Yinchuan, the capital of the Ningxia Hui
Autonomous Region, is an often-overlooked city that
is irrigated by the mighty Yellow River amidst the arid
landscape of China's dry northwest.
The thin Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in
China's stark northwest is surrounded by Gansu in the
south and Inner Mongolia tothe north. 20% of China's
Hui Muslimminority lives in this region, giving Ningxiathe
nickname "the Muslim Region." The Huiminority
originated from the Silk Road, which brought Central
Asian traders to China during the Tang dynasty andsucceeding
waves of migration enriched andenlarged this population.
Recently Yinchuan has been divided into
three quarters linked by a 25km road, though locals
refer to the city as if it's divided into two. The western
section is the new city while the eastern quarter is
the old city. The new city is where the train station
is located, but the majority of sights and hotels are
located in the old city in the east. Though most people
use Yinchuan as a transit point for further adventures
into Inner Mongolia, the city has enough personality
and interesting sights to hold its own.
Making up 28% of the city's population,
the Hui influence throughout the city is obvious. Whether
it's the Arabic domes of the city mosque rising above
the low skyline or the smell of roasted lamb wafting
through the market stalls, there's no mistake that Yinchuan's
heritage is as much Central Asian as Chinese. The old
city still manages to retain a sleepy pace with old
men wearing their white skullcaps sporting long wispy
beards sipping tea along the sides of the road.
The laidback city with its tree-lined streets,
it's melding of Hui and Han ethnic culture belies the
chaotic history of the region. Once a region of various
feuding kingdoms offering nominal loyalty to the Tang
then Song dynasties, the area came under the powerful
rule of the Western Xia kingdom from AD 1032 to 1227.
Lead by Li Yuanhao, an ethnic Turgut, he established
the Western Xia as a regional power in the northwest
that developed its own distinct writing and culture.
Unfortunately Genghis Khan, who initially sought the
kingdom as an ally, didn't take rejection with grace.
To his chagrin, his attempts at invasion were repelled
six times, with the final campaign proving fatal. He
did survive long enough to give the final order to raze