Emperor Jingzong of Western Xia

Emperor Jingzong of Western Xia

Emperor Jingzong of Western Xia (1003 - 1048), born Li Yuanhao ( _zh. 李元昊), was the first emperor of the Western Xia Empire located in northwestern China, reigning from 1038 to 1048. He was the eldest son of the Tangut ruler Li Deming.

Early Background

As a youth Jingzong was physically imposing yet also possessed a love of learning; he knew both the Tibetan and Chinese languages. Being a voracious reader, he was knowledgeable regarding matters of law and military strategy and also knew how to paint. After his father died in 1032, he became the leader of the Tangut.

Military Campaigns

Early on in his leadership, Jingzong discarded the sunames Li and Zhao which had been given by the Tang and Song dynasties, replacing them with the surname Weiming (Chinese: 嵬名). He took an aggressive stance with the Song dynasty, and they described him as "a vigorous and persevering leader versed in military strategy." At its height he claimed an army of 500,000 men.

In 1034 Jingzong attacked the Huanqing territories. He was largely successful in these expeditions and captured Song general Qi Zongju. At this point he changed his target to the Uyghur peoples of the West, and his efforts against them began in 1036.

These campaigns proved to have more meaningful success. From the Uyghurs he took large portions of Gansu. The success of these efforts proved fairly permanent as well. The Tangut people would hold the Hexi corridor for 191 years.

In 1038 he declared himself the emperor of the Western Xia Dynasty whose capital was situated in Xinqing. Afterwards he launched a campaign against the Song. Although the Tangut empire won a series of three large battles, the victories proved to be very costly and they found their forces depleted, due in part to a scorched earth policy by the Song. In 1044 the Tangut Empire signed a treaty with the Song dynasty resulting in the nominal acknowledgment of Song sovereignty by the Tangut and the payment of tribute by the Song.

Culture and Politics

The Emperor led to a reorganization of much of the Empire with the help of Chinese advisors. The Empire created new departments and administrative services. The Emperor also knew Chinese and had Chinese works translated into his people's language. He accomplished this by supporting the development of a written language for the Tangut people. (This development of new writing, however, would lead to immense headaches for historians, as very few people can understand the writing.)

Neverthess Emperor Jingzong had strong opposition to the people imitating the Chinese too closely. He emphasized the value of their traditional nomadic way of life and discouraged any dependence on Chinese luxury items. Trade with the Song was minimized or cut off before the peace treaty that came four years before his death. The use of Chinese talents was not to lead to sinicization.

Succession and Death

Jingzong was murdered in 1048 by his son, who cut off his nose and failed to kill him, but the wound would cause him to die of bacterial infections.


*"The Ageless Chinese" by Dun J. Li

External links

* [http://www.uglychinese.org/xixia.htm Xixia.htm]
* [http://www.china10k.com/english/history/5/53/53.htm The Western Xia]

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