Xining Culture

Xining Culture introduces Xining Culture Tour information about People, Language, Costumes, Cuisine, Festivals, Song and Dance, Traditional Crafts, Architecture, Museums, Religion, Historical Sites, Traditional Villages, Intangible Cultural Heritages and Inheritors of Intangible Cultural Heritages.

Xining is located at the junction of the Loess Plateau and the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. It is a multi-ethnic city, with its cultural and artistic development has strong national and local characteristics. Traveling in Xining, you may feel strong cultural atmosphere of Muslims and Tibetans, as well as the ethnic culture of Tu and Hui nationalities.

History of Xining

Xining has a history of over 2100 years and was a chief commercial hub on the Hexi Corridor caravan route to Tibet, handling especially timber, wool and salt in ancient times. The trade along the Hexi Corridor was part of a larger trade corridor along the Northern Silk Road, whose use was intensified in the 1st century BC after efforts by the Han Dynasty to control this route.

Under the Han dynasty (206 BC–220 AD) a county there called Linqiang controlled the local Qiang tribesmen. It was again a frontier county under the Sui (581–618) and Tang (618–907) dynasties; during the 7th and early 8th centuries it was a center of constant warfare with the Tuyuhun and (later) the Tibetan peoples. In 763, it was overrun by the Tibetans and while under Tibetan control was known to the Chinese as Qingtangcheng. Recovered by the Song dynasty in 1104, it received the name Xining (meaning "peace in the west") and has been the seat of a prefecture or superior prefecture under that name since that time. In the late 16th century, the Ta'er Monastery was founded some 19 km (12 mi) to the southeast, establishing Xining as an important religious center for the Yellow Hat sect of Buddhists.

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People in Xining

Xining is located on the eastern edge of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. It is the political, economic, cultural and traffic center of Qinghai Province with an average altitude of over 2,200 meters. It has a population of just over 2 million people, most of which are from the Han, Hui, Tu, and Tibetan ethnic groups, although the city is home to 36 of China’s ethnic minorities. There are about 37 nationalities living here, though only the Han, Hui, Monguor/Tu and Tibetan are numerically significant. Local traditions and customs are influenced by the Tibetans, Monguor, Muslims and Han. On 2010 Census numbers, Han Chinese represent 74.04 percent of the total population of Xining, while Hui (16.26 percent), Tibetan (5.51 percent) and Tu (2.6 percent) are the main minority groups in the city.

Religion Culture in Xining

Xining is the largest city in Qinghai and a charming mix of Islamic and Tibetan Buddhist culture. Muslims gather for prayer at the Dongguan Great Mosque, and Buddhists have several prominent monasteries from which to choose. 

Tibetan Buddhism

Owing to its territorial connection to Tibet, there are many Tibetans living in Xining, Qingai. Therefore, Tibetan Buddhism has its large group of followers.  Located in the southwest part of Xining City, the Kumbum Monastery or Taer Monastery is one of six famous monasteries in the Gelug (also called Yellow Hat Sect) of Tibetan Buddhism and has hundreds of monks.

Han Buddhism

Another branch of Buddhism, Han Buddhism in Xining also has its place.  Nanchan (Southern Zen) Temple, a Han Buddhism temple, is also an ancient temple in Qinghai province. It is well preserved. The whole ancient building complex is centered on Guandi Temple, located on the foot of Fenghuang Mountain in Xining. It is built on the mountain with exquisite layout. Although it is located in a busy city, it is quiet in the midst of the noise.


Islam is another major religion in Xining, ranked equal to the Tibetan Buddhism. With its substantial Muslim population, Xining is home to over 80 mosques, of which the Dongguan Great Mosque is undoubtedly its star attraction. It was originally built during the 14th century and is one of the largest mosques in the country. 


Taoism is a native Chinese religion. Due to various reasons, Taoism has not formed a great influence in Qinghai. The most unique Taoism structure is the Beichan Si (Northern Buddhist Temple), a Taoist facility built into the cliff face. One of eight perfect scene of Xining "Misty Rain in Beishan 北山烟雨" refers to the Northern Buddhist Temple in drizzle. 


The spreading of Christianity in Xining can be traced back to 1885. Now, there are more than 300 Christian meeting points in Xining. The major one is the Jiaochang Street Christ Church

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Xining Food Culture

Some of the dishes in Xining are still related to the Chinese, as they are made of noodles and they are also fond of soups. However, other cultures, such as those of the Tibetan and the Muslim, have also been infused into the many dishes. You can therefore find Halal food in Xining. The food tends to be salty and food preparation is relatively simple compared with those of other cities.  The local flavors include fried flour slices (炒面片), hand-pulled noodles (手拉面), dry-stirred noodles (干拌面), roasted mutton (烤羊肉). In Xijing, you never need to worry about what you should eat since there is so much delicious food for you to choose. 

Must-eat Food in Xining

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Xining Architecture Culture

Xining is famous for the splendid sight, cultural heritage and Islamic architectural style. You may see many featured houses along the street, which are built in a combination of Chinese and Islamic architectural styles. Tibetan architectures are also easy to see. Religious sites are the best places to visit for architectural styles.  As the largest Islamic mosque in Qinghai, Dongguan Great Mosque is known as religious site for worshiping and famous for the splendid sight, cultural heritage and Islamic architectural style. Top modern buildings also have a place in the architecture culture of Xining, such as the Plateau Pearl Sightseeing Tower, which is the highest point to appreciate the panorama view of Xining City.

Landmarks in Xining

Visiting the landmarks in Xining to appreciate the architecture styles featuring both ancient constructions and modern buildings. Plateau Pearl Sightseeing TowerCentral SquareWaterwheel Plaza and Ashigong Wharf Tourist Area are recommended.

