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Home Chinese Cities and Province Information Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region

China City and Province
Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region

Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region*

Ningxia location, location map of Ningxia
Ningxia Location

Area: 6.6000 square 66,000 square km
Population:  6.1 million (2008)
Population % of Hui 33.88% (2002)
Capital City: Yinchuan
Local Time:  
* What's the "Autonomous Region"?
Geography of Ningxia
Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region is situated in the west part of the Yellow River Bend, which bordering on Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, Shaanxi Province and Gansu Province. It has an area of 66,000 square kilometers, most of which is mountains and highlands. There are 30 nationalities: Hui, Han, Mongolian, Manchu, etc, with population of 6.1 million (2008), of which Hui people accounts for 33.88%. With Yinchuan City as its capital the Region has two prefectures, two cities and 16 counties under its jurisdiction.
Ningxia Climate
As it is inland, the Region enjoys a temperate continental semi-moist and arid climate. The annual temperature averages 5°C to 10°C (41°F  to 59°F). The frost-free period in a year is 100 to 162 days. The annual rainfall varies from 190 to 700 mm.
Brief History of Ningxia
Ningxia became an administrative region during the Qin and Han dynasties known as North Prefecture. During the period of the Song dynasty, it was split into two parts, one was controlled by the Song ruler, and one became part of a minor state Western Xia independent of Song sovereignty. In the Yuan Dynasty it was restored to the status of prefecture. In the Ming dynasty it was upgraded to the status of Wei directly controlled by the central government while in the Qing dynasty it was degraded by two grades administratively, assuming the status of Fu. In 1928 it was upgraded again to provincial level. 1958 it was restructured and named as Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region following the policy applying to regions where the minority nationalities inhabit.
Ningxia Local Products
The practice of introducing the Yellow River which traverses the Plain for irrigation by digging canals was carried out as early as 2,000 years ago by the local inhabitants, known as one of the oldest irrigated area in China. There are sayings: “The Region is the only area benefited by the Yellow River while the rest along its courses suffered from its frequent flooding due to the river bed getting higher exceeding the banks caused by the accumulated deposit of the huge amount of sand rushed down from the upper reaches.” “It is the richest region along the Yellow River” and “Its land is as fertile as the southern valley in the lower reaches of the Yangtze River, one of the most productive areas in China.” After 1949, the top priority in farmland investment was to repair and built irrigation and drainage projects. The completion of the Bronze Gorge Power Dam, a key project, has greatly improved the water and power supply. With the old canals straightened and new ones added the acreage of the irrigated area has been expanded, water-logging areas controlled and the areas of saline-alkali reduced to a considerable extent.

Its farm produce has wheat, the major crop, mostly grown in the Yellow River irrigated area, rice and sorghum grown in the Plains accessible to irrigation and corn and millet grown highlands. Among the cash crops are sesame, hemp, leaf mustard, rape and sugar beet. The wolfberry, a kind of medicinal herbs, has high reputation on world market. It is also known for its sheep raising, being an important supplier of sheep fur both for home and world market. The Chinese wolfberry together with sheep fur, liquorice root, facia and Helan stone listed as Ningxia’s five specialties or the five treasure described as “red, yellow, white, black and blue” because of their respective colors.
Ningxia Local Cuisine
There is a variety of restaurants in the capital of Ningxia. Some of them specialise in local dishes. Lamb, Ningxia’s famous traditional food, is very tender and cooked in different ways such as lamb braised in soy sauce, lamb steamed in clear soup and so on. These dishes are so tasty that they are served on festivals and at dinner parties. In addition to the local cuisine, Beijing, Islamic and many other kinds of foods are available.
Places of Interests and Tourist Attractions of Ningxia
Yinchuan, the region capital, is a beautiful ancient city having the Helan Mountains to its west and the Yellow River to its east. Nestling in luxuriant greenery it looks like a piece of green jade inlaid on the Ningxia Plains. Yingchuan area is one of the places where the ancient culture of the Yellow River Valley came into being.

Sea Treasure Pagoda, nicknamed the North Pagoda or the Black Pagoda, stands in the courtyard of the Treasure Pagoda Temple in the northern suburb of the city. It is a 54-metre high square structure of brick in classical Chinese style. It has II stories inclusive of base. From the first to the ninth floor on each of the four sides there is an arched opening which protrudes slightly. The pagoda is unique in style having clear lines, sharp angles, and rich inlaid works. Inside there is wooden stairway leading to the ninth floor which provides an ideal place for a bird’s-eye view. Although little is known about the year when it was first built, it is said that the pagoda was rebuilt by the ruler of the Western Xia in the fifth century A.D. Now it is a top rank relic to be protected by the central government.

The Heavenly Pagoda of Longevity is located in the south-western corner of the old city of Yingchuan, commonly known as the West Pagoda. Built in 1050, it is a brick pagoda in octagonal shape having 11 stories and a spiral staircase inside leading to each floor. Nowadays this ancient pagoda surrounded by trees and flowers houses the Ningxia Museum.

