp lands. There were huge lakes on which a variety of now rare bird species gathered, nestling or resting and drinking on their far treks across the continents. Ningxia was awash in crane birds at the time of the breeding season. There was no danger from an encroaching desert and sand storms, although they certainly occurred were rare. It were the swamps and lakes that held back the Gobi Desert sands.
The drive of the 1960's however introduced a new and better form of growing rice, a crop which was then introduced to Ningxia. In order to feed a large international market in return for the finance for a nuclear program as well as feed an often starving Chinese Nation large pieces of beforehand wild earth in Ningxia was taken into use. Many, if not almost all of the large lakes and swamps within Ningxia Region were filled in, after which they were used intensively for rice farming. At the time no one really thought or cared about the ecological impact of the whole idea, but whichever way, since the policy had been officially endorsed by Mao Zedong, by then the ultimate guiding personality of the Chinese People, no one would have dared to turn in it down. There were clear motives behind it, and that was it. Ningxia was growing rice.
Today one can question the motives for this grandiose change and their merits. In essence the decision to seek drastic increases in agricultural production were dual, and depending on personal taste admirable perhaps. The first need as it appears, was to feed a starving Chinese Nation. As can be observed, the Great Chinese Famine (三年大饥荒) of 1958 to 1961, saw incredible droughts turn into crop failure, leaving as many as 3.5 million Chinese farmers to starve across the nation.
Clearly, more food (and transport) was needed, thus more farmland had to be occupied and worked.
In the background however plays a more cynical issue, as it is known that throughout the 1960's Chinese farmers were willingly overtaxed by the Government, their taxes paid in grain being sold on the international market in return for hard western currencies that could feed the nuclear weapons and ballistic missile program, not so much the destitute Chinese regions.
Map of the Gobi Desert & Yellow River Flow
Satellite Image Map of the Gobi Desert Region. Map overviews North-West Xinjiang Autonomous Region, Mongolia, Inner Mongolia and North and North-Eastern China giving a Full Overview of the Gobi Deserts and Yellow River Basin. Map includes location of Lanzhou in Gansu and other Cities (clearly visible).
The ecological costs to the Region have been severe. Ever since, the Province of Ningxia has been battling the various devastating effects of desertification. Many of the Lakes, and thus many of the birds have gone. Migratory birds do not visit anymore, or they their populations have dwindled and their species reached the brink of extinction. The desert has advanced more deeply into several parts of Ningxia and plenty of funds have been spent since in the battle against and ceaseless enemy. The questions remains if the battle and war can be won at all. There are dramatic reports
on groundwater levels throughout the entire region. The desertification and measures against it can be observed at the town of Shapotou, located where the Yellow River enters Ningxia from the loess plateaux and meets the sands of the Gobi Desert. The Shapotou research center has become internationally famous in its experiences and found methods of stopping desertification.
The second revolution to sweep through Ningxia Region was one to equally take effect on its landscape and its people. It was the now notorious Cultural Revolution Era, which officially
Location of ruined Temples & Mosques in Ningxia Region.
lasted from 1966 AD to 1976 AD (When Mao died). The Cultural Revolution transformed Ningxia in an entirely different sense, as it brought a wave of ardent if not plain zealous revolutionaries to the Province which subsequently set to work on laying waste on the Cultural Heritage during a campaign to eliminate 'the four olds'.
Perhaps it said enough that Mao Zedong himself had judged these young party members too eager, too radical and therefor too dangerous and had sent them to the countryside under the slogan 'Go to the country-side and learn from the Peasants'. It was a good way to get rid of them so he thought.
Tens of thousands of young flocked to the Provinces were they joined remote agricultural communities and participated in the drive for agricultural production and other proposed policies that would 'Leap' their Nation forward into modernity. The Great Leap Forward lasted from 1958 AD to 1961 AD. Mao's vision was that of China as a world power, and that meant China was far behind. But, the Chinese could fix it. As described, among things they might do so by transforming Ningxia's landscape and launching water gulping schemes for agricultural development.
And so the scene was set for that next transformation, the wave of cultural vandalism and hate that occurred during what have been called the ' blood soaked years' of the 'Cultural Revolution'.
Although the Cultural Revolution saw death, brutality and endless sorrows across the nation, the visible traces that remain of it today can most clearly be deduced from its historical landmarks, most notably the Buddhist Temples, Islamic Mosques and few Christian Churches in the Region.
The biggest blow to Ningxia's Cultural Heritage came when Mao Zedong announced a new drive namely, the political drive to 'eliminate the four olds'.
