“Five Treasures of Ningxia” refers to five special products from Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region that come in five colors, including Helan stone in blue, Chinese wolfberry in red, licorice root in yellow, Tan sheepskin in white and the Nostoc flagelliforme (facai) in black. You can find all of them in Yinchuan, the capital of Ningxia.
Blue- Helan Stone
Helan stone, found above 2,600m in the Helan Mountain Range, is noted for its fine texture and solidity. It is natural dark purple and green in color. Some of the stones have the natural pictures of jade ribbon, cloud layers, eyebrow. Helan stone is one of the best materials for making inkstones. The inkstone made of Helan stone is of high quality. It is water resistance and can preserve the ink very well, and it is usually carved with vivid pictures. Enjoying a history of more than 1,000 years, Helan inkstone is “one of China’s three famous inkstones” along with the other two from Guangdong Province and Anhui Province. Helan stone is also the raw material for stamps, paperweight and stone carvings.
Red – Chinese Wolfberry
The Chinese Wolfberry has been regarded nationally and internationally as a natural medicine against a wide variety of ailments, and is a core ingredient in many Chinese tonics. It is believed to be able to clean the lungs, brighten the eyes, nourish the liver, and strengthen the kidney. Wolfberry cultivation in Ningxia has history of more than 400 years. Compared with wolfberries from other areas, the wolfberries from Ningxia are bigger with a thicker pulp. Its high content of anti-oxidants and vitamins is credited with being the essential cause of the longevity by the inhabitants of Ningxia.
Yellow – Licorice Root
Licorice root, widely used as a Chinese medicine, is one of the golden ingredients in Chinese medicine. It was a tribute to the royal court in ancient China. Licorice root is a good medicine for curing coughs, lowering the blood-pressure level, and it can relieve spasm and detoxicate, invigorate the spleen and replenish qi, and moisten the lungs. Ningxia is home to licorice roots, and Yanchi County of Ningxia is well-known for the high-quality licorice roots.
White – Tan Sheepskin
Tan Sheep is one unique species of sheep living on the Ningxia Plain. The sheepskins are generally from the sheep born for 30 days. They are soft and light, white and tenacious. The durability and heat preservation make it a famous product for export.
Black – Nostoc Flagelliforme (Facai)
Facai, an edible hair-like moss, is an algae grown naturally in the deserts in north China. The fresh facai is blue and green or brown, and become black after dried. It contains many nourish elements, such as protein, calcium, phosphorus, and iron, and can aid digestion.
However, since pulling too much of facai from the land will severely influence the environment, the government has limited its picking. So now the “Taixi Coal”, in place of facai, becomes the “Black Treasure”. Taixi Coals are sold to more than 10 European countries. They can be a valuable collection after being transformed into coal sculptures and several coal products.
Besides the “five treasures”, Ningxia also produces many other products, like sweet melons, water melons, apricots, grapes and varied kinds of fruits.