Western Xia Dynasty

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The Empire of the Western Xia in 1111

The empire of the Western Xia Dynasty or Xi Xia ( Chinese  西夏 , Pinyin Xī Xia ; Tangut: Mi-Nyak ) was 1038 by the Tanguts on the territory of modern Chinese province of Gansu and today's autonomous region of Ningxia , centered at Yinchuan founded, .

It was a multiethnic state of China , mostly inhabited by Tanguts but also Uyghurs , Han Chinese , Mongols and Tibetans . The leadership of the state was made up of Tanguts; Tibetans, Uyghurs and Han Chinese were active in political offices. In their state there were arable farmers as well as caravan traders, nomads and semi-nomads, depending on the geographic conditions .

The Tangut Empire had been independent since the 11th century due to the weakness of the Song Dynasty , but was strongly influenced by Chinese culture. It brokered trade and smuggling along the Silk Road ; The main trading partner was the Song dynasty. In 1044 the Song even had to commit to paying tribute (silk, silver, tea) to the Tanguts. In 1226/1227 the state of Xi Xia was destroyed by the Mongols .

History of the Western Xia


The Tanguts began in the 7th century in the Xiazhou district, a patch on the Great Wall south of the Ordos Plateau . At that time the Tibetans still dominated there, who absorbed the entire region in 680 in competition with the Tang . A hundred years later, in 786, the Tibetans invaded Xiazhou. In addition to the Tibetans, the Tanguts also had the Uyghurs, the Tuyuhun, the Shatuo and of course the Han Chinese as neighbors.

The rise of the Li clan

The ruling house was derived from a descendant of the Tabgatsch , d. H. a certain Tuoba Sigong 拓跋 思恭, also Li Sigong 李思恭, († 895) and the descendants of his brothers. During the Five Dynasties and Ten Empires , China was divided into short-lived dynasties and local separate states. The greater independence of the Tanguts began with Li Renfu (r. 909-933), who stopped an invasion of the Shatuo in 909 and submitted to the Later Liang Dynasty to be on the safe side. His son Li Yichao (r. 933-935) asserted himself against renewed military interference by the Shatuo, who ruled northern China as the Later Tang Dynasty 923-936. Li Yichao was followed by his brother Li Yiyin (r. 935–967), who survived a rebellion of his relatives in 943 and was showered with Chinese honorary titles in his long and cautious reign. At that time, the sale of horses to the inner-Chinese areas was the main source of wealth.


The turnaround began with the rise of the Song dynasty (960-1279), which coincided with a successor problem among the Tanguts (981/82). Li Guangrui's son (ruled 967–978) was a minor; his uncle Li Jibeng ruled for him, who was forced to travel to the imperial court in Kaifeng in 982 .

A distant cousin, the adventurer Li Jiqian (* 963, † 1004), stood up against the interference of the Song, who fled from them in time and eventually pushed them back bit by bit by means of various attacks by allied clans. It was essential that the Song Dynasty relied on trade restrictions (horses, metal, salt) at the border, which embittered the clans and attracted Li Jiqian. In 994 he lost Xiazhou to the Song, but in March 1002 he was able to conquer the western city of Lingzhou (heute 州) (now Lingwu in the Ningxia Autonomous Region ), which finally convinced the Song of the fait accompli and led to peace. Lingzhou became the new capital under various names.

The first Tangut emperors

Li Jiqian 李繼 遷 (* 963, † 1004) is retrospectively considered to be the founder of the dynasty, as Taizu太祖. But he was initially only subordinate to the Liao , to which he had submitted in 986 (marriage alliance 989). In 1003 he tried to attack the city of Liangzhou (凉州) (now Wuwei in Gansu Province), which was controlled by P'an-lo-chih († 1004), the head of the Tibetan Liu-ku and Che-lung. But the Tibetans stood up for their ally and killed Li Jiqian for victory and life in early 1004.

He was followed by his son Li Deming 李德明 (* 989, r. 1004-1032). This ruler went against the Uyghurs , especially the Uyghurs in Ganzhou, which he was able to incorporate after several unsuccessful campaigns in 1028. The Liangzhou Tibetans expelled his army in 1015, which Liangzhou was only able to occupy for a short time. But the Tangut economy revived, in 1007 the Chinese allowed a trade market again, in 1026 private markets were also allowed in the border provinces. Only in the salt trade did you have little chance.

The third ruler was Li Yuanhao 李元昊 (ruled 1032-1048), who led the Tangut empire to a temporary peak of power. The proud and ambitious son of Li Deming was finally able to conquer Liangzhou in the winter of 1032. Then he went unsuccessfully against the Tibetans (Chin-tang or Tsung-ko Tibetans) in 1035/36 and in 1038 declared the establishment of the Western Xia dynasty as an independent state.

