Yinchuan Travel Guide

Last updated by drwi at 2014/10/31

Yinchuan Overview

Yinchuan, the capital of present-day Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region (aka Ningxia) and the capital of the former Western Xia (CE 1038-1227) Dynasty of the Tanguts, which dynasty was toppled by Genghis Khan and his Mongol hordes, was one of China's early outposts of civilization.* Throughout its history, the city of Yinchuan has seen a series of wars between and among various ethnic groups vying for dominance over this important trade and cultural hub, which turmoil may seem surprising, given the city's present-day relaxed inter-ethnic atmosphere. But the city has not only seen the vicissitudes of war, it has also experienced more than its share of shifting boundaries.

During the Ming (CE 1368-1644) and Qing (CE 1644-1911) Dynasties, the city of Yinchuan formally became the prefecture of "Ningsxia", but when a province of the same name was created in 1928 out of parts of Gansu Province and Inner Mongolia (i.e., during the period of the Republic of China, which had superceded Imperial China's Qing Dynasty), Yinchuan got its name back and became the capital of the new province. In 1954, under the People's Republic of China, Ningxia Province was abolished, and the territory belonging to it was re-absorbed into Gansu Province and Inner Mongolia, with the city of Yinchuan becoming a city in Gansu Province. However, only four years later, in 1958, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region was formed, and the parts of the former Ningxia Province that had been lost to Gansu Province and Inner Mongolia again became part of Ningxia. Once again, Yinchuan became the capital of Ningxia, this time not of a province, but of an autonomous ethnic region (the Hui ethnic group, Ningxia's largest ethnic minority group, are Muslims).

Not surprisingly, the city of Yinchuan is rich in cultural relics and historical sights as well as in areas of stunning natural beauty. These include: the enchanting sand dunes of the Tengger Desert, near the village of Shapotou (not to speak of the Yellow River itself, which runs through Yinchuan); the curious Baiba ("108") Pagodas and the ancient (8th century BCE) Helanshan Petroglyphs (Rock Carvings) at nearby Qingtongxia; the Jade Emperor Pavilion, Chengtiansi Temple, and Nanguan Mosque, all within the city limits of Yinchuan itself; the Imperial Tombs of Xi ("Western") Xia, aka the Western Xia Mausoleum, located 35 kilometers west of Yinchuan; and the Ming Dynasty stretch of the Great Wall, to name just a few.


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* The Tanguts were a nomadic Qiangic-Tibetan people who no longer exist as an independent ethnic group (fear not; they were not exterminated, they simply allowed themselves to be absorbed into mainstream Han Chinese society), though they were descendants, as are the Tibetans, of the Qiang ethnic group, which does still exist, also in China. Note that during the reigns of the early khans – from the reign (CE 1206-1227) of Genghis Khan down through the reign (CE 1251-1259) of Möngke Khan, brother of Kublai Khan, the emperor who formally established the Yuan (CE 1260-1294) Dynasty – the khans were too busy expanding their Mongol Empire to concern themselves too particularly about a capital city. Shangdu (later known as Yuan Shangdu), aka Kaiping Prefecture, located in present-day Inner Mongolia (i.e., Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China), served as Möngke Khan's capital, insofar as a capital city was deemed necessary in order to receive emissaries from such important personnages as France's Louis XIV or Russia's Alexander Nevsky.

It was not until Kublai Khan succeeded his brother Möngke that Mongol leaders became sedentary enough in their habits to concern themselves about a grandiose capital city. Kublai Khan, aka Emperor Shizu, had a new capital city created for him on the ruins of the city he had razed to the ground in a military campaign, Yanjing, which new city, Dadu, eventually received a name-change: "Beijing". Shangdu, known as Xanadu in the romantic poem Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, then became Emperor Shizu's "summer capital".

 

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