The Western Xia or Xi Xia known to the Mongols as the Tangut Empire and to the Tangut people themselves and to the Tibetans as Mi-nyak, was an empire which existed from 1038 to 1227 in what are now the northwestern Chinese provinces of Ningxia, eastern Qinghai, northern Shaanxi, northeastern Xinjiang, southwest Inner Mongolia, southernmost Outer Mongolia, measuring about 800,000 square kilometres. Its capital was Xingqing, until its destruction by the Mongols in 1227. Most of its written records and architecture were destroyed, so the founders and history of the empire remained obscure until 20th-century research in the West and in China; the Western Xia occupied the area round the Hexi Corridor, a stretch of the Silk Road, the most important trade route between North China and Central Asia. They made significant achievements in literature, art and architecture, characterized as "shining and sparkling", their extensive stance among the other empires of the Liao and Jin was attributable to their effective military organizations that integrated cavalry, archery, shields and amphibious troops for combat on land and water.
The full title of the Western Xia as named by their own state is reconstructed as /*phiow¹-bjij²-lhjij-lhjij²/ which translates as "Great State of White and Lofty" named as "The Great Xia State of the White and the Lofty", or called "mjɨ-njaa" or "khjɨ-dwuu-lhjij". The region was known to the Tanguts and the Tibetans as Minyak."Western Xia" is the literal translation of the state's Chinese name. It is derived from its location on the western side of the Yellow River, in contrast to the Liao and Jin dynasties on its east and the Song in the southeast; the English term "Tangut" comes from the Mongolian name for the country, believed to reflect the same word as "Dangxiang" found in Chinese literature. The Tanguts came from the Tibet-Qinghai region, but migrated eastward in the 650s under pressure from the Tibetans. By the time of the An Lushan Rebellion in the 750s they had become the primary local power in the Ordos region in northern Shaanxi; the Tanguts sometimes fell under direct administration by the Tang dynasty.
As a result, the Tanguts cooperated with external powers such as the Uyghurs in opposing the Tang. The situation lasted until the 840s when the Tanguts rose in open revolt against the Tang, but the rebellion was suppressed; the Tang court was able to mollify the Tanguts by admonishing their frontier generals and replacing them with more disciplined ones. In 881 the Tangut general Li Sigong was granted control of the Dingnan Jiedushi known as Xiasui, in modern Yulin, Shaanxi for assisting the Tang in suppressing the Huang Chao Rebellion. Li Sigong was succeeded by his brother Li Sijian. After the fall of Tang in 907, the rulers of Dingnan were granted honorary titles by the Later Liang. Li Sijian died in 908 and was succeeded by his son Li Yichang, murdered by his officer Gao Zongyi in 909. Gao Zongyi was himself murdered by soldiers of Dingnan and was replaced by a relative of Li Yichang, Li Renfu. Dingnan was attacked by Qi and Jin in 910, but was able to repel the invaders with the aid of Later Liang.
Li Renfu was succeeded by his son Li Yichao. Under Li Yichao Dingnan repelled an invasion by the Later Tang. Li Yichao was succeeded by his brother Li Yixing. In 944 Li Yixing attacked the Liao dynasty on behalf of the Later Jin. In 948 Li Yixing attacked a neighboring circuit under encouragement from the rebel Li Shouzhen but retreated after Li Shouzhen was defeated. Honorary titles were given out by the Later Han to appease local commanders, including Li Yixing. In 960 Dingnan came under attack by Northern Han and repelled invading forces. In 962 Li Yixing offered tribute to the Song dynasty. Li Yixing was succeeded by his son Li Kerui. Li Kerui died in 978 and was succeeded by Li Jiyun, who died in 980 and was succeeded by Li Jipeng, who died in 982 and was succeeded by Li Jiqian. Li Jiqian rebelled against the Song dynasty in 984, after which Dingnan was recognized as the independent state of Xia. Li Jiqian was succeeded by his son Li Deming. Under Li Deming, the Xia state defeated the Ganzhou Uyghur Kingdom in 1028 and forced the ruler of the Guiyi Circuit to surrender.
Li Deming was succeeded by his son Li Yuanhao. In 1036 the Xia annexed the Ganzhou Uyghur states. In 1038 Li Yuanhao declared himself the first emperor of the Great Xia with his capital at Xingqing in modern Yinchuan. What ensued was a prolonged war with the Song dynasty which resulted in several victories; however the victories came at a great cost and the Xia found itself short of manpower and supplies. In 1044 the Xia and Song came to a truce with the Xia recognizing the Song ruler as emperor in return for annual gifts from the Song as recognition of the Tangut state's power. Aside from founding the Western Xia, Li Yuanhao ordered the creation of a Tangut script as well as translations of Chinese classics into Tangut. After Emperor Jingzong of Western Xia died in 1048, his son Li Liangzuo became Emperor Yizong of Western Xia at the age of two and his mother became the regent. In 1049 the Liao dynasty vassalized it. Yizong died in 1067 and his son Li Bingchang became Emperor Huizong of Western Xia at the age of six.
