Ningxia is the province that most travellers will ignore – it doesn’t seem to have the appeal of the deserts and mountain ranges that its neighboring provinces has. Despite this, however, Ningxia is an amazing piece of China that shouldn’t be overshadowed – it has a unique appeal that shines brightly on its own.
This is the land of the Western Xia kingdom which rose up from 1038 – 1227 to dominate an enormous portion of the northwest, its legacy still apparent. Today, the region is home to a large percentage of the Hui, the Muslim descendants of the Persian traders who settled in China during the Tang Dynasty, making the province a chance for travellers to get to know the other ethnic groups in the country.
With a population of one million, this was where the Western Xia kingdom flourished and spread out from. This kingdom, although very powerful, remained something of a mystery for historians as much of their civilization vanished within such a short time.
Come here to visit the Ningxia Provincial Museum to get a sense of the region’s history; the North Pagoda with its 2m tall incense sticks; the Nanguan Mosque with its beautiful style of architecture, before heading off to the highlight of this city – the Western Xia Tombs. This is where the rulers of the Western Xia kingdom were entombed.
Coming to this city is a haven from the hustle and bustle of other Chinese cities – for a large place it is very relaxed. There are some wonderful attractions here – the Gao Temple is a must-see. It is unique as at one point or another, it was used for by Buddhists, Confucianists and Daoists.
For something different, go outside of town to Shapotou. This is a beautiful place, where the desert meets lush farmlands; it is a desert amusement park with camel rides, bungee jumps, zip lines, sand sled and so many more. Fantastic!
The only reason to come to this little town is for the beautiful Buddhist grottos of Xumi Shan; 132 caves had been cut out during the Northern Wei dynasty with around 300 Buddhist statues inside. This is a truly spiritual place.
These gigantic ridges protect the neighboring towns and villages from the harsh desert winds and, in centuries past, invaders. On the ridges you will find scattered graves taking advantage of the good feng shui positioning. You will find many cultural attractions here – the historic village of Gunzhongkou, the Twin Pagodas of Baisikou, the Suyukou National Forest Park, the rock carvings (which are said to be over 10,000 years old) and the Western Film Studios. The views from here are simply breathtaking.