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Curtain Raised on Mysterious Ancient Ethnic Regime in NW China

The mystery of the ancient ethnic Xixia regime that once reigned over part of northwest China will be revealed as some 100,000 pages of historical documents of the regime collected in Russia become accessible to Chinese experts for the first time.

"We will get the complete copy of the Heishuicheng manuscripts collected in the St. Petersburg Branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies (IOS) of the Russian Academy of Sciences, all precious firsthand historical materials for the research on the history of the Xixia Dynasty (1038-1227)," said Du Jianlu, director of the research center of Xixia studies of Ningxia University, northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

A regime in northwest China, the Xixia Dynasty established by Dangxiang, a branch of the Qiang nationality, an ancient ethnic group in China, had been balancing the power of the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) in central China and the Liao Dynasty (916-1125)in northeast China, and then the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279)in south China and the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234) in central and northeast China respectively.

But the history of such an important regime remains a mystery to Chinese historians because of the lack of historical materials.

Unlike other regimes in China's history, Xixia has no official historical documents written by successive regimes as most evidence of the regime was destroyed by the Mongolian soldiers who overthrew the Xixia Dynasty after six invalid wars and later unified China again and established the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368).

At the beginning of the 20th century, Pyotr Koslov, a Russian commander, discovered the Heishuicheng city site in the desert of today's north China's Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, a desolated city of the Xixia Dynasty.

At the site, Koslov excavated a large amount of cultural relics and documents and sent them to Russia, among them the precious manuscripts on Xixia Dynasty.

"Now about 100,000 pages of documents of the Xixia Dynasty we recollected in Russia, covering 80 percent of the total documents unearthed by Koslov," said Jing Yongshi, a research member with the Academy of Social Sciences of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.

"For years, Chinese experts had to look for clues of the Xixia Dynasty from the less than 10 percent unearthed documents collected in China, which severely restricted China's Xixia studies," said Jing.

As for Jing as well as many Chinese historians on Xixia studies, access to all the 100,000 pages of Xixia collected in the IOS is a good news for them to see the real face of the mysterious dynasty.

The opportunity was obtained when China offered funds and experts for the repair of thousands of pages of the manuscripts collected in the IOS.

"The repair work will cost us three years and some 10 million yuan (1.2 million US dollars," said Wu Jianwei, director of Social Anthropology and Ethnology Research Institute with the Second Northwest University for Minorities in Ningxia.

Among those documents include the oldest typographic presswork and a large amount of manuscripts on politics, military affairs and culture of the regime.

"Those firsthand materials will be strong basis for writing a history of the Xixia Dynasty, as all documents of the regime collected in China are printing sutra," said Du Jianlu, director of the Xixia Research Center in Ningxia University.

Now the most strong evidence of the Xixia regime is the cone-shaped tombs in the northern desert of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. Also called the "Oriental Pyramids", those tombs are the destination of nine of all twelve emperors of the Xixia Dynasty.
(Xinhua News Agency April 21, 2004)

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