Page 4/11
Less well known to the general public than the Yinshan rock art is those of the Helanshan Mountains, that rises above the Yellow River where it flows into Inner Mongolia.
The Helanshan Mountains, which lie in center and north of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region like a great ridge sticking out, are famous mountains on the plateau of northwest China. On the cliffs of this chain of towering hills covered with dense forest, our ancestors left an everlasting rock art. Numerous petroglyphs are inlaid, like the stars shining in the sky, on the cliff surfaces of a dozen mountains passes. When making an inspection tour along the foot of the mountains and enjoying these petroglyphs, one can feel as if he were walking along a gallery of ancient carvings.
Hunting Scene Suyukou Helanshan Mountains Ningxia
Hunting Scene, Suyukou,
Helanshan Mountains, Ningxia
Double circles and Masks with radiating headdresses Helanshan Mountains Ningxia
Double circles and Masks with radiating headdresses, Helanshan Mountains, Ningxia
The northern Helanshan Mountains contain a concentration of mask engravings. A shepherd who disturbed the sand covering the lower slopes discovered the first, a fair number of carved slopes have now been excavated, looking from a distance like blue pools on the hillside. They are large, flat and smooth, and the masks are carved on them in serried lines. Probably many more remain buried beneath the sand.
Petroglyph masks Helanshan Mountains Ningxia
Petroglyph of masks, Helanshan Mountains, Ningxia
I went to Helankou, a rock art site of Helanshan, the jeep get into difficulties after leaving the highway, so we finally had to continue on foot. Helankou so called "an opening in the hill" is a dry gully running from east to west. The cliffs on both sides had mask engravings.
All the masks are grotesquely distorted, some with an outsize nose, some with ears as big as the face itself, others covered in hair like an ape. Their expressions vary from rage to smiles, and patterns on them indicate either tattooing or the use of masks. The headgear is just as bizarre. One has a branch above it decorated with grass-like and ray-like headdresses - we wondered if perhaps they were meant to be feathers or a sacred halo - while others wear a conical hat and makeup that may be hunting camouflage. The weird images and the fertile imagination of the artists are quite out of the common run, and one is led to presume that the largest pieces served as idols for the worship of celestial and telluric deities. Perhaps the masks of Apollo, the celestial bodies, the totems and other symbols display the beauty of the patterns and forms, leaving the drawings full of mystery.
Bovine rock art Helanshan Mountains Ningxia
Life size bovine, Huihui Ditch,
Helanshan Mountains, Ningxia
The masks are also found in the ravines that stretch back into the mountains, where hunting scenes also occur. One group of over 50 animals in Xifu Ditch differs from the masks in its accurate and graphic representation, showing how closely early man observed the beloved and inexhaustible source of his subsistence. Wild oxen, camels and bigheaded sheep are delineated in only a few strokes. Carved on a hilltop towering forty meters over Huihui Ditch is a life-sized ox outlined with three parallel lines, inside which are cut three kids, creating an effect of movement.
Some pictures are distinct and deep; other have peeled off and become blurred, for the workmanship of these grand petroglyphs spanned more than thousands years, yet the manifold means of artistic expression can still be obviously seen by its lines, shallow or deep carvings, thin or thick outlines, and with a dotted style, all of which show our ancestors' craftsmanship and aesthetic judgment.
Like us on Facebook & Follow us on Twitter to receive news & updates:
The China Rock Art Archive
Bradshaw Foundation
bradshaw foundation donate help
Mailing List

