As we are always seeking new and unexplored areas of China, from Shanghai we flew North West to Yinchuan, capital of the mysterious region of Ning Xia Hui Autonomous Region, this is one of China’s smallest provinces, shaped like a phoenix and for its size and population Ningxia has a most varied topography － the Yellow River, Desert, Mountains and a fascinating and mysterious history. The word ‘Hui’ means that of the population of 6.5 million, one third are Chinese Muslims, and there are many small local mosques and medressehs.
I had wanted to visit this fascinating region since reading John Man’s account of Genghis Khan who is traditionally believed to have died in the Liu Pan mountains to the south of the Region.
In the environs of Yinchuan itself await the Valley of the Tombs of the mysterious Western Xia Dynasty, 108 Stupas laid out in a triangular form overlooking a tributary of the Yellow River, the rock paintings of Helan Mountains, remnants of the Great Wall – with Inner Mongolia on the other side, an underground garrison and site of a horse market dating from the Ming dynasty, an important Stone Age archaeological site at Shui Dong Gou, which was discovered and excavated by the French paleontologist and theologian Teilhard de Chardin in 1923 – exploratory digs continue today, not to mention the Yellow River and some of the planting and flood management works. There is also an open-air film studio, based on the ruins of two ancient forts.
The southern part of Ningxia was on the Silk Road – there are Buddhist Caves here, the Liu Pan Mountains & National Forest Park, traditional – and poor – Muslim villages, as well as sites associated with the Long March and China’s Revolutionary History.
There are very good flight connections to Yinchuan from the major cities in China and if you are interested in these esoteric aspects of Chinese history, a few days in Yinchuan could easily be combined with visits to other well-known cities of historic interest in northern and southern China.