Helan Mountains (Chinese name: 贺兰山), located in the middle part between the Yinchuan Plain and the Inner Mongolia Prairie, run north-south parallel to the north-flowing Yellow River. Towards their east, there is an irrigated area with the towns of Yinchuan, while towards their west, there is severe desert. It is over 6,561 feet above sea level with a peak 11,666 feet.
The main concentration of carvings in the Helan Shan - the Helan Mountains - is found at Helankou, the dramatic gorge cutting north-west through the mountain chain, and this constitutes the Helankou Rock Engravings Park. 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.
Over 6,000 engravings have been documented at Helankou. The engravings have clearly been produced over a considerable period of time, somewhere between 3,000 and 10,000 years ago.
The engravings depict human figures, animals and symbols. The human figures portray scenes of hunting, herding, sacrificing, battle, dance and procreation. The animal engravings depict tigers, leopards, sika deer, sheep, cattle, horses and camels. The symbols mainly consist of mask like faces , the most conspicuous of which is the Sun God engraving.
The meaning of the engravings, as elsewhere in the world, remains speculative. Many researchers attach shamanic significance to the carvings, whilst others suggest less ëspiritualí meaning.
The rock carvings in one pass or valley in the east slope of Helan Mountain is selected and built into a rock art park known as “Rock Art of Helan Mountain “贺兰山岩画” open to the public, one of the most magnificent sights in Ningxia. The Rock Art Park is located about 56 km to the northwest of Yinchun city proper.