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Published: February 19th 2018
I traveled the entire day along the Gobi desert of Inner Mongolia to eventually reach Yinchuan, the provincial capital of Ningxia Autonomous Region, nestled in the middle of the Ningxia Plain.
I was standing on the train for the whole trip, but this was not too bad, after all, if it was not for the cigarette's smoke that pervaded the train car.
Beside the inconvenience of the people smoking on the train, I feel attracted by the uncomfortable places because I always meet up with the most interesting and kind people
It is like when you stay in the hotel with all the comodities and frequented by businessmen, bankers and government officials. It never happened to find out interesting people when I stopped in those places. So, I find myself more at ease when I stay in less appealing places but full of curious and welcoming people.
I was the only westerner on that train and I saw people loading on it big carton bags tied up with a string and sitting on them, looking at me with that curiosity that only my Chinese have and tried to strike up a conversation but I could not catch
up their accent and probably some mixed dialect too. In a way, I did not feel demoralised listening to those people that, with me, used some dialect as well, and this made me not feel that sorry for studying chinese language for quite a while and not to understand it yet.
They are always generous and offered me some nuts to eat together. There were some kid as well looking at me interested and showing their lovely smile while laying on their parents legs to catch a nap. It was a very chaotic moment for about one hour, but as the light turned off, the silence reigned and everyone began to sleep. By night, the temperature was frigid, with me I had only a liner but was not sufficient and had to suffer a bit the long chilly night.
When I opened my eyes the sun was about to rise and the marvellous Mongolian desert unfolded the high ranges of the Helan Mountains.
Early in the morning I got to Yinchuan train station. I was still tired from the cold, sleepless night and decided to choose the first place nearby the station to jump straight into the
The reason I came here was to see the rock carvings in the Helan Mountains and the Mausoleum of the XiXia dynasty. To reach the sacred mountains I caught a bus from the busy Yinchuan bus station, I had some stock of provisions for the day, looked inside the many shops on the street to see if I found something I needed and departed to the Helan Shan. The dramatic gorges and rocky landscapes were utterly outstanding. The trail was easy to follow in the gorgeous Helankou which means "gorge" cutting north-west through the mountain chain, and that was the Helankou Rock Engravings Park.
I was told that: The Helan Shan has acted as a boundary between the nomadic pastoralists to the north and the sedentary farmers to the south. As such, it has been a meeting place between the two lifestyles, and celebrated by the practice of engraving art in the rocks.
It is said that over 6,000 engravings have been discovered at Helankou. The engravings date back somewhere between 3,000 and 10,000 years ago.
It was quite funny to follow the trail, there was a stream where people bathed, good and warm weather
and beautiful engravings that depicted human figures, animals and symbols.
The human figures portrayed scenes of hunting, herding, sacrificing, battle, dance and procreation. The animal engravings depicted tigers, leopards, sika deer, sheep, cattle, horses and camels. The symbols mainly consisted of mask like faces, as the Sun God engraving which was my favourite.
The meaning of the engravings, as elsewhere in the world, remains debated. Some researchers attribute shamanic significance to the carvings, while others express less spiritual meaning.
There was also a meseum in the Helankou that had some interesting interpretations about rock art, introducing territory and iconography as key elements for the understanding of local geographies, cultural interactions, and the agencies of identity.
"The location of the sites indicates that petroglyphs were next to travel routes and may have served as territory markers and meeting places. In addition, the scattering of marked rocks in key locations suggests that petroglyphs were markers of identity essential for a people who were engaged in a dialectic contention with the expanding agricultural world".
Inner Mongolia and Ningxia provinces are of great interest if you are into rock art. I would definitely recommend a visit to this legendary
place and skip the uninteresting center of certain cities so that you can dedicate more time in these kind of sites.
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