An Overview of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region
The Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, also called Ning for short, is one of China’s five autonomous regions for ethnic minorities. It has a population of 5.6155 million, more than one-third of whom are the Hui people while the rest being of 20 other ethnic groups, including Han, Manchu, Mongolia, Korea, and Dongxiang. Located in the eastern part of Northwest China, Ningxia borders Shaanxi Province in the east, Gansu Province in the south, and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in the north. Covering an area of 51,800 square kilometers, it features a diverse topography. It has the precipitous Helan Mountains in the northwest, the vast Tengger Desert in the west, the tree-carpeted Liupan Mountains in the south, and the Ordos Basin, about 1,100 meters above sea level, in the northeast.
Ningxia abounds in energy sources and enjoys exceptional advantages in coal and water conservancy. It greatly benefits from the Yellow River, which runs 397 kilometers through the autonomous region and irrigates more than 300,000 hectares of farmlands. Its major crops are wheat and rice, and its economic crops include sugar beet, medlar, sesame, melons and fruit. Its animal husbandry is prosperous. The Ningxia Beach Sheepskin has won a worldwide fame.
Ningxia has a long history. As early as the late Paleolithic Age, man began to live here. During the Qin Dynasty (221-206 B.C.), in order to defend the nation from the invasion of northern nomadic people, the emperor ordered the construction of the Great Wall in this area, and in order to develop agriculture, people dug channels and thus started Ningxia’s history of drawing water from the Yellow River for irrigation. Since then, Ningxia has been noted for its scenery that can match that south of the lower reaches of the Yangtze River. During the Song Dynasty (960-1279), Dangxiang Tribe rose and gradually expanded its strength to be equal to the Song. In 1038, its chieftain, Li Yuanhao, formally came to throne and founded the Xia Kingdom. He established capital in Xingqingfu (present-day Yinchuan), set up an official system, and created characters of its own. Occupying the northwestern regions, Xia confronted Song, Liao, and Jin for a period until 1227, when it was perished by Genghis Khan. During the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368), the court opened Ningxia Road here, starting the name of Ningxia. Then, the Ming court set Ningxia Defence, and the Qing court set Ningxia Prefecture. On October 25,1958, the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region was established. At present, it governs four prefecturelevel cities, two county-level cities, and 15 counties.
Home of the Hui ethnic group, Ningxia is widely inhabited by the Hui people, who are famous for their diligence, intelligence, and cleanliness. The Huis believe in Islam and strictly observe the religious customs. They mostly use the Han language, except for a few erudite imams who are well versed in Arabian language. In their daily speaking； they occasionally use a few Arabian or Persian words or phrases.
In Ningxia, mosques can be found in every large Hui communities.
Men of the Hui group like to wear white or black edgeless caps. In hot weather, they wear a white shirt inside and a black gown outside, with clear white-and-black distinction. Women cover their heads with veils, so as not to reveal their hair, ears, and necks. According to their ages and marital status, the veils vary in color. Generally, the elderly wear white veils and the middle- aged wear black veils, while young girls or single women wear green veils.
Yinchuan, the capital of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, is one of China’s famous historical and cultural cities, with a history of more than 1,300 years. As the capital of the ancient Western Xia Kingdom, Yinchuan preserves the Western Xia Mausoleums, the largest cultural heritage of Western Xia, which embraces a wealth of cultural relics both above and under the ground. In its urban districts, there are more than 100 mosques and many other Islamic structures.
Chengtian Temple Pagoda (Ningxia Museum)
Situated at the southwestern corner of the Xingqing District of Yinchuan, the temple has a history of more than 930 years and is a famous shrine of Buddhism. Featuring an ancient, simple design, the pagoda towers in the temple, with halls arranged in the front and behind. The Ningxia Museum in the temple displays the historical documents, Helan Mountain cliff paintings, and Hui folk customs.
Sea Treasure Pagoda
Situated 1.5 kilometers northwest of Yinchuan City, the pagoda towers inside a temple, which also houses Hall of Heavenly King, a bell tower, a drum tower, Treasure Hall of Great Hero, and Hall of Sleeping Buddha. The halls enshrine lifelike images of Buddhas, and the temple is permeated with curling incense smokes, resounding drum and ding, and monks’ scripture reciting.
South Gate Tower
The tower was originally a city gale of the capital of the Western Xia Kingdom and was renovated many times during the Ming and Qing dynasties. It stands in an imposing manner and features flying eaves and windows in four sides.
