22 October 2014


Some 770 years ago, in the vast areas of northwest China stood a feudal kingdom called "Western Xia" among the Song (960-1279) and Liao (916-1125) dynasties at the same time. The kingdom lasted for 189 years under 10 successive emperors.

In the 13th century, when Genghis Khan united Mongolia and the country gradually grew into a formidable power, he began the process of expansion and invasion.  And the Western Xia bore the brunt of the mighty Mongolian cavalries.  During 22 years, the Mongolians initiated six onslaughts against the Western Xia, of which four were headed by Genghis Khan himself. In 1227, the Mongolian warlord besieged Xingqing, the capital of the Western Xia.  When the city was captured, the Mongolians conducted a vengeful massacre.  The once powerful and civilized Western Xia Dynasty came to an end and the ethnic Dangxiang people had also disappeared.

Only the grand mausoleums under Helan Mountain still display the site's former prosperity.

The Western Xia dynasty were very first built by the founder of the Western Xia Kingdom (1038 to 1227), Li Yuanhao who built about 70 tombs; among which, one was for himself, and a few tombs for his relatives.  Western Xia Museum located near the entrance of Li's tomb.

Based on some excavations, each mausoleum had a unified layout, occupying an area of more than 100,000 square meters, surrounded by inner and outer walls. At each corner of the mausoleum gardens were watchtowers, providing visual indicators of the boundaries, serving functions similar to those of watchtowers of the Imperial Palace (Forbidden City) in Beijing.

The Western Xia mausoleums are distributed on a gentle slope along the east base of the Helan Mountains. They are located in an area about 4 kilometers wider, east to west, and 9 kilometers up the slope, north to south, occupying an area of nearly 40 square kilometers.  All of the tombs have stairways or sloping paths leading to their coffin pit.

Building materials, broken stone tablets, towers, glazed tiles, walls and steles with Western Xia or Han characters still remain, providing visitors with interesting information on the civilization.

Cultural artifacts and relics related to the ancient Western Xia were collected from across China and exhibited in the museum.

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