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The Western Xia, or Tanguts, were descendants of tribes forced to flee the northeastern Tibetan plateau towards the end of the 10th century. Although short-lived, at the kingdom’s height it encompassed an area composed of modern-day Gānsù, Níngxià, Shaanxi and western Inner Mongolia, and it even rivalled the Song and Liao dynasties. The Western Xia present such an enigma today because nearly all traces of their civilisation disappeared in one fell swoop – thanks to the Mongols, who supposedly obliterated them (and almost everyone else) in 1227. Nevertheless, if one were to believe Marco Polo, and more convincingly, archaeological evidence uncovered in Kharakhoto (near Ejin Qi, Inner Mongolia), it’s possible that some form of Western Xia culture existed for at least another hundred years.