One of the four olds was religion.
In the ensuing months Red Guards, driven by blind faith in their communism, Marxism and Maoism, attacked countless cultural and historical sites throughout the region. Sometimes, Churches, Temples or Mosques were confiscated by the Communist Government and given other purposes. More frequently however, they were destroyed entirely.
Notably in Ningxia, which southern regions especially were known as a 'land of a thousand Mosques', the South Gate Mosque (Nanguan Qingzhen Si), the oldest one in the Capital of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region was leveled with the ground on Government orders. The destruction was nearly unlimited as it can be observed that today of all the 100's, only one historical Mosque in the entire region of Ningxia survives. Or one-and-a-half perhaps.
The only Mosque in Ningxia to survive the Cultural Revolution unscathed was the Mosque in the Town of Tongxin. The survival was entirely due to the particular communist 'Long March' history attached to it which features the Mosque as the site of an important meeting in October 1936 (See Previous Page) where the alliance of Hui was gained by the Communist Armies operating inside the Base, all on the promise for a real Autonomy for the Hui. Basicly, the promise of autonomy was a roose in order to win the Hui, who had previously been strongly allied with the Kuomintang Nationalists through their Ma Clique of Warlords, over to the Red Communist Camp. And so the meeting also saw the establishment of the Yuwang Hui Autonomous Government - today hailed as the first autonomous county in the history of Communist China.
It was just an empty promise, that although convenient at the time, did not lie in the line of the future plans of the core leadership. Hence, the existence of this autonomous unit was rather short. However, the story did become a major point in the official Government Propaganda line on the Harmony between Ethnic Groups and thus, during the Cultural Revolution the mosque building was protected as a revolutionary historical site. In this way the Tongxin Great Mosque with its unique and delicate architecture and decorations is the only major Islamic building in Ningxia to survive destruction during the Cultural Revolution (nearly) unscathed.
Only one other Mosque survived, that is, the Najiahu (Na Family Mosque) in Yongning Country was severely damaged but thanks to the daring resistance put up by the local Hui Community its Qing Dynasty styled prayer hall constructed of wood was not burned to the ground.
Although the Muslim Hui Community suffered profoundly, others shared in their fate. After the religious buildings were razed to the ground and historical and cultural artifacts destroyed, the Red Guards attention turned to the People themselves. All members of religions became likely victims. They were now even more suspect as counter-revolutionary traitors of the Nation and communist ideals. Their Temples, their worship was declared as counter-revolutionary as their religion was a symptom of the old society. The ideal was to have everyone embrace communism and help turn the leaf into a brandnew society. Old was Bad, new was good. Out with the old statues and false idols, away with religion and down with those temples.
A Part of the Tengger Desert region which was incorporated into Ningxia AR in the year 1969 AD but was reverted back to Inner Mongolia in 1979 AD.
In 1982 China and thus Ningxia saw the end of collectivation within Peoples Communes and instead switched to what is named the Household Responsibility System. Under the household responsibility system, land is contracted to individual households for a period of fifteen years. After fulfilling the procurement quota obligations, farmers are entitled to sell their surplus on the market or retain it for their own use. By linking rewards directly to effort, the contracting system enhanced incentives and promoted efficient production. This new measure has since had a great impact on agricultural communities and towns throughout Ningxia and China entire. In the next year 1983 AD already, agricultural production soared. Since, free markets have developed and today farmers are free to sell their produce at the best price they can get.
In the late 1990s, tens of thousands of people from villages mostly in poor southern Ningxia were resettled to 215,000 acres of newly irrigated land near the Yellow River in north central China at a cost of about $325 million. About 70 percent of those affected are Ethnic Hui's. Planners had originally hope to resettle a million people (20 percent of Ningxia's total population) but there was not enough funding available to handle that many people.
In July of 2008, preceding the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, the Olympic Torch relay passed through Yinchuan, the Capital of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. The route of the Yinchuan Beijing Olympic torch relay was as follows: From the starting point at Crescent Square to Beijing East Road, then via 'the source North Street' in the direction of Helan Shan and via hydrophilic North Street back to Beijing Road and then finally on to 'People's Square (South Gate Square)', the ending point. The length of this route is around 13 km. A total of total of 226 torchbearers, escort runners and 55 others participated in the relay, at an average of 58 meters each torch pass. As according to plan, the first torch bearer for the run was Chinese Olympic Shooting coach Qi Chunxia. Other Ningxia Natives participating in the Olympic Games also participated.
