6.1 million est. 2007 pop.66,000 square km

Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region is one of the smallest regions in terms of both population and size in China. It is home to the five largest ethnic groups in the country: Han Chinese (China’s majority ethnicity), Mongolians, Manchus, Tibetans (Zang) and Muslim Huis, for whom the region is named. Islam is the dominant religion; Ningxia has an estimated 3,000 mosques and has become a popular tourist destination.

One of China’s five ethnic minority Autonomous Regions (A.R.s), Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region is situated in the eastern part of northwest China, on the ancient Silk Roads route at the upper-middle reaches of the Huang (Yellow) River. It was officially designated as an autonomous region in 1958. The northern part of Ningxia Hui A. R. is surrounded by Inner Mongolia (also an Autonomous Region), and the southern part is bounded by Gansu Province; to the east is Shaanxi Province. The region is generally higher in the southern part, which is part of the Loess plateau, than the north. It has a temperate continental climate of long, cold winters and short, hot summers, with the temperature being lowest in January, averaging from ?10ºC to ?7ºC, and highest in July, averaging from 17ºC to 24ºC.

Ningxia has an area of more than 66,000 square kilometers, about the size of Sri Lanka. One-third of its population are Muslim Huis, for whom the region is named; the rest are Han Chinese (the country’s majority ethnicity), Manchus, Mongolians, and Tibetans (Zang). Islam is the dominant religion; Ningxia has an estimated three thousand mosques.

Livestock raising and agriculture are the major economic activities. Herbs and berries, such as the wolfberry (goji) are harvested for medical use; sheepskins and precious stones are among the region’s other natural resources.

Because of its altitude and cold weather, Ningxia’s natural conditions are relatively adverse. The central part of the region is dry land and desert. The Wulin plain, where most of the region’s agriculture is to be found, lies to the north, with the Huang (Yellow) River passing through it. The percentage of forest-covered land is only 4.85 percent and soil erosion is common. Several irrigation canals built during the Qin (221–206 BCE) and Han (206 BCE–220 CE) dynasties, taking advantage of the Huang’s waters, are still in use.

Indeed, water shortage is a big problem for Ningxia. It is one of the poorest regions of China; its precipitation is low, and water from rainfall evaporates quickly year around. To improve this situation, the central government has helped the Ningxia Autonomous Region build irrigation projects, which are expected to improve the ecosystem and natural environment of the dryland areas of Ningxia.

Ningxia’s population distribution is uneven geographically, and so is its economic development level. In the better-irrigated areas in the north, the land is relatively densely populated, whereas in the dryland areas and high altitude areas of the south, population is sparse and the living standard is lower.

Yinchuan, with an estimated 2006 population of 1.42 million, is the capital and the political and economic center. Its history of more than 1,300 years and more than sixty historical sites, including mosques, pagodas, pavilions, temples, and imperial tombs, make it a popular tourist destination. The Hui people make up an estimated one-quarter of the city’s population.

Further Reading

Chinaculture.org. (n.d.). Retrieved July 26, 2008, from http://www.chinaculture.org/gb/en_map/2003-09/24/content_21689.htm

China Handbook Editorial Committee. (1992). Geography, China handbook series (Liangxing Liang, Trans.). Beijing: Foreign Language Press.

Hsieh, Chiao-Min& Luu, Max. (Eds.). (2001). Changing China: A geographical appraisal. Boulder CO: Westview Press.

Kirk, M. (Ed.). (2009). China by numbers 2009. Hong Kong: China Economic Review Publishing.

Source: Bai, Di. (2009). Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. In Linsun Cheng, et al. (Eds.), Berkshire Encyclopedia of China, pp. 1615–1616. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing.

Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region (Níngxià Huízú Zìzhìq? ???????)|Níngxià Huízú Zìzhìq? ??????? (Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region)

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