Located in the city proper of Yinchuan, the Drum Tower was built during the reign of Qing Emperor Daoguang (1821- 1850). It has three stories and features turnup eaves and multiple roofs. Between the red columns of its main structure is a wood-carved hollow-up screen, which is painted with figures, mountains/rivers, flowers, and birds.
Jade Emperor Tower
Located in the city proper of Yinchuan and first built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), the tower enshrines a bronze image of Jade Emperor; hence its name. In front of it is a garden named Ningyuan, which encompasses exquisite structures, rockeries, zigzagged paths, and inscribed tablets.
River Guard Pagoda
Situated 2.5 kilometers southeast of urban Lingwu, the pagoda was constructed at the same time with East Pagoda Temple; hence another name East Pagoda. Despite of weathering and warfare, it still stands in a majestic manner, resembling a huge pen.
Situated at the southeastern corner of the old town of Yinchuan, it was first constructed in the late Ming Dynasty. A typical Islamic architecture, it has a big green dome in the center, set off by four smaller domes at corners. On top of the central dome, there is a lantern in the shape of a crescent. All these compose a picture with religious flavor of Islam.
Situated in Najiahu Village in Yongning County, it was built in 1524 and is one of the oldest mosques in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. It embraces a huge worship hall, a moon-watching tower, wing rooms, a bath hall, etc. The halls are magnificently designed and orderly laid out.
Western Xia Mausoleums Tourist Zone
Covering 50 square kilometers at the eastern foot of the Helan Mountains 3.5 kilometers west of Yinchuan, the tourist zone is based on a cemetery composed of the imperial tombs of the Western Xia Kingdom. There is a large architectural ruin at the northern end and a kiln site on the eastern side. Each of the tombs embraces coffin chambers underground and has structures and gardens above the ground, occupying an area of more than 100,000 square meters.
Western Xia Mausoleums
Parallel with the 13 Ming Tombs in Beijing in scale, the mausoleum complex are burial place of the nine kings of Western Xia and 207 imperial relatives and meritorious officials who were buried together with the kings. Each of the mausoleums is a complete architecture, consisting of watchtowers, holy walls, stele pavilions, and sacrificial halls.
The Helan Mountains
Lying between Ningxia and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, the mountains look like a galloping horse viewed from afar and feature peaks upon peaks, one rising higher than another. The mountains are home for many precious and rare species of animals. Some 670 kinds of plants grow here, and may of them are unique to the Helan Mountains.
Cliff Paintings on the Helan Mountains
At the mountain foot of Helan some 50 kilometers from Yinchuan, there are tens of thousands of paintings carved by ancient nomadic tribes on cliffs and rocks, dating to 6,000 years ago. The paintings are mostly devoted to human faces, handprints, and hunting and sacrificing images, as well as various animals.
Pingluo Bell and Drum Tower
Situated at the center of the county seat of Pingluo, it was constructed in 1403. Based on a 13-meter-wide square foundation, the tower appears to be built in three stories but in fact has two stories, which are connected by a wood stairway. Eight beams reach to the top in the shape of character “人 ”.Each of the four corners of both stories contains two hidden corners.
Pingluo Jade Emperor Tower
Located in the county seat of Pingluo, it was constructed during the period from 1403 to 1424. Being expanded many times during the following dynasties, it finally became the largest Taoist temple in Ningxia. Featuring exquisite craftsmanship and an architectural style imbued with Chinese traditional culture, it is an outstanding ancient architectural complex.
Tianzhou Ancient Pagoda
Situated one kilometers east of Yaofu Township south of Pingluo County, it is a hexagonal, eight-tier brick pagoda, first built during the Western Xia period. With a simple design, it only has rafters, tile ridges, brackets, and carved decorations beneath its first tier of roof. The carvings are fine and delicate, unmatched among all the pagodas in Ningxia.
Northern Wudang Temple
Located southwest of Jiucaigou near the Helan Mountains, the temple was built in 1701. Along with Guitouguo cliff paintings, natural magnetic field, ancient Great Wall, Juren Kiln, and other natural scenic sites, it is an integral part of the Northern Wudang Tourist Zone.
