IN SEARCH OF A VANISHING CIVILIZATION

BRADSHAW FOUNDATION INTRODUCTION

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YINSHAN (Inner Mongolia)
 
I first made my way to the grassland of Inner Mongolia. The range of the Yinshan Mountains runs across the central and southern parts of the Inner Mongolia. It is over 1,000km long from west to east and over 50km wide from north to south, with an elevation of over 1.000 to 2,300m above sea level. The northern slope of the Yinshan Mountain Range is gentle and gradually passes into the plateau below it, but its southern slope is steep and abrupt, separating itself sharply from the plain below it and forming a natural barrier between north and south. The Langshan Mountains in the western section of the range. My investigation of rock art is limited to the region of the Langshan Mountains.
 
In Langshan region, over 10,000 cliff carvings were discovered. All these carvings are chiseled, grated and engraved on cliffs or bare huge rocks and they are still quite clear after thousands of years of weathering by wind and rain.
 
Hunting scene Yinshan Mountains Inner Mongolia
Hunting Scene, Yinshan Mountains, Inner Mongolia
Masks Yinshan Mountains Inner Mongolia
Masks, Yinshan Mountains, Inner Mongolia
 
The Yinshan rock art were done over a long period, the earliest being tentatively dated to ten thousand years before the present Pictures show ostriches and megaloceros, these species long extinct in this part of the world.
 
I visited Dabakou and Tanyaokou in the Langshan. At Tanyaokou, at the foot of the magnificent green mountains, to the east and west of which spread the red mountains, are jutting stones like tier upon tier of dilapidated red ramparts, and beneath them are 10 rock art sites. I was particularly impressed by a well preserved, life-size representation of a camel with two tall humps and a small tail etched in individual lines, its head held high, staring superciliously ahead and its strength indicated by the small animal under its foot.
 
The simplest engraving of Yinshan consists only of a flying arrow, heading for a fawn. They symbolized the action of hunting a flock of sheep is on their way to pasture, being herded by a dog -- a picture full of life.
 
More complicated engraving described scene of warfare between nomadic tribes. They attack one another with bows and arrows, and the defeated warriors who survived are seen fleeing in panic -- looking downcast. The conquerors are depicted full of strength and grandeur with headdresses of long cock's feathers. These scenes are of great historic value since these ancient wars actually took place.
 
Dancing figures Yinshan Mountains Inner Mongolia
Dancing Figures, Yinshan Mountains,
Inner Mongolia
The Yinshan rock art mirror the economic activities of the ancient there at various angles. The early ones reflect mainly a hunting economy, depicting single-man hunting, double-man hunting, and group hunting and encircling hunting scenes. The major weapons are bows and arrows, along with clubs, ropes and knives. In the carvings of a later period, the number of domestic animals increased. In addition, there are scenes of herding and changing pasture grounds, along with pens and stables. During hunting, people usually disguised themselves, trying their best To assume the forms of beasts so as to decoy them.
 
The rock art also described the social life of the Yinshan people. Praying was one of their commonest customs. The witches and wizards (shamans) formed a great group and all-important actions in life preceded with praying ceremonies. The practice of human sacrifice was very prevalent then. There are scenes of dancing during which also exhibited some immolated human beings, whose heads or headless corpses sometimes being discarded aside. As regards clothes and ornaments, we can also find their fashions in the rock art. People are commonly depicted as naked in the early carvings, and it is only in the ones of a later period that a small number of them are clad in robes tied with a belt in the waist. Their hair is either braided or shaved and they wear deer horns or bird feathers as headdresses and occasionally nose ornaments. Tail ornaments were the fashion of the time. People wore them in hunting, praying or dancing.
 
The carvings show that the ancient people of Yinshan mainly worshipped animals, and also celestial bodies and gods. The various gods are shown in the great number of anthropomorphic masks. The worship of these things was a concrete reflection of the primitive religious beliefs of the ancient Yinshan people.
 
 
 
The China Rock Art Archive
 
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