Huizong's mother became regent and she invaded the Song dynasty. The invasion ended in failure, Huizong took back power from his mothe
The Tangut people were a Sino-Tibetan tribal union that inhabited Western Xia. The group lived under Tuyuhun authority and moved to Northwest China sometime before the 10th century to found the Western Xia or Tangut Empire, they spoke one of the Qiangic languages that belong to the Sino-Tibetan family. The Tanguts are regarded by Chinese scholars to be synonymous with or at least related to the Qiang or Dangxiang. "Qiang" was a collective term for the multiple ethnic groups who lived on the western borderlands of China. The name Tangut first appears in the Orkhon inscriptions of 735. In their own Tangut language, the Tanguts called; the Tanguts migrated from their homeland in northeastern Tibet to the eastern Ordos region under pressure from the Tibetan Empire. By the time of the An Lushan Rebellion the Tanguts were the most dominant local power in the region. There they established the first and only Tangut state to have existed. Tangut society was divided into two classes: the "Red Faced" and the "Black Headed".
The Red Faced Tanguts were seen as commoners while the Black Headed Tanguts made up the elite priestly caste. Although Buddhism was popular among the Tangut people, many Tangut herdsmen continued to practice a kind of shamanism known as Root West; the black caps worn by Root West shamans give the Black Headed caste its name. According to Tangut myth, the ancestor of the Black Headed Tanguts was a heavenly white crane, while the ancestor of the Red Faced Tanguts was a monkey. Tangut kings went by the title of Wuzu. According to sources in the Tangut language, the Tangut state known now as the Western Xia was named translated as "Great State of White and Lofty". Although the Chinese translation of this name was used in Tangut sources, the state was most referred to as the "Great Xia" in Chinese-language sources of the Tangut or as the "Xia State" to the Song. In historiography and in modern Chinese the Tangut state is referred to as the "Western Xia"; the Mongols and other steppe tribes referred to the Tangut kingdom as "Qashi" or "Qashin", derived from the Middle Chinese name for the region the Tanguts controlled.
In 881 the Tanguts assisted the Tang in suppressing the Huang Chao rebellion. As a reward the Tang granted the Tangut general Li Sigong the three prefectures of Xia and Yin as hereditary titles under the Dingnan Jiedushi. From there the Tanguts expanded their realm southwest towards their old homelands. In 1002 they conquered Ling Prefecture and set up their first capital there under the name of Xiping. By 1036 they had annexed the Guiyi Circuit and the Ganzhou Uyghur Kingdom pushing into Tibetan territory and conquering Xining; the state of Western Xia was proclaimed in 1038. Since the Tangut's founder, Li Deming, was not a conservative ruler, the Tangut people began to absorb the Chinese culture that surrounded them, but never lost their actual identity, as is proven by the vast amount of literature which survived the Tangut state itself. Li Deming's more conservative son, Li Yuanhao, enthroned as Emperor Jingzong, sought to restore and strengthen the Tangut identity by ordering the creation of an official Tangut script and by instituting laws that reinforced traditional cultural customs.
One of the laws he mandated called for citizens to wear traditional ethnic apparel and another required men to wear their hair short or shaved as opposed to the Chinese custom of wearing hair long and knotted. Rejecting the common Chinese surname of "Li" given to the Tuoba by the Tang court and that of "Zhao" given by the Song court, he adopted a Tangut surname, rendered as "Weiming", he made Xingqing his capital city. In the thirteenth century, Genghis Khan unified the northern grasslands of Mongolia and led his troops in six rounds of attacks against the Western Xia over a period of twenty-two years. During the last spate of the Mongol attacks, Genghis died in Western Xia territory; the official Mongol history attributes his death to illness, whereas legends claim that he died from a wound inflicted in these battles. In 1227, the capital of Western Xia was overrun by the Mongols, who devastated its buildings and written records: all was burnt to the ground except its monastery; the last emperor was killed and tens of thousands of civilians massacred.
However, many Tangut families joined the Mongol Empire. Some of them led e.g. Cha'an, into the conquest of China. After the Yuan dynasty was established, the Tangut troops were incorporated into the Mongol army in their subsequent military conquests in central and southern China; the Tangut were considered Semu under the Yuan class system, thus separating them from the North Chinese. As late as the Ming dynasty, there was evidence of small Tangut communities in Anhui and Henan provinces; the people including members of the royal clan emigrated to western Sichuan, northern Tibet possibly northeast India, in some instances becoming local rulers. The Tangut people living in Central China preserved their language until at least the 16th century; the Tanguts were Buddhists. Tangut Buddhism was influenced by external elements; the entire Chinese Buddhist canon was translated into the Tangut language over a span of 50 years and published around 1090 in about 3700 fascicles. Buddhism in the Tangut state is believed to be an amalgamation of Tibetan and Chinese traditions, among which the Huayan-Chan tradition of Guifeng