The period 1038-1227 saw the rise and fall of the Western Xia, an empire founded by an ethnic nomadic clan that was locked in armed confrontation with the Song, Liao and Jin dynasties. Its territory extended east to Shanxi and Gansu, west to Yumen, north to the gobi deserts, and south to the Jishi Mountain. The present-day Yinchuan, known as Xingqing Circuit, was the capital of the Western Xia.
The clan was none other than the noble Dangxiang family of the Topa Tartars. Its leader, Li Yuanhao, had an altar built in Xingqing Circuit and a holy ceremony held on it to proclaim himself king of the Western Xia in 1038. The dynasty, ruled by a total of ten kings, was powerful enough to confront the other two powers, the Song and the Liao, for almost two centuries.
This influential kingdom, however, remains something of an age-old enigma, owing to the fact that it is seldom mentioned in Chinese history books. Only a small number of artefacts are extant to testify for the kingdoms splendid culture.