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Admire Ancient Xixia Culture in Yinchuan

 2014-01-07    Ada    Tours    Yinchuan    2992  

Occupying an area of some 50 km2 (19 sq mi), the Western Xia tombs at the foot of the Helan Mountains in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region of northwestern China includes nine imperial mausoleums and 250 tombs of imperial relatives and officials. This burial complex lies some 40 km (25 mi) westward from capital city of the Western Xia, the Xingqing fu or Xingqing, what is modern-day Yinchuan, capital of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

Lightning flashes in the deep purple clouds over the peaks and the wind hisses down across the sandy, scrub-prickled loess where the white skulls of sheep lie, gnawed clean by dogs. It is a scene of utter desolation, eerily beautiful, with a cold, bitter, age-long loneliness about it.

This mausoleum is attributed to Western Xia's first emperor Jingzong, born Li Yuanhao, has been determined as a pavilion-tower construction fusing both traditional mausoleum and temple styles with Buddhist characteristics. The Western Xia dynasty (also known as Tangut Empire), existed between 1038 and 1227, when it was finally conquered by the Mongols under Genghis Khan. The empire was founded by the Tangut ethnic group, about which little is currently known. Yet the Xixia, or western Xia kings, endured for 189 years--from 1038 to 1227 A.D.--and once ruled an area embracing three provinces of modern China, from Shaanxi in the east, across the Ningxia autonomous region, well into Gansu in the west.

The very name, Ningxia, means “the Xia have been pacified”. Nine tombs of Western Xia kings and 140-plus companion tombs buried with the remains of major imperial family members and aristocrats arelaid out according to the contours of the terrain in an area of 50 square km on the eastern side of Helan Shan. Each tomb was an independent architectural complex more than 100,000 sq. meters in area, which was complete with turrets, archways, stele pavilion, outer wall, inner city, memorial hall, pagoda-shaped alter, and divine wall. It is one of the largest and best protected imperial cemeteries in China. Of current excavations, only the No.3 mausoleum has been adequately excavated and researched.

As you may detect from the relics, ancient Xixia people had no written language of their own and employed Chinese scribes at their courts. The Xia were herdsmen and farmers. Some idea of their costume--flowing wide-sleeved robes with curious biretta-shaped hats--can be gathered from paintings in the "Thousand-Buddha" caves at Dunhuang, in Gansu Province, some of which were commissioned by the Xia.

It’s also appreciated as the “Eastern Pyramid”. Shards of multicolored tiles are strewn so thickly around the crumbling pyramids of the kings of the Xixia Dynasty that the ground does not crunch underfoot. It clinks, with the rather melancholy sound of bells broken long, long ago. The pyramid, which was 16.5 meters high, did not rise directly over the underground tomb chamber, but some distance beyond it. In front of the pyramid was a long, raised embankment of packed earth, at the far end of which was the real entrance to the sepulcher. The pyramid served as a sort of gigantic headstone, in front of which annual sacrifices to the dead king were performed.

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