The Helan Mountain lies to the northwest of Yingchuan. They stretch over 200 kilometres from north to south and 15 to 50 kilometres from east to west. Lofty and precipitous, there are natural barriers of the west part of the Yingchuan Plain. At the east foot of the mountains, lie places of historic interest with beautiful scenery such as the Tombs of Rulers of the Western Xia, Helan Temple, the Mosque, etc, all of which are nice summer resorts.

Xumi Mountain Grottos, at the northern end of the Liupan Mountain range, are situated at the east food of Xumi Mountain, 60 kilometres northwest of Guyuan County. The high mountains and craggy rocks offer an excellent place for building grottos for the followers of Buddhism to retire to. Building grottos here was started in the North Dynasty and carried on in successive dynasties. There are 20 well preserved grottos now. They are an important heritage of grotto art in China.

Liupan Mountain lies in the south part of this region. The southern part of the mountain is called Longshan which stretches from north to south for about 240 kilometres. The paths in the mountain are full of twists and turns. The ancient winding mountain path up to the top has six hairpin bends, so it is called Liupan Mountain (six Bends Mountain). The main peak is about 2,900 metre high. The summit is round. The step-like slope is very steep. Liupan Mountain looks especially magnificent in the autumn when “The sky seems high with few clouds”. The temperature in the mountain is comparatively low while the rainfall is abundant. So there is a saying “autumn comes when spring’s gone, hot summer never comes along. In the April, snow flakes glitter like silver flowers.” In October 1935, Mao Zedong wrote a glorious poem “Liu Pan Shan” when he led the Red Army across the mountain on the Long March.

A Hundred and Eight Pagodas at Bronze Gorge are built on the steep slope of the west bank of the Yellow River at Bronze Gorge. A huge triangle is formed by these pagodas arrange in 12 rows, offering a spectacular view. Below these pagodas, there is a big dam across the roaring Yellow River with a lake created by the dam. Sailing on the lake, visitors can enjoy the wonderful scene of the lake and gorge with 108 pagodas on its slope.

Shapotou Scenic Spot at Zhongwei County lies on the edge of Tenger Desert. Shapotou is world famous not only its own natural beauty but also the great successes achieved in bringing desert under control in the area. There is a sand hill over a hundred metres high. It is as steep as a waterfall. If one slides down the slope from the top, a loud bell-like sound can be heard. So it is called “Golden Bell Sand”. After enjoying the “Golden Bell Sand” visitors can take a ride on a sheep skin raft on the river or ride on a camel roving around the desert. Staying here over night, visitors can watch and enjoy the beautiful sunset and the sunrise the next morning. There is an old waterwheel and the Gaomiao Temple which is the Holy Land for followers of Buddhism, Taoism and Cofucianism.

The Tombs of the Rulers of the Western Xia is situated at the east foot of the Helan Mountain, 40 kilometres west of Yinchuan City. There are eight tombs of the rulers and more than 70 tombs of sacrificial victims covering a wide area. Each of the tombs is a complete architectural complex. The halls above the ground are in ruins, but the mourning platforms and sacred walls remain in imposing style.
Cities in Ningxia




Related Report Links of Ningxia
  Ningxia Related Report
Journey to the west - At the edge of the Tengger Desert, the undulating sand dunes extending far into the horizon bring to mind exotic Africa. But this is actually the Ningxia Hui autonomous region, neighboring the Tibetan and Xinjiang Uygur autonomous regions. While China's westernmost regions are familiar to most rugged travelers, few know that Ningxia offers a similar adventure and cultural-immersion experience, but without the distance and special travel-permit requirements.

Getting to Ningxia is an expedition in itself. The red and green painted trains, among the oldest in China's vast rail network, carry passengers to Yinchuan, capital of the autonomous region. On these trains, basic amenities such as toilet paper and soap are sparse, but flying to Yinchuan is an option, it costs three times more.

ningxia map, ningxia tour

I decided to save the luxury for my return. Going there, I decided that I would try to get a firsthand feel of the cross-country migration of a worker from the west.

What to pack for a three-day camel trek in the Tengger Desert, I wondered. The closest city to my journey's starting point was Zhongwei, a place never mentioned in any major weather forecast. On the Internet, estimates for day and nighttime temperatures ranged from zero to 30 deg C. I filled my bag with layers of summer and winter clothing.

The train for Yinchuan leaves Beijing West Station in the early afternoon and arrives at its destination 19 hours later. The "hard sleeper" train, a barrack-style compartment, looked like a village on wheels. Passengers played cards ceaselessly, ate pan-friend sunflower seeds, and watched train attendants hawk goods in the aisles.