Email Sign-Up
website updates


First Name

Last Name


Homepage About the Foundation Contact Us Facebook News Articles Twitter List of Research Papers Professor Stephen Oppenheimer Bibliographic Database Travel Index About the Expeditions Forthcoming Expeditions Bespoke Expeditions Enquire Practical Information History of Exploration Welcome to the iShop Film Downloads DVD's Sculpture Prints Clothing Messenger Bag eBooks INORA Downloads About iLecture Films Shipping & Handling iLectures In Conversation Video Stories Travel Films Read the reviews Privacy Policy Bradshaw Foundation Facebook Friends of the Foundation Archive Index World's Oldest Rock Art Africa Documentary Films South Africa RARI Giraffe Carvings Niger Namibia Western Central Africa Africa Paintings Gallery Tanzania The Tuareg People Tuareg Salt Caravans Gilf Kebir Birnin Kudu Rock Art Center Archive Index San Rock Art Paintings San Bushman San Rock Art Film Origins Centre Johannesburg Archive Index Arizona Baja California Baja California Film Coso Range Talking Stone Film Nevada Oregon Territory Moab, Utah Clovis First Australia Archive Index Introduction Bradshaw Paintings Kimberley Region The Unambal Hugh Brown Leif Thiele Gallery Dan Clark Grahame Walsh Bradshaws / Gwion Gwion Archive Index Introduction Origins of the British Avebury Stonehenge Sounds of Stonehenge The British Museum British Isles Megaliths Gower Peninsula Rock Art Mendip Hills Prehistory Northumberland Rock Art Red Lady of Paviland Stone Age Mammoth Abattoir Archive Index Introduction Peterborough Petroglyphs Western Canadian Rock Art Writing-On-Stone Wuikinuxv Territory Dinosaur Provincial Park Archive Index Huashan Rock Art Yinchuan Museum Rock Art Festival Field Trip Gallery Itinerant Creeds Inner Mongolia & Ningxia Vanishing Civilization Life in Rock Art (PDF) Tibet Tibet Photographs Dazu Rock Carvings Tiger Motif Archive Index Chauvet Cave Lascaux Cave Niaux Cave Cosquer Cave Rouffignac Cave Portable Art Defining Rock Art Tuc d'Audoubert Bison Dr. Jean Clottes Index UNESCO World Heritage Introduction Cave Paintings Gallery Visiting the Chauvet Cave Return to Chauvet Cave Investigating the Cave Venus & Sorcerer Werner Herzog Film Chauvet Publications India Archive Index Rock Art Central India Pachmarhi Hills India Rock Art Gallery Preservation & Education Dr. V. S. Wakankar Articles on India Rock Art Contemporary Art Sri Lanka Archive Index Rock Paintings & Engravings Sri Lanka Rock Art Gallery Middle East Archive Index Middle East Inroduction Rock Art of Iran Rock Art of Saudi Arabia United Arab Emirates Rock Art Ancient Geometry Middle East Colonisation Scandinavian Rock Art Archive Scandinavian Introduction Alta Rock Art Norway Rock Art in Finland Tanum Rock Art Sweden Thor Heyerdahl Archive Index Introduction America's Oldest Art? Pedra Furada Bolivian Rock Art Campeche Island - Brazil Checta Petroglyphs - Peru Cueva de las Manos Santa Catarina Island - Brazil Rock Art in Britain Campeche Rock Art Petroglyphs El Salvador - Corinto Cave Hand Rock Art Paintings Tibetan Rock Art United Arab Emirates Uzbekistan Yinchuan Rock Art Museum Introduction Ice Age Art Gallery Claire Artemyz Jill Cook Interview Cycladic Introduction Cycladic Gallery A Cultural Memory Izzy Wisher Biography Deer-tooth necklace Cave Art Introduction Geometric Signs Chart Research Methodology Geometric Signs in France Sign Types/Countries/Regions Bibliography Ancient Symbols in Rock Art Newsletter Archive Download Issues Introduction Genetic Map Professor Stephen Oppenheimer Further Reading Origins of the British BBC Documentary Origins Index Origins Overview 13 Big Questions Stanley Ambrose Homo Floresiensis Herto Skulls Homo Dmanisi Liujiang Skull Introduction Sentinels in Stone Easter Island Rock Art Birdman Cult / Motif Sea & Marine Creatures Design & Motifs Dr Georgia Lee Easter Island Map Contemporary Art Glossary Conclusion Thor Heyerdahl Introduction When & Who Built It? How Was It Built? The Area Sounds of Stonehenge Meaning of a Pyramid Pyramid Studies Pyramid Superstructure Pyramid Substructure Pyramid Preparations Pyramid Building Saqqara Nabil Swelim Temples of Malta and Gozo Research in the Caucasus The Keselo Foundation Homo Dmanisi Ancient Toolmakers Index Introduction Descent into the Cave The Decorated Caves Shamanistic Experience Spring Initiation Rites Summary Page 1 Page 2 Page 3 Page 4 Professor John P. Miller Motif: Eternal Index Banksy Han Meilin Bruce Radke Christian Tuki Gordon Ellis-Brown Site Map Search the Website Glossary of Terms & Definition Podcast on iTunes Other Websites Contact the Foundation