Yinchuan is the capital of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, China, and historically it was the former capital of the Western Xia Empire of the Tanguts. It has an area of 4,467 km2 (1,725 sq mi) and a total population of 1.99 million. Its built up area is home to 1,290,170 inhabitants spread on three urban districts. The name of the city literally means "silver river".
Facing the Yellow River in the east, Yinchuan enjoys beautiful natural scenery and favorable conditions for agriculture and has long earned the fame of a "River Side City in the Northwest" and "Home to Fishes and Rice". Yinchuan is now the permanent site for China-Arab Expo which is an international platform for cultural and economic exchanges between China and Arab countries.
Yinchuan was originally a county under the name of Fuping in the 1st century BCE; its name was changed to Huaiyuan in the 6th century CE. After the fall of the Tang dynasty in 907, it was occupied by the Tangut Western Xia Empire and was made the capital of the empire, also causing a mass immigration of the entire native Chinese population from their newly proclaimed capital. After the destruction of the Xi-Xia dynasty by the Mongols in 1227, Yinchuan was mercilessly pillaged by the Mongols with its population totally slaughtered. The Mongols called the city Iryai.
With the collapse of their empire, the native Tanguts of Yinchuan completely assimilated into the Han population as Lan-Yin speakers and largely continued remaining in this city. Genghis Khan died here in 1227, in a battle. Under the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) dynasties, it was a prefecture of Ningxia. During the Dungan revolt, Dungan forces massacred 100,000 people in Yinchuan.
In 1928, when the province of Ningxia was formed from part of Gansu, it became the capital city. In 1954, when Ningxia province was abolished, the city was put in Gansu province; but, with the establishment of the Ningxia Hui autonomous region in 1958, Yinchuan once again became the capital.
Traditionally, Yinchuan was an administrative and commercial center. In the 1950s it had many commercial enterprises, and there were some handicrafts but no modern industry. The city has since grown considerably. Extensive coal deposits discovered on the eastern bank of the Yellow River, near Shizuishan, 100 km (62 mi) to the north, have made Shizuishan a coal-mining center.
Yinchuan, however, remains largely non-industrial. The immediate plains area, intensively irrigated by a system developed as long ago as the Han (206 BC–AD 220) and Tang (618–907) dynasties, is extremely productive. Yinchuan is the chief agricultural market and distribution center for this area and also deals in animal products from the herds tended by nomads in the surrounding grasslands. It is a market for grain and has flour mills, as well as rice-hulling and oil-extraction plants. The wool produced in the surrounding plains supplies a woolen-textile mill. Yinchuan is a center for the Muslim (Hui) minority peoples, who constitute a third of the population. Yinchuan currently serves as a major trade route between Western cities such as Ürümqi and the East.
On July 23 1993, China Northwest Airlines Flight 2119 crashed into a lake and broke apart while attempting its second takeoff. At least 59 of the 113 persons aboard the craft were killed.
Yinchuan lies in the middle of the Yinchuan or Ningxia Plain. It is sheltered from the deserts of Mongolia by the high ranges of the Helan Mountains to its west. The Yellow River runs through Yinchuan from southwest to northeast. The average elevation of Yinchuan is 1,100 meters (about 3,608 feet). The urban center of Yinchuan lies about halfway between the Yellow River and the edge of Helan Mountains.
Yinchuan has a cold desert climate (Köppen BWk) with an annual rainfall of 186 mm (7.32 in). Yinchuan has distinct seasons, with dry, cold winters, late springs and short summers. The monthly 24-hour average temperature ranges from −7.9 °C (17.8 °F) in January to 23.5 °C (74.3 °F) in July, with the annual mean at 9.00 °C (48.2 °F). Diurnal temperature variation tends to be large due to the aridity, which also partly contributes to the sunny climate; with monthly percent possible sunshine ranging from 63 percent in three months to 71 percent in November, the city receives 2,906 hours of bright sunshine annually. There are 158 frost-free days.