Suyukou National Forest Park
Twenty-five kilometers northwest of Yinchuan, it boasts a sea of forest, with numerous species of trees. In spring, the Clove Valley is filled with blooming flowers, which emit fragrant aroma. In summer, the Sister Ravine forms nine bends and the forest of pines is something like a maze. Autumn and winter scenes are also attractive.
Baisikou Twin Pagodas
At the foot of the Helan Mountains, there used to be a summer palace of Li Yuanhao, the founding emperor of the Western Xia. The palace was destroyed, but a pair of brick pagodas, 100 meters apart to each other, still exist today. The east pagoda is shaped like an octagon at the bottom and has 13 stories, rising 39 meters. The west one has 14 stories and rises 41 meters in height.
Little Bell Mouth
Thirty-five kilometers northwest of the urban districts of Yinchuan, this landform resembles a lying bell, with mouth opening to the east and mountains on the other three directions. Inside the mouth, there is an isolated peak, like the clapper of the “bell.” There are also many temples, halls, and towers, all dating to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
Hua Xia West Movie & TV City
Its location, Zhenbeipu, northwest of Yinchuan, used to be a frontier garrison during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Since the 1980s, it has served as the shooting site for many famous films, including “Wrangler” and “Red Sorghum”. The ruins of yesterday’s castles have now become the raceway for Chinese rising film stars.
Hua Xia Rare Art City
Situated in Zhenbeipu, it is a comprehensive art city that displays miniature sights of world-famous mosques, ornament stones of the Western Xia Kingdom, and ancient coins, and integrates the cultures of the Western Xia, the Yellow River, and Islam.
Shahu (Sand Lake) Tourist Zone
Located 42 kilometers north of Yinchuan, it is a famous scenic zone that integrates water town sceneries of South China with desert landscapes of the north. It is a paradise for birds and fishes as well as a fairyland for tourists. Tens of thousands of birds of dozens of species, such as the white crane, black marabou, and swan, inhabit here. Its central scene is a vast lake, namely Sand Lake, which is set off by an expanse of desert to the south.
Shapotou Tourist Zone
Integrating desert, the Yellow River, mountains, and oasis, it is a state-class nature reserve Here, you can visit one of China’s largest sand-singing hills and the world’s first desert railway, travel through the Tenggeli Desert on camel back, drift along the Yellow River in a sheepskin raft, and enjoy the magnificent views at sunset.
Shapotou (Sand Slope)
Twenty-two kilometers west of the county seat of Zhongwei, Shapotou faces the Tenggeli Desert in the north and the Yellow River in the south and embraces an oasis in the center. It is a resort for sand sliding. While sliding from the top of the sand hill, tourists can hear awesome sound like that of drum and bell. Tourists can also ride camels to travel the depth of the Tenggeli Desert.
Yellow River Rafting
The Yellow River, dubbed as the cradle of the Chinese nation, flows through Ningxia in a length of 397 kilometers. Because of the special local topography, the river becomes gentle and mild as it enters Ningxia. Along both of its banks there are many typical cultural landscapes of the Yellow River, such as the ancient Great Wall and the mysterious Western Xia Mausoleums. It is a thrilling, yet safe, experience to drift along the river in a sheepskin raft.
Zhongwei High Temple
Situated in the county seat of Zhongwei, the temple was built during the reign of Ming Emperor Yongle (1403- 1424), so named because of its height. More than 260 structures were built on a platform which covers only 4,000 square meters. The entire architectural complex is sh叩ed like a phoenix spreading its wings.
Jinshui Tourist Zone
Only 13 kilometers from Yinchuan, it has been viewed as one of Ningxia’s Eight Famous Sites since ancient times. Here, the modern Yellow River Bridge stands in sharp contrast with the Hengcheng Ancient Castle, which was built in 1507. North of the Hengcheng Ancient Castle, there are sections of the Ming Great Wall, Han tombs, the Shuidonggou Paleolithic Site, etc.
Shuidonggou Paleolithic Site
Located at the foot of the Great Wall about 30 kilometers from the urban districts of Lingwu, the Shuidonggou Paleolithic Site is one of China’s first Paleolithic sites to be put into systematic excavation and research.
Qingtongxia Tourist Zone
Located in the central part of Hetao Plain, it is the source of Ningxia’s nine famous irrigation canals, which draw water from the Yellow River. Here, tourists can visit the Qing-dynasty Gongbao Palace, the ancient Great Wall, and the Birds Island, and enjoy the Western Xia cliff paintings and mild-temperature springs.
