Western Xia 西夏


Chinese Name: 西夏

English Name: Western Xia

Duration: About 1038 AD – 1127 AD

Other Name: Western Dynasty 西朝, Great White High Kingdom 大白高国

King:Li Jiqian 李继迁, Li Deming 李德明, Li Yuanhao 李元昊

Western Xia 西夏
Territory Map of the Western Xia 西夏疆域图

Brief Introduction

Western Xia 西夏 (1038-1227) was a dynasty established by the Dangxiang people 党项人 in Northwest China history, calling itself the great white High Kingdom. Because it is in the northwest, it is called Western Xia. In the early stage, it stood side by side with Liao and Northern Song Dynasty 北宋.

In the later period, it stood side by side with the Jin Dynasty. Western Xia has experienced ten emperors and enjoyed the country for 189 years. Li’s regime lasted for 346 years since Li Sigong 李思恭 was appointed as the governor of the Dingnan army 定难军 in 881.

Western Xia covers an area of more than 20000 Li, covering Ningxia 宁夏, Gansu 甘肃, northeastern Qinghai青海, western Inner Mongolia 内蒙古, and Northern Shaanxi 陕西.

Western Xia 西夏
Dangxiang People 党项人

In terms of external relations, he claimed to be a vassal of the Liao 辽, Song, and Jin 金 Dynasty on the surface. But in fact, he claimed to be an independent emperor at home. In the early stage, there were frequent wars between Liao and Northern Song Dynasties, maintaining the situation of the Three Kingdoms. In the late stage, it stood side by side with Jin and was threatened by Mongolia in the late stage.

Since the late Qing Dynasty, archaeological research on Western Xia has developed continuously, forming a very popular Western Xia study.

Major Historical Events

Establish the country 建国历程

Dangxiang nationality, the ancestor of Western Xia, originally lived in the Songpan plateau, Sichuan 四川松潘高原. The historical roots of Western Xia can be traced back to the early Tang Dynasty. Dangxiang is a branch of the Qiang nationality 羌族.

Western Xia 西夏
Mysterious Western Xia 神秘的西夏

During the reign of Emperor Xizong of the Tang Dynasty 唐僖宗, Li Sigong 李思恭, the leader of the Dangxiang department, was appointed as Xiazhou 夏州 Festival envoy by the imperial court. Due to his meritorious efforts in calming the uprising and recovering Chang’an for a time, he was once again given the surname of Li and granted the title of “Duke of Xia”. Since then, Tuoba Sigong and his descendants surnamed Li have become local vassal forces.

During the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period 五代十国, no matter who was in power in the Central Plains, the Li family (Tuoba family) all bowed to the throne. This is in exchange for the dominance of the place and a lot of rewards. After more than 200 years of construction, the Western Xia area is very rich.

Therefore, the forces of the Dangxiang nationality gradually expanded. In 982, it began to harass the border of the Song Dynasty.

Western Xia 西夏
The war of the Western Xia 西夏战争

After Li Deming succeeded on the throne, he devoted himself to the development of the Hexi corridor 河西走廊. In 1020, ministers were sent to build the palace and patriarchal clan, which was named Xingzhou and made its capital here.

Externally, he continued to submit to Song and Liao. Internally, it is completely imperial. At the same time, he waited for the opportunity to develop westward. Over the years, its sphere of influence extended to the entire Hexi corridor.

On October 11, 1038, Li Yuanhao 李元昊 proclaimed himself Emperor and named the country Xia. The Song Dynasty refused to recognize Li Yuanhao’s throne and ordered them to stop the trade. Li Yuanhao frequently sent detailed works to the border to spy on military information.

Western Xia 西夏
Li Yuanhao 李元昊

He also accused the Song Dynasty of treachery and ridiculed the song army for corruption and incompetence. He also threatened the Song Dynasty with the power of the Liao Dynasty. The war between Xia and Song Dynasties was finally inevitable.

The dictatorship of the mother party 母党专权

In the Emperor Huizong of the Western Xia 夏惠宗 period, because the emperor was young, his mother Empress Dowager Liang 梁太后 held power. Therefore, the dictatorship of the mother Party headed by Empress Dowager Liang was formed. They vigorously developed their power. At the same time, they advocated foreign etiquette. They used their cronies and excluded the opposition such as the emperor’s brother.

Western Xia 西夏
Empress Dowager Liang 梁太后

In 1080, Emperor Huizong finally came into power with the help of the royal family. He advocated Han law and ordered the government of the country with Han rites. This was strongly opposed by the Conservatives dominated by Empress Dowager Liang.

In this regard, Emperor Huizong of Western Xia wanted to return Henan 河南 to the Song Dynasty in order to use the Song Dynasty to weaken the power of the Empress Dowager. Unexpectedly, this secret leaked. Empress Dowager Liang knew that Xia Huizong had been imprisoned. This behavior led to the rebellion of the imperial party and many tribes.

The Song Dynasty attacked it during the civil strife of the Western Xia Dynasty. But in the end, the Song Dynasty was defeated miserably. Although Xia defeated the Song army many times, the interruption of trade with the Song Dynasty caused an economic recession. At the same time, frequent wars consume a lot of national strength. This has made the people dissatisfied.

Western Xia 西夏
Emperor of Western Xia 西夏皇帝

In 1086 Emperor Huizong of the Western Xia died in sorrow and anger, and his 3-year-old son ascended the throne, namely Emperor Chongzong of the Western Xia 夏崇宗. In 1099, Emperor Chongzong was about to govern the court. Emperor Daozong of Liao辽道宗 sect envoys came to Western Xia and poisoned empress dowager Liang with poison. At this point, the long-term dictatorship of Empress Dowager ended, and the emperor of the Western Xia Dynasty was able to take power.

Domestic Trouble and Foreign Invasion 内忧外患

1206 Genghis Khan 成吉思汗 established Great Mongolia. Genghis Khan is bound to cut off the alliance between Jin and Xia in order to attack and destroy the enemy Jin Dynasty. So Western Xia became one of his goals.

Western Xia 西夏
Great Mongolia 蒙古

At home, Xixia people are very poor. The country’s economic production has been disrupted, the army weakened, and political corruption. The Emperor himself also indulged in wine and lust and ignored the court politics all day.

1226 Genghis Khan began to attack the Western Xia Dynasty. In the second year, the Western Xia dynasty fell almost completely and finally perished.

Important Influences

The development of tangutology

Since the late Qing Dynasty, archaeological research on Western Xia has developed continuously, forming a very popular tangutology 西夏学. It is a discipline that studies the literature and history of Western Xia, and it is a new discipline rising in the early 20th century.

Western Xia 西夏
Western Xia Tombs 西夏陵

It covers a wide range of fields, including Dangxiang people and Western Xia history, geography, language, writing, religion, culture, and so on. Since the development of tangutology, great achievements have been made in the construction of three basic disciplines: Chinese, archaeology, and social history.

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