|The Tangut Empire (literally "Western
Xia") was an empire that existed from 1032 up to 1227 in what
are now the northwestern Chinese provinces of Gansu, Shaanxi, and
Ningxia. It was populated by Tangut tribes and spoke Tangut. Established
in the 11th century, it flourished through the early 13th century
until conquest by the Mongols. Occupying the area along the trade
route between Central Asia and the West, the Tangut were neighbors
to Northern China, controlled by Song China and, later on, the Jurchen
The English name "Tangut" comes from the Mongolian name
for the country Tang . The Chinese name is Xi-Xia , literally "Western
Xia", and thus that name is often used in Sinological literature.
The Tanguts called their own state "phiow1-bjij2-lhjij-lhjij2"
which translates as "The Great State of the White and the Lofty".
After coming under millitary pressure from the Tibetan Empire some
Tangut tribes submitted to Tang China under Emperor DeZong in 799.
The Tanguts who submitted were moved to the Ordos region near Ningxia,
whereas those who stayed, accepted Tibetan political dominance,
and became known in Chinese as Mi-yao.
The Tanguts remained loyal to the Tang during the revolt of Huang
Chao, but established de-facto independence when Tang fell in 906.
They retained their de-facto independence throught the Five Dynasties
period. During this period, their chieftain had the title of Dingnan
Jiedushi and nominally remained under the Five Dynasties. Emperor
Mingzong of Later Tang made an unsuccessful attempt to conquer Dingnan
in 932 after believing incorrectly that Dingnan was about to enter
an alliance with Liao.
The foundation of a Tangut state as such goes back to the year
982 under Li Deming . However, it would not be until 1038 that the
Tangut chieftain Li Yuanhao Li Deming's son, who also ordered the
creation of a Tangut writing system and the translation of Chinese
classics into Tangut, named himself emperor, and demanded of Song
emperor the recognition as an equal. The Song court accepted the
recognition of Li Yuanhao as 'governor', but not like 'emperor',
that title considered exclusive to the Song emperor. After intense
diplomatic contacts, in 1043 the Tangut state accepted the recognition
of the Song emperor as emperor in exchange for an annual tribute,
which supposed a tacit recognition on the part of the Song of the
military power of Tangut.
The Tanguts and the Mongols
The Mongol Empire campaigned six time against the Tanguts (1202,
1207, 1209-10, 1211-13, 1214-19, 1225-26).
In 1207 Li An-ch'uan submitted to the Mongols, and gave his daughter
to ?inggis Qa?an (commonly known as Genghis Khan) in marriage. Li
An-ch'uan abdicated, and then died, in 1211.
The Mongols asked their allies and tributaries for military aid
in the campaign against the Islamic countries, although the Tangut
emperor Li Zunxu was willing, his court and in particular his general
A?a-gambu recommended against it. When ?inggis Qa?an returned from
his campaign the new emperor Li Dewang pled with him, but the general
A?a-gambu challenged ?inggis. The emperor Dewang died during the
fighting and was succeeded by Li Xian, the last of the Tangut rulers.
Li Xian sued for peace, which was accepted, but he was then executed
by Tolui the son of ?inggis, and the Tangut state was fully incorporated
into Mongolian administration. (cf. Kwanten 1974)