On the western slope of the Qingtongxia Dam, there is a complex of 108 pagodas, their age unknown. The pagodas face east and were constructed according to the gradient of the mountain. In Buddhism, it is believed that man has 108 kinds of worries. In order to get rid of the worries, Buddhist monks tend to wear a string of 108 beads and recite the scripture 108 times.
Liupanshan Tourist Zone
Located in the northern path of the eastern section of the ancient Silk Road in southern Ningxia, what is the Liupanshan Tourist Zone today used to be inhabited by multiple ethnic groups. The southern part of the tourist zone is the state-class Liupanshan Nature Reserve. The central part is a cultural zone. Centering around the Mt. Xumi Grottoes, the northern part congregates tourist sites, including Mt. Yuntai, Saozhu Ridge, Nanhuashan Pasture, and Jiangtaipu, where Red Army troops met in the Long March.
Located at the juncture of Ningxia, Gansu, and Shaanxi, the mountain is rarely visited upon by summer heat. In his military expedition to the Western Xia, Genghis Khan rehabilitated his troops here, and later, it was also here that he passed away. When the Red Army reached here in 1935 in its Long March, Mao Zedong composed a poem for the mountain.
Mt. Xumi Grottoes
Grottoes were discovered at the eastern foot of Mt. Xumi, 320 kilometers southeast of Yinchuan. Early in the Tang Dynasty, a large Buddhist temple was constructed here, and more than 100 grottoes were scattered around eight cliffs of the mountain. Today, more than 20 grottoes, scattered around five cliffs, are well preserved.
Located in the county seat of Guyuan, the museum is an archaized architectural complex, with a collection of more than 10,000 pieces of cultural relics. In addition to precious and rare articles unearthed from ancient tombs, it also collects Neolithic stone wares and jade wares and color potteries of the Yangchao, Majiayao, and Qijia Cultures.
In Huoshizhai Township in the northern part of Xiji County, red, purple cliffs, peaks, ridges, and rocks protrude from the Loess Plateau, presenting a fabulous landscape, which is called by geologists Danxia Landform. Because of the vast exposure of red sandstones, this area is named by the local people Huoshizhai (Flint Village).
Jingheyuan Scenic Zone
Located in Jingyuan County in the southern mountain area of Ningxia, the scenic zone combines the magnificence of North China with the delicacy of South China and is nicknamed “Oasis on the Loess Plateau.” Famous scenic sites include Lotus Garden, Old Dragon Pool, Double Dragon River, Liangdian Gorge, Shanan Gorge, Yanling Temple Grottoes, and Chengguan Mosque.
Jiangtaipu Monument of Army Meeting
About 30 kilometers southeast of the county seat of Xiji, Jiangtaipu first appeared as a city during the Qin Dynasty. The monument was erected in 1996 in honor of the successful meeting of Red Army’s three major forces during the Long March in 1936. The facade of the monument carries the inscription by the former state president Jiang Zemin.
Mt. Yuntai Grottoes
About 15 kilometers north of the county seat of Xiji, Mt, Yuntai features beautiful natural landscapes and rich historical heritages. Thirty 30 grottoes, which enshrine stone and bronze Buddha images, are scattered in Jade Emperor Tower, Great Buddha Hall, and All Saints Palace on the mountain. It is a precious heritage on the ancient Silk Road.
Binggou Han Tombs
About 40 kilometers from Yinchuan City, there are more than 100 mounds between the north bank of the Binggou Ditch and the east bank of the Yellow River. A tomb complex dating to the late Western Han and early Eastern Han period, it houses brick, wood, stone, and earth coffin chambers and is larger than any other discovered Han tomb complex in Ningxia.
