Lying from the east to the west across the northern frontier of China, Yinshan Mountain Ranges used to be an ideal place for the hunting and nomadic life of the nationalities living there in the ancient times. In thelong history of the region, the rock paintings of Yinshan Mountains are the best embodiment of the ancient civilization here and hold a position in the history of civilization of China and of the world that cannot be ignored.
Rock paintings are drawings chiseled or carved on rocks that served as records before the appearance ofwriting systems. By studying these paintings, we may probe into the thoughts and ideas of the ancient people conveyed by theirworks and obtain knowledge of the ways of production and lives of the ancient nomadic societies. The rock paintings of Yinshan Mountains are widely distributed and can be found along almost the entire length of the mountain range, either chiseled regularly on the cliffs in remote mountains or engraved on giant rocks on lofty mountain tops.
It was not until the 1930s when a joint scientific expedition consisting of Chinese and Swedish scientists to the northwest discovered a couple of rock paintings of Yinshan Mountains that this treasure-house of rock paintings began to be known by the world. That's why the comprehensive and specialized study of the rock paintings was carried out as late as 1976.
Together with his colleagues, Gai Shanlin, an expert in rock paintings from Inner Mongolia, began to search for and study the rock paintings of Yinshan Mountains in the 1970s. By the 1980s, large numbers ofrockpaintings had been found and over one thousand rubbings of them were exhibited, which tremendously shocked the academic world both at home and abroad and attracted extensive attention.
The rock paintings of Yinshan Mountains consist of thousands of exquisite and impressive drawings. Of these paintings, the most numerous andmost delicately drawn figures are mainly animals of various kinds including goats, sheep, argali, antelopes, blue sheep, elks,white-lipped deer, cervus elaphus, moose, David's deer, roe deer, horses, mules, camels, donkeys, oxen, wild oxen, takins, dogs, wolves, tigers, leopards, wild boars, rabbits, foxes, turtles and snakes. Except for a few species like tiger, moose,wild goose and ostrich, the majority of these animals can still be found in Yinshan Mountain Ranges now. Plants are rarely found in the rock paintings, and the only ones found so far are a luxuriant tree and a plant with opposite leaves. Apart from drawings of animals, birds and plants, figures representing human beings, tools, people's lives and production activities, ideologies and thoughts and totemism are also themes of the rock paintings.
The most striking feature of the rock paintings of Yinshan Mountains is the truthfulness to the nature and the vivid representation ofthe most essential characteristics of the objective world. The details of the rock paintings reveal that the drawings were made by either ofthe two methods-chiseling with metal or stone tools and grinding with hard rocks. The colors of the rock paintings haveturned into yellowish white or dark brown, mostly dull, some to the extent of being undistinguishable from the rocks.
In terms of coverage in area, the rock paintings of Yinshan Mountains are the largest deposit of rock paintings so far in China that scatter over an area of 21,000 sq kilometers along the portion of the Yinshan Mountains from Guyang County, Baotou all the way to Alashan League. More than ten thousand rock paintings have found and over 1,500 rubbings of them have been made so far.