Folk Arts and Crafts

Folk art forms in Xining include Meihu opera (眉户剧), Tibetan opera (藏戏), Qinqiang opera (秦腔) and Yu opera (豫剧), etc., as well as dances like Guozhuang Dance of Tibetan and Banquet Dance of Hui, etc.

Tibetan Opera

Through the efforts of ancient folk artists and intellectuals, people created the Tibetan opera art. Generally people regard Shigatse as the birthplace of Tibetan opera, and Tang Dongjiebu as the ancestor of Tibetan opera. Tang Dongjiebu came from Shigatse, he developed Tibetan art by using folk and religious art. The Fifth Dalai Lama advocated the Tibetan Opera Festival and promoted the exchange and development of Tibetan opera. There various kinds of performances, such as totem mask dance, white mask artistic performances, and jumping God art and so on.

Qinqiang Opera

Qinqiang Opera, also known as Luantan and Bangzi Opera, was originated in the Yellow River Valley of Shaanxi and Gansu provinces in northwest China. Qinqiang Opera is a local opera that can be named as the Forefather of Chinese Operas, boasting the most ancient, affluent and largest musical system of all Chinese operas. Its repertoires usually feature such themes as anti-aggression wars, the fight between the loyal and the treacherous, and the struggles against oppression, as well as a number of other topics of strong human interest that reflect the honest, diligent, brave, and upright characteristics of the local people. On May 20, 2006, Qin Qiang was included in the First Batch of National Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

Meihu Opera

Meihu (眉户), also known as Meihu (眉鄠), is mistaken for "confused" (迷糊) because its dialect pronunciation. It is one of the major traditional operas in Shaanxi Province. Meihu is popular in Guanzhong, while Shanxi, Henan, Hubei, Sichuan, Gansu and Ningxia also have popular spreading in some areas.

Pingxian Drama

Pingxian Drama (平弦) is one type of drama in Qinghai. With euphemistical and fair-sounding tune, Qinghai Pingxian is popular among the local people. You can watch this drama in Qinghai Drama and Art Theater which is located at No.35 of Xi Da Jie.

"Hua'er" Folk Song

Hua'er, literally means flower, however this one doesn’t really refer to a certain type of flower or the celebration of flowers. Instead, it’s very similar to the festivals held in the monastery (Wufeng Temple). This style of singing, and the customs that go with it, are widely practiced not only in Qinghai, but also in Gansu and Ningxia. The occasion is a chance to hear the nomads singing folk songs, either impromptu or staged.

Guozhuang Dance

Guozhuang Dance, also known as “Guozhuo”, “Gezhuang’ or “Zhuo”, means “singing and dancing in a circle” in the Tibetan languages. It originated from the form by which Tibetans danced around a campfire, all the time. This dance has been with the Tibetan ethnic group throughout their history. During the dance equal numbers of men and women form a circle with one person leading the dancers. The dance involves repeated musical dialogues between male and female dancers, in antiphonal style unaccompanied by any musical instruments. 

Tibetan Marriage Custom

The traditional way of Tibetan marriage would be of four stages; Matchmaking, bride-fetching, wedding and bride’s returning home.Due to the sparsely populated area, the marriage method is relatively simple. Most of the marriages are mainly the freedom to choose one's spouse. In terms of form, young people still respect the opinions of their parents. Please ask relatives and friends to be a matchmaker. The scale of the wedding depends on the both families' financial situation. On the day of the wedding, both families will hold the burning  aromatic plant ceremony to sacrifice their homeland gods. The Nagqu marriage ceremony begins as the girl and her friend would enter the boy’s house. the local people of the village would sings and dance as she walks towards the new family. The new family would welcome her to the house by offering her Chang Tibetan beer and offer bowl full of tsampa, which pinch a bit and places it on her forehead and prays, she will then  throw into the air as an offering to god. while others are busy in the welcome procession, they will be an old women from this family, shouting on the rooftop ask the bring the good luck charm to this family.

Tibetan Thangka Paintings

For people who want to visit Shannan and are interested in Shannan culture, they shall visit the monateries and temples to enjoy the gorgeous and educational Tibetan Thangka Painting. In general, the Thanka is painted by hand on silk or cotton. These bright, colorful paintings usually depict a Buddhist deity or other religious scene. Of course, the Tibetan Thanka Paintings can be the beautiful decorations.

Tibetan Embroidery

Tibetan embroidery is well displayed on their costumes, you may see various embroidery designs on Tibetans' clothes. With wide veriaty of styles and bright colors, Tibetan embroidery is listed as the Intangible Cultural Heritage. You may buy some works of Tibetan embroidery as the gifts to your friends.

Historical Sites in Xining

The following sites in Xining will fullfill your Xining culture tour by providing full around historical and cultural information. As an ancient plateau city with a history of more than 2,100 years, Xining has a lot to discovery concerning its history. City Wall Relics Park of Tang DynastyThe Relic of Hutai and Dange'er Ancient City, as well as the ancient temples are the places you should pay a visit to.

Museums in Xining

Museums in Xining are recommended for Xining culture tours, you will have a better and overall understanding of the culture and history of Xining, Qinghai. The highlights among them are Qinghai Province MuseumQinghai Tibetan Culture Museum and Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau Nature Museum

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Intangible Cultural Heritages and Inheritors in Xining

Rich and diverse ethnic culture is the source of the intangible cultural heritages in Xining. Xining has some intangible cultural heritages with strong ethnic characteristics, including Peasant Painting in Huangzhong County, Tibetan Embroidery, Xining Embroidery, Hehuang Paper Cutting and Tibetan medicine, etc. Every intangible cultural heritage has its inheritors, who play a vital role in the promotion and inheritance of culture.