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Helan Mountain

Mt. Helanshan, meaning 'fine horse' in Mongolian, is a continuous mountain range lying across Inner Mongolia and Ningxia. As its name suggests, the mountain seems like herds of horses running vigorously from afar. With the expansive Yinchuan Plain in the east and the immense Alashan Desert in the west, it is a wonderful place to experience the distinctive scenery of Northern China.

Mt. Helanshan winds north-south stretching over a distance of about 200 km. (124 miles), and expands about 30 km. (19 miles) wide. It rises 2000 - 3000 m. (78,740 - 118,110 ft.) above the sea level, with the main peak reaching a height of 3,556 m. (140,000 ft.) and being the highest peak in Ningxia. All the best sceneries of the surroundings can be picked up from the top of the peak.

With dense forests covering the mountain, Mt. Helanshan acts as a shield against the attack of winds and sands from the desert and cliffs. The forests, covering an area of about 360,000 mu. (8896 acres), are comprised of many species of plants such as spruces, pines, cypresses, births and poplars. Another more eye-catching sight on the mountain is the various shapes of rocks in the forests, which resemble volant eagles, sleeping lions, jumping horses, hanging dragons and other animals. Apart from the forests, there are also various valuable medical plants and fungi, along with many other rare birds and animals. The Helanshan National Reserve in the mid part of Mt. Helanshan (within the region of the Left Banner of Alashan League in Inner Mongolia) is a good place to see these flora and fauna.

Mt. Helanshan also has numerous impressive stories behind it that makes it more mysterious and imaginable. Historically, Mt. Helanshan is the place where various nomads of the northern China congregate. Due to its strategic location, the area had been a battlefield between these nomads and the ancient central government. Until now, many historical and cultural relics can still be found around the area, which can attest to the stories that the mountain had created. The Northern Temple (also called Fuyin Temple) in the northern face of the mountainside is the largest temple of Alashan League in Inner Mongolia. The opposite Southern Temple (also called Guangzong Temple), is also a well-trodden place with picturesque surroundings. Other famous scenic spots here include the Mausoleums of Xixia (a former kingdom), the Gunzhongkou Valley, twin pagodas of Baisikou Valley, and other kiosks, halls and palaces.

Another cultural sight that is worth mentioning is the rock paintings which are mainly distributed over the eastern mountainside within Ningxia. They mainly represent the animals, figures, lifestyles and stories of nomads in the past. These rock paintings have been listed as a national key protection site and informal world heritage site.

In addition, the Sand Lake in front of the mountain is also a wonderful scenic spot to visit. In the southeast face of the mountain, the Qingtongxia Gorge is also a good place to appreciate the spectacular scenery of Yellow River.