The Great Wall
Home to sites of the Great Wall from the Qin through the Ming dynasties, Ningxia is reputed as “China’s Museum of the Great Wall.” During the Ming Dynasty, the Great Wall was known as “Frontier Wall”. The walls in the territory of Ningxia total 400 kilometers, of which the site of the Qin Great Wall
The Yellow River Tour (2 days)
Route: Lingwu Jinshui Tourist Zone — Qinglong Gorge Tourist Zone — Zhongning Medlar Orchard — Zhongwei Shapotou Tourist Zone
A Visit to the Ancient Great Wall (3 days)
Route: Sanguankou Ming Great Wall on the Helan Mountains — Yanchi Ming Great Wall — Qingtong Gorge Tourist Zone — Tongxin Mosque — Great Wall of the Warring States Period and Qin Dynasty in Guyuan
Desert Exploration (2 days)
Route: Yongning Shasheng Botanic Garden — Qingtong Gorge Tourist Zone — Zhongning Medlar Orchard — Zhongwei Shapotou Tourist Zone
Western Xia Mystery Tour (2 days)
Route: Western Xia Imperial Mausoleums — West Film and TV City — Baisikou Twin Pagodas — cliff paintings on the Helan Mountains — Rare Art City — Ningxia Museum
Shahu Lake Eco-tour (2 days)
Route: Guangxia Vineyard — Sightseeing Medlar Orchard and the Academy of Agricultural Sciences — Shahu Tourist Zone — Pingluo Jade Emperor Tower
Hui Ethnic Customs Tour (4 days)
Route: Yinchuan Nanguan Mosque — Najiahu Mosque — Lingwu Zhongbei Village — Tbngxin Mosque — Xiji Xinglong Hui families — Mt. Liupan Tourist Zone
Silk Road Traces Tour (4 days)
Route: Yinchun — Qinglong Gorge Tourist Zone — Zhongning Madlar Orchard — Zhongwei Shapotou Tourist Zone — Tongxin Mosque — Mt. Xumi Grottoes — Huoshizhai — Xiji Coins House — Haoshuichuan Ancient Battlefield — Mt. Liupan Tourist Zone — Guyuan Museum
Helan Mountains Adventure Tour (1 day)
Route: Western Xia Imperial Mausoleums — Gunzhongkou Forest Park — Zhenbeipu West Film and TV City — Baisikou Twin Pagodas — cliff paintings on the Helan Mountains — Suyukou State-class Forest Park
Mt. Liupan Summer Tour (4 days)
Route: Yinchuan — Guyuan Ancient Town — Mt. Liupan Tourist Area (Old Dragon Pool, Lotus Garden, Double Dragon River, Liangdian Gorge, Long March Memorial Pavilion) — Xiji Huoshizhai and its Danxia Landform — Jiangtaipu Monument of Red Army Meeting in Long March
Yinchuan Sightseeing and Shopping Tour (1 day)
Route: Guangming Square — Xinhua Antique Street — Nanguan Mosque — Haibao Pagoda — Chengtian Temple Pagoda — Pedestrian Street
Festivals and Other Activities
China Yinchuan International Motorcycle Tourist Festival
Time: June 16th to June 21th
Venue: Yinchuan City
Let Me to Be a Star Today
Time: all year
Venue: Zhenbeipu West Film and TV City
Yellow River Folk Customs Tour
Time: April to Nobember
Venue: Zhongwei County
Hui Customs Tour
Time: May to October
Venue: Zhongbei Village in Lingwu City and Xiakou Township in Qingtongxia City
China Ningxia Desert and Yellow River International Tourist Festival
Time: July 18th to 28th
Venue: Yinchuan City
Ningxia Shahu International Sand Sculpture Festival
Time: August 10th to 16th
Venue: Shahu Tourist Zone
Ningxia Shahu Dragon Boat Invitation Race
Time: July 20th to 26th
Venue: Shahu Tourist Zone
Jingyuan Hui Ethnic Customs Tourist Festival
Time: July 20th to August 30th
Venue: Jingyuan County
Ningxia Rare Stones Exhibition Fair
Time: August 16th to 21th
Venue: Hua Xia Rare Art City, Huaxi Village
Sweet and Sour Yellow-River Carp
The Yellow-River carp features tender flesh, rich protein, and delicious taste. The Sweet and Sour Yellow-River Carp is famous for being bright in color, crispy outside but tender inside, and pleasant in taste.
The meat of lambs aging between two and three months in Ningxia tastes better than that of lambs of other ages. It can be quick-fried, steamed, or stewed. If it is served together with locally produced medlar wine, the meat will gain a special flavor.
The cooked mutton is nice-looking and tender. To be served as cool dish, it should be j eaten with salt and seasoning oil. When eaten hot, it should be deep-fried and dipped in salt and powder of Bunge prickly ash.
Flavored Flour Strips
Cut the flour pancake, as thin as paper, into strips and add with shredded meat and cucumber as well as a variety of seasonings, including mustard, vinegar, and sesame oil. It has a mixed flavor: sour, spicy, and fragrant.