In the year 1959 AD, Ningxia along with other regions of China were stricken by a severe drought which subsequently culminated into a nation-wide famine. What has since become popularly known as the Great Leap Famine lasted for three long years. As a region surrounded by deserts, Ningxia was unequally affected by the drought and agricultural production fell. In hindsight however, most put the blame for the famine squarely on the Central Government and its gross mismanagement of affairs on all levels.
three times more than population subsistence need'.
Critical observers have pointed out that at the same time that there was a famine within China, the National Government still sold large quantities of grain on the world market, no doubt for hard needed for currencies. Another factor involved was 'the collectivization of farming which resulted in the government becoming the only provider of insurance in case of a(n economical) shock'. In other words, farmers who had previously been able to till at least a minimum of food for their own use in their private gardens, now were unable to because private property had seized to exist and collectivation meant everything was shared and Government owned. Thus, when the Government failed, it failed big time. Furthermore, collectivation only had a negative impact on production levels. In effect, the 'people’s commune system' in villages weakened farmers’ incentive to grow grains, because everything in the commune was shared, and no matter how hard the farmers worked, they would get the same as everyone else. That was a national problem right there.
In less than three years, the Great Famine claimed the lives of between seventeen and thirty million people, the highest number of fatalities of any single historical event. As for Ningxia, its agricultural resources were driven to the maximum and its storage facilities emptied. As a result of the higher inland demand for food stuffs, regions with higher per capita food production i.e. agricultural areas suffered significantly higher death rates than other provinces and territories. No numbers on the death toll in Ningxia are readily available.
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The Story of Deng XiaoPing, legendary Leader of Communist China and survivor of the Long March.
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This page was last updated on: July 21, 2017
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At some time in the year 2013 a brandnew and spectacular Tourist attraction in the shape of large Temple complex with a massive 8 storey pagoda overlooking the Yellow River in Ningxia was completed at Qingtongxia in Wuzhong City of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.
Although to date no background information is available on the Temple Complex, so far it has been identified as a Temple dedicated to the Mother Goddess of the Yellow River, a fact of which a gargantuan statue of the imaginary Goddess standing along the river bares witness. Though peculiar or even bizarre within the commonly held religious realm of the Peoples Republic, the Temple complex is esthethically very well designed and the spot of its location excellently chosen. Thus, Qingtongxia,
The brand new Yellow River Mother Goddess Temple complex on the Yellow River at Qingtongxia, with its massive 8 storey Pagoda. The Temple and Pagoda seem intended simply as tourist attraction for the tourists that developers hoped to lure into buying a luxury second appartment or holiday home in Qingtongxia.
Wuzhong City and the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region can count themselves blessed with a new and interesting destination for locals as well as traveling tourists.
In the same period the so-called '100 Temples of Baisikou' an ancient Buddhist site along a pass in the Helan Mountains was nearly entirely destroyed. Other sites may also have suffered extensively. Among things it is known that the High Temple (Gao Miao) in Zhongwei City (South-West Ningxia) saw the construction of what is allegedly an air-raid shelter underneath its Main Hall. Although the Temple itself stands today and the underground space has been turned into a depiction of a Taoist-Buddhist Hell, the original construction of it was by no means a compliment to the Temple and Religion.
Among the now famous Chinese people who suffered during the Cultural Revolution Era was Chinese Novelist and Poet Zang Xianlang. As
Descend into Buddhist Hell underneath the Gao Miao Temple in Zhongwei and explore a tunnel complex that was originally designed as an air raid shelter and secret hide out during the Cultural Revolution Era. Today it lives on as a weird and unusual but enjoyable tourist attraction and somewhat less serious part of the still active and thriving Temple.
a progressive intellectual, Zang was
imprisoned several times in the period between the years 1958 AD and 1971 AD. Among things, during the Cultural Revolution, he was denounced as a 'anti-revolutionary revisionist' and subsequently found himself deported to Ningxia Region. In Ningxia he was forced to do hard labor on a labor reform farm and later on a State Farm. As he recalls, the prisoners used to fight with rats over food, and with eachother over rats in an attempt to survive the faminous circumstances on the farm.
In essence, the laborers weren't required to live on, as long as their prison time was spent in a productive way, thus benifitting the state. Many of the scenes from this brutal and tumultuous existence are recalled in Zang Xianliang's book 'Half of Man is Woman'. Other books contain themes resounding with the same sentiments and situations.