In his youth, Li Yuanhao had studied Buddhist texts on various topics, which was now reflected in many reform projects. One of these was the development of a Tangut script by the scholar Yeli Renrong 野 利 仁 榮 around 1036. Another was the discipline of the army, which numbered 150,000 to 300,000 and had been organized quite decentrally (i.e. at the discretion of the clan chiefs) through several regulations. The military administration was divided into twelve districts.

Finally, Li Yuanhao took on Song China when he demanded equality with the Liao emperor in diplomatic dealings and proclaimed his own dynasty in 1038. The Song Emperor only wanted to give him the title chu , which was more than wang but less than huangdi . The Tanguts triumphed in three major battles in the 1039-1044 war, but exhausted their strength, especially since the Liao were against them. In the end, in the contract with the title of chu negotiated with Song's agent Fan Zhongyan in 1044, Li Yuanhao was satisfied, but received relatively high tribute payments in silk, silver, and tea.

Li Yuanhao was murdered in connection with family disputes (demotion of the first empress from the Yeli clan and unresolved question of succession). He did not have an equivalent successor and the state stagnated.


The rise of the Jurchen Jin Empire brought the Tanguts into trouble and cut them off from lucrative trade with many other areas of China . Nevertheless, they still controlled a significant section of the Silk Road and thus represented a worthwhile destination for the Mongols of Genghis Khan , who imposed a heavy tribute peace and military success on Li Anquan 李 安全 (r. 1206–1211) after unsuccessful siege of his capital in 1209/10.

The tributes were apparently too high because there was a great shortage of camels, which damaged trade and the economy. In 1226/27 the Tanguts rebelled under the long-time Chancellor Asagambu, but the war-tried Mongols under their then terminally ill founder of the empire remained victorious in open battle on the icy Yellow River , conquered all the cities and massacred the inhabitants. The last Tangut ruler was executed immediately after the capital's surrender.

Ruler of the Western Xia

Xixia 1038-1227
Temple name Posthumous name Personal name Reign Government currency (noun)
Tàizǔ 太祖 Xiàoguāng 孝 光 Lǐ Jìqiān 李繼 遷 991-1004
Tàizōng 太宗 Guāngshèng 光 聖 Lǐ Démíng 李德明 1005-1031
Jingzong Wǔliè 武 烈 Lǐ Yuánhào 李元昊 1032-1048 显 道, 开 运, 广 运, 大庆, 天授 礼 法 延祚
Yìzōng 毅 宗 Zhāoyīng 昭 英 Lǐ Liàngzuò 李 谅 祚 1048-1067 延嗣 宁 国, 天祐 垂 圣, 福 圣 承 道, 奲 都, 拱 化
Huìzōng 惠 宗 Kāngjìng 康靖 Lǐ Bǐngcháng 李秉 常 1067-1086 乾道, 天赐 礼 盛国庆, 大安, 天 安 礼 定
Chóngzōng 崇 宗 Shèngwén 圣 文 Lǐ Qiánshùn 李 乾 顺 1086-1139 天 仪 治平, 天祐 民 安, 永安, 贞观, 雍 宁, 元 德, 正德, 大德
Rénzōng 仁宗 Shèngzǔ 圣祖 Lǐ Rénxiào 李仁孝 1139-1193 大庆, 人 庆, 天 盛, 乾祐
Huánzōng 桓 宗 Zhāojiǎn 昭 简 Lǐ Chúnyòu 李纯祐 1193-1206 天 庆
Xiāngzōng 襄 宗 Jìngmù 敬 穆 Lǐ Ānquán 李 安全 1206-1211 应 天, 皇 建
Shénzōng 神宗 Yīngwén 英文 Lǐ Zūnxū 李 遵 顼 1211-1223 光 定
Xiànzōng 献 宗 Lǐ Déwàng 李德旺 1223-1226 乾 定
- Lǐ Xiàn 李 睍 1226-1227 宝 义

Web links

Commons : Western Xia Dynasty  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Stein (1972), pp. 70-71.
  2. Shao-yun Yang: Fan and Han: The Origins and Uses of a Conceptual Dichotomy in Mid-Imperial China, approx. 500-1200 . In: Francesca Fiaschetti and Julia Schneider eds., "Political Strategies of Identity-building in Non-Han Empires in China" . ( academia.edu [accessed January 6, 2019]).
  3. New Book of Tang , vol. 221, part 1