Thursday, September 4, 2008

Western Xia

The Western Xia Dynasty or the Tangut Empire was a state that existed from 1038 up to 1227 in what are now the northwestern of Gansu, Shaanxi, and Ningxia. It was established in the 11th century by Tangut tribes. Occupying the area along the trade route between Central Asia and the West, the Tangut were neighbors to Northern China, which was ruled by Song Dynasty and later the .


The Tanguts called their own state "phiow¹-bjij²-lhjij-lhjij²" which translates as "The Great State of the White and the Lofty" .

Since it was located in the west, the Chinese name is Xi-Xia , literally "Western Xia", and thus that name is often used in Sinological literature. The English name "Tangut" comes from the name for the country, ''Tangghud'' , a cognate of the Chinese name '''' , which in Chinese refers to the ethnic group identified with the political entity of the Western Xia.


After coming under military pressure from the some Tangut tribes submitted to China under in 799. The Tanguts who submitted were moved to the Ordos region near Ningxia, whereas those who stayed accepted Tibetan political dominance and became known in Chinese as Mi-yao.

The Tanguts remained loyal to the Tang during the revolt of Huang Chao but established de-facto independence when Tang fell in 906. They retained their de-facto independence throughout the Five Dynasties period. During this period, their chieftain had the title of Dingnan Jiedushi and nominally remained under the Five Dynasties. Emperor Mingzong of Later Tang made an unsuccessful attempt to conquer Dingnan in 932 after believing incorrectly that Dingnan was about to enter an alliance with .

The foundation of a Tangut state as such goes back to the year 982 under Li Deming . However, it would not be until 1038 that the Tangut chieftain , Li Deming's son, who also ordered the creation of a Tangut writing system and the translation of Chinese classics into Tangut, named himself emperor of Da Xia, and demanded of the emperor recognition as an equal. The Song court accepted the recognition of Li Yuanhao as 'governor', but not '', a title considered exclusive to the Song emperor. After intense diplomatic contacts, in 1043 the Tangut state accepted the recognition of the Song emperor as emperor in exchange for annual tribute, which implied tacit recognition on the part of the Song of the military power of the Tangut.

Early history

After Jingzong's death, Yizong became the emperor at the age of two. His mother became the regent and during Yizong's reign, Liao Dynasty launched an invasion of Western Xia, causing Western Xia to submit to Liao Dynasty as a vassal state. After Yizong's death, Huizong was put under house arrest by his mother, and she attacked Song Dynasty. The attack was a failure, and Huizong took back power from his mother. After Chongzong became emperor, his grandmother became regent again and launched invasion of Liao Dynasty and Song Dynasty. Again, both campaigns ended in defeat and Chongzong took direct control of Western Xia. He ended wars with both Liao and Song and focused on domestic reform.

In 1115, Jurchen Jin Dynasty was set up and Liao emperor fled to Western Xia in 1123. Chongzong submitted to the Jin demand of the Liao emperor and Western Xia became a vassal state of Jin. After Jin Dynasty destroyed Northern Song Dynasty, Western Xia attacked and took several thousands square miles of land from Northern Song. Immediately following Renzong's coronation, many natural disasters occurred and Renzong worked to stabilize the economy.

The Tanguts and the Mongols

After Renzong's death, Huanzong came into power and Western Xia's power began to fail. Corruption was widespread and the economy began to falter. Western Xia also began to come under attack by Mongol Empire.

The Mongol Empire campaigned six times against the Tanguts .

In 1206, Xiangzong initiated a coup d'état against Huanzong and killed him, installing himself as emperor. In 1207 Li An-ch'uan submitted to the Mongols, and gave his daughter to Genghis Khan in marriage. Xiangzong then began a decade-long campaign against Jin Empire, significantly weakening both empires. Also during Xiangzong's reign, corruption rose to new heights, and normal peasants were very poor. The Western Xia army was also untrained and ill-equipped. Xiangzong abdicated after Shenzong started a coup d'état and seized power, and Xiangzong died in the same year, 1211.

The Mongols asked their allies and tributaries for military aid in the campaign against the Islamic countries in 1216. Although the Tangut emperor Shenzong was willing, his court and in particular his general Aša-gambu recommended against it. When Genghis Khan returned from his campaign the new emperor Xianzong pled with him, but the general Aša-gambu challenged Genghis Khan. The emperor Xianzong died during the fighting and was succeeded by Modi , the last of the Tangut rulers. Modi sued for peace, which was accepted, but he was then executed by Tolui, the son of Genghis Khan, and the Tangut state was fully incorporated into Mongolian administration.

Rulers of Western Xia


|Lǐ Qiánshùn 李乾順



| 仁宗

|Shèngzhēndì 聖禎帝

|Lǐ Rénxiào 李仁孝



| 桓宗

|Zhāojiǎndì 昭簡帝

|Lǐ Chúnyòu 李純佑



| 襄宗

|Jìngmùdì 敬穆帝

|Lǐ Ānquán 李安全



| 神宗

|Yīngwéndì 英文帝

|Lǐ Zūnxū 李遵頊



| 獻宗


|Lǐ Déwàng 李德旺



| 末帝


|Lǐ Xiàn 李晛



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