The Western Xia Dynasty (1038 –1227) is the Tangut Empire in the Chinese history. Minyak was what Tanguts and Tibetans called the empire. The existence of the state was from 1038 AD until 1227 AD. The state had jurisdiction over what are now the northwestern provinces of China. These areas include Ningxia, Gansu, the eastern part of Qinghai, the northern portion of Shaanxi, the northeastern territory of Xinjiang, the southwest of inner Mongolia, and the southernmost part of outer Mongolia. The Western Xia Dynasty covered an area of approximately eight hundred thousand (800,000) square kilometers.
Mongols was responsible group that inflicted heavy destruction to the Western Xia Dynasty. Included in the destruction were the recorded writings of the empire together with its architectural undertakings. The period of reign as well as the founders of the state were controversial issues until the most recent researches on the issue.
An important trade route, Hexi Corridor, is located in the territory of the dynasty. The trade route was the way trade between North China and the Central Asia region passed at the period of history. The important achievements of Western Xia Dynasty was in architecture, arts, literature and music. The characterization of the said era in the history of China is “shining and sparkling.”
The organization of the military of the empire was considered effective. There were integration in cavalry, the chariots, the shields, the archery, the artillery, and the troops for land and water battles. Cannons were carried on the back of camels.
The Founding of the Western Xia
Western Xia Dynasty is referred to as The Great State of the White and the Lofty. Tuoba Xianbei of the Tuyühu was the founder of the Tangut-Western Xia. The descendants of Tuoba in 982 announced the formal resistance against the expansionist Northern Song. Western Xia or Tangut was formally established with an independence proclamation. The year was 1038 AD when the Western Xia state was formally proclaimed. The year 982 was considered the foundation of Western Xia. The son of Li Deming, Li Yuanhao, declared himself as the emperor in 1038.
Records of the Western Xia in China
The dynasty of the Western Xia lasted for several hundred years. It was an exception in Chinese chronicles of history. A separate volume in Chinese history chronicles was not devoted to the period of the dynasty. The period of the dynasty was included in the history information devoted to the history of the Song Dynasty, the history of the Liao Dynasty, the history of the Jurchen Gold Dynasty, and the history of the Yuan Dynasty.
The history of China recognized the Western Xia dynasty retained the Tang dynasty court, music and Confucian ideology. The Five Dynasties of the northern China was unable to retain the Tang dynasty legacy. The intellectuals of the Manchu Qing Dynasty compiled records of the information concerning the Tangut dynasty.
Tangut Literary Traditions
In 1036 AD, the Tangut started a literary tradition. They devised indigenous and ideogrammatic system of writing. There were translations of Buddhists writings and other works of secular nature. The Mongols, conquerors of the Tanguts, allowed and encouraged the use of the He-xi’ characters throughout the 13th and 14th centuries.
Western Xia Government
The government structure of the Western Xia dynasty was a combination of Tangut and Song systems. The old clan system of Tangut and the bureaucratic structure of the Song dynasty were mixed. The Tuoba clan chieftains granted the Chinese administrative positions where there was an enormous population of Chinese, and the Chinese were the majority of the population in certain areas.
In 1033, introduced was the Chinese Song Dynasty way of administration. The introduced offices were secretariate (the highest state institution), the bureau of military affairs, and agencies of military, fiscal and judicial nature. The other bureaucratic branches were the censorates and the subordinate offices. There was an assigned directorate for the administration of financial affairs of the state, states rotes and the imperial court. Most of the administrative offices were open to all races except for some in which there is a restriction that only Tangut were allowed to hold office.
Laws in respect to traditional Tangut civil and criminal affairs were implemented. The traditional Tangut laws were enforce in the Western Xia for long period of time but there was a point when the Song code articles were used for the empire. Tanguts comprised the officers of the higher organization. These officers provided camels and horses for themselves. They were taking part in a sort of a council of war. The loyalties of the higher officers were sworn in a blood oath. There is currently insufficient research on the educational system of the Tanguts and how their state officials were recruited.
Western Xia Religion and Economy
Buddhism was adopted as the religion of the Western Xia state. Tanguts originally believed in spirits. There was an abundance of Buddhist monasteries in the territory. There was a time when state officials lived in these monasteries.
The Western Xia economy was considered a nomad-based economy. There were large cattle herds in the grassland areas. Most of the agricultural lands were owned by the state or the ruling aristocracy. The remaining lands were owned by the religious personalities. Private land ownership was allowed in areas of mountainous terrains and remote environments.
Irrigation channels were constructed since the importance of origination was known to the rulers at that time. Woolen products were developed as an important economic resource. Production of iron was considered as one of the utmost concerns of the empire as well as pottery and porcelain making. The Western Xia state endeavored in trading with neighboring countries. Xia had no coins since barter trade is ordinarily the practice of the period.