West Xia Imperial Tombs – Yinchuan, China - Atlas Obscura

West Xia Imperial Tombs

Yinchuan, China

China's beehive-shaped pyramids house the remains of a lost kingdom. 


Egypt is the biggest bully in the ancient architectural world. Every other set of pyramids in the world is simply expected to kneel down and kiss the Great Pyramid of Giza’s feet. It’s just not fair. Other rulers were buried in extravagant tombs and vast burial complexes. Some of these alternate pyramids were even in more interesting shapes, and it’s high time we gave them our attention.

The West Xia Imperial Tombs, are shaped like giant beehives and dot the valleys of the region. In the entire tomb area, there are 9 massive mausoleums, along with 250 lesser tombs. The mausoleums hold the remains of the imperial leaders of the Western Xia Dynasty.

Beginning in 1038, the Xia Dynasty was extremely powerful until 1227 when Genghis Khan and his Mongol armies swept in from the North, wiping out any trace of the former empire.

Due to their quick and violent demise, research is only just beginning on the Xia Dynasty. In 1972, the first pyramid mausoleums were discovered in the area and most are still not fully excavated. From completed digs, researchers have learned that the main mausoleum belonged to the first emperor of the Western Xia, who died in 1048.

Although the process has been slow, continued excavation is planned for the 20 square-mile area. Archeologists may even dig up a pyramid that could rival its more famous cousins in Egypt.


Know Before You Go

25 km from Yinchuan with buses departing from Beimen Bus Station at 8:30 and 9:30

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