The Ningxia autonomous region is home to the Hui people, a Muslim minority comprising one-third of the local population. Yinchuan is small for a capital city, with less than 1.5 million residents and only four registered English-speaking tour guides. While the Tengger Desert is the chief tourism draw, there are several cultural sites around Yinchuan that are also worth exploring.

At the Western Xia Imperial Tombs (Xixia Wang Ling), one can see what remains of the Tangut emperors who ruled the region from 1038. The tombs are located less than an hour's drive west of Yinchuan. Nine imperial tombs and 70 odd accompanying tombs dot an area of 40 square kilometers. These enormous mound-shaped structures rise abruptly from the dry flat terrain, earning them the moniker "Chinese pyramids".
There is little in the way of signage at the tomb site, but a small and surprisingly well-appointed museum nearby educates visitors on the Western Xia Empire's position on the Silk Road and its fall to the Mongol leader Genghis Khan.

An entirely different kind of historical and cultural experience awaits travelers at the West China Zhenbei Film Studio. Zhenbei was once a border fortification. Over time, the village fort lost its military value and was used to produce steel during the "Great Leap Forward" (1958-60). In the 1980s, the Chinese film industry rediscovered this sprawling tract of land. Classic films, such as Zhang Yimou's career-launching Red Sorghum, were shot at Zhenbei and the iconic sets used in this film remain standing to this day.

Visitors can experience different eras of Chinese history at Zhenbei. The most popular - and morbid - of the studio sets is the Cultural Revolution Alley. Here, 1960s-style buildings are covered with slogans and murals. Gleeful tourists rent khaki uniforms, wield prop rifles, and stage mock "denunciation sessions", filmed by hired camera crews. Watching live reenactments of such distressing incidents can be disconcerting to the foreign traveler, but it does serve to give a glimpse into the conflicting mix of forgiveness, nostalgia, and amnesia that pervades modern China.

After the film studio, a visit to Helan Mountain can be a welcome respite. This national cultural-heritage site is home to nomadic cave paintings dating back 3,000 to 10,000 years. Despite fanciful names - such as "Lion Roaring" and "Crouching Tiger" - the images are small and scattered around a large park area. But anthropological value aside, the paved park trail and jagged mountain peaks make for a scenic hike.

A day of sightseeing around Yinchuan is best rounded off with a halal Chinese dinner. Dining options are modest, but many Muslim-friendly restaurants serve healthy fare, featuring plenty of leafy greens. There is little nightlife, besides the Chinese staple of karaoke. But this is just as well, as an early bedtime is good preparation for the three-day desert trek ahead.

The portion of the Tengger - China's fourth largest desert - accessible to travelers in Ningxia sits on the outskirts of Zhongwei city, a three-hour drive southwest of Yinchuan.

"Tengger" means "sky" in Mongolian, evoking an image of sky meeting sand on the desert horizon. Indeed, when my van finally stopped on a two-lane road, the awesome scene in front of me reminded me of the rich tableaux of Latvian-born American Mark Rothko's paintings.

As our caravan of camels, their caretakers and adventurers set off, the Tengger Desert spread out before us like an endless yellow blanket. Its dunes and valleys appeared soft and welcoming in the distance. The camels walked languorously, swaying from side to side and occasionally slipping on a sheer sandy cliff, but steadying quickly thanks to their thickly padded hooves.

Their minders, local farmers who had found in camel tourism a better way to make a living, walked beside them. Over the three days we spent together, I only saw the tanned and good-natured guides ride these animals to lead them to the grazing areas.

The colors and moods of a desert scene are intense and pure and present a wide variety. In calm moments, the blue sky and sandy earth gave the Tengger the appearance of a faraway dry beach. During high noon, the quiet heat lulls all living creatures to sleep under any available shade. At other times, furious winds blow up sheer panes of sand, forcing travelers to shield themselves behind kerchiefs and hats.

We spent the days just wandering around the desert and I suspected that by day two, the guides were leading us on lateral laps instead of further into the desert. Despite this, the scenery was ever changing and continually breathtaking.

When the sky began darkening to a velvety blue, the guides led us to sheltered valleys. Everyone busied with preparations for the night: pitching tents, gathering firewood, and arranging sitting rugs around the campfire. As the moon shone whiter and brighter, we huddled close to fight off the biting cold. The camel guides, quiet during the day, became loquacious, entertaining us with beer and drinking games. Soon, a multilingual round-robin of love songs echoed through the dunes.

By early afternoon on the third day, we were led out of the Tengger Desert. As Zhongwei's smoke stacks and narrow roads came into view, I felt myself longing for a hot shower, a chance to shake out the sand from my clothes, and a real meal.

Yet, I lingered when saying goodbye, to take in the serene beauty of the desert and enjoy the humble hospitality of my guides a while longer.

(Source: China Daily 2010-05-20)

 China's Administrative Divisions
4 Municipalities

23 Provinces

5 Autonomous Regions

2 Special Administrative Regions (SAR)


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