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Chinese History - Western Xia Dynasty 西夏 (1038-1227)

The Western Xia empire Xixia 西夏 (1038-1227) was one of the three great barbarian empires ruling over northern China during the Song period 宋 (960-1279). It was founded by Li Yuanhao 李元昊 (Emperor Jing 西夏景宗, r. 1032-1048), ruler over the Tanguts, a people relative to the Tibetans. The Tanguts controlled the trade routes between China proper and Central Asia known as the Silk Road. Their empire covered the modern region of Shaanxi and Gansu. The armies of the Song empire heavily contested with the Tanguts for the domination of the northwest, but the Song were never able to defeat the Western Xia. The latter even forced the Song to conclude a peace treaty in 1044. The ruling elite of the Western Xia empire did not adopt Chinese customs and culture as the Khitans had done in the Liao empire 遼 (907-1125) or later the Jurchens in the Jin empire 金 (1115-1234). The Tangutan way of life and their culture remained intact. For administrative purposes, but also for religious needs, the Tanguts invented an own script, modeled after the Chinese script. The Western Xia empire was the first Chinese empire conquered by the Mongol war machine.
Unlike the Liao and Jin dynasties, the Western Xia were not seen as a righteous Chinese dynasty.


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2000 ff. © Ulrich Theobald · Mail