The remains of ancient civilizations living in Qinghai indicate that the area has been populated for around 5,000 years, though Xining was only given this name around 900 years ago in 1103.

A successful farming community had been developing in Xining for thousands of years before the royal government of Emperor Wudi of the West Han Dynasty established a fortress and built the Xiping Pavilion here in 121 B.C, paving the way for the area to be incorporated into the system of prefectures and counties of the Central Plains

After uniting Tibet, in the 7th Century AD Songtsen Gampo took control of the tribes in the Qinghai area establishing an enduring connection between the Han and Tibetan people. Xining flourished as a trading town when it became an important stop on the legendary Silk Road and its importance as a military, economic and political outpost grew. It is still the only road by which to enter the hinterland of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.

In 1927, the Kuomintang Government established Qinghai Province which led to the birth of the Qinghai People's Government in 1950, with Xining named as the capital.

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