The ancient kingdom of Xixia (西夏) came together from the clans of the Tangut tribe, a nomadic nation of northwestern China, under the leadership of the first Xixia emperor Li Deming. His son, Li Yuanhao, greatly expanded the empire, and ordered the creation of a suitable writing system.

The Tangut script is often categorized as a Siniform writing system in that its graphical construction resembles that of the Chinese script. However, the characters appear to be much more complex, involving many more strokes than the typical Chinese character. The origin of this script is still very obscure. One can be tempted to say that the Chinese script served as a model but one cannot discount Khitan, another Siniform writing system of northwestern China. However, despite a few similarities with these other writing systems, for the most part its character construction was quite productive and the majority of its signs are unique.

The Tangut language belongs to the Tibeto-Burman subgroup within the larger Sino-Tibetan family. Even though little of its phonology has been reconstructured, it can be determined that it was primarily a tonal, monosyllabic language. A high degree of homophony words with same sound.

Simple character.

Complex character. Two methods of construction. Purely semantic, and semantic plus phonetic. However, unlike Chinese, the radical system did not actually reflect any semantic meaning.



Genghis Khan destroyed the Xixia kingdom but the Tangut script continued to be used until the 14th century CE. Ultimately the Sinification of population became complete and the Tangut ceased to practice their culture and their writing system, and disappeared from history.