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All the material remains here &discussed are testimony of the historic role played by the landscape in the shaping of identities and spirituality of local groups, but also of the ethnic and cultural richness of the frontier area. Sacred or other remains ascribable to different groups, from the Han Chinese, to Turkish, Mongolians and other inner Asian nations, highligh the contested nature of these places and the sacrality of the territory for diverse populations. This heritage reminds us that, like today, in antiquity this region was inhabited by a variety people who were actively constructing their home and sacred landscapes. The impression is that, beyond any specific religion, this place could be contrued as “sacred” to many peoples and in different ways.
Indeed, more then individual beliefs, it is the structure of the landscape, real or imagined, religious and political, with its network of routes and visually or materially significant places that creates the sacrality (Bradley 2000, Ashmore and Knapp 1999). Yet, by this very definition, it also shows that the profane is never very far from the sacred and that the “sacred,” though theoretically remote and difficult to achieve, must be accessible and consumable. Elevation and remoteness are attempts at distancing from the everyday, but waterways and travel routes indicate that such distancing was temporary and relative. No matter the structure of belief or its complexity, or whether the believers were roaming nomads who relied on the natural environment for sustenance, traveling merchants who sought respite from it, or urban dwellers who longed for lost nature, particular places acquired sacredness or sacred value because of their positions, structures and cumulative histories.
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→ Case Studies: Inner Mongolia: Yinshan
→ Case Studies: Ningxia: Helankou
→ Case Studies: Gansu: Heishan
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