CAVALRY’S LAST STAND

冰天雪地,纵马奔腾

The World of Chinese - - FRONT PAGE - PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BY XU JING (许敬) TEXT BY LIU JUE (刘珏)

Bring in the cavalry: In­ner Mon­go­lia's last mil­i­tary horse­breed­ing farm is still in op­er­a­tion. There, the snows pro­vide ethe­real sights that draw pho­tog­ra­phers from all over the na­tion to ca­pure the harsh beauty of a land of frigid tem­per­a­tures and rolling plains.

The Hong­shan Army Horse Ranch in Chifeng, In­ner Mon­go­lia, is the only army horse­breed­ing farm in the na­tion that’s still in ac­tive ser­vice. A nine-hour drive north of Beijing, it has sup­plied the army with tens of thou­sands stout Mon­go­lian breeds for over five decades. Forged by a frigid en­vi­ron­ment that can reach 40 de­grees be­low zero, these horses are known for their en­durance and stamina, once mak­ing up the core of the PLA. The 1985 mil­i­tary re­form ren­dered the cavalry ob­so­lete with only two bat­tal­ions left in In­ner Mon­go­lia and few com­pa­nies in Xin­jiang and Gansu, mainly mo­bi­lized for dis­as­ter re­lief.

Horses roam the frigid plains of In­ner Mon­go­lia

红山军马场:皑皑白雪之中最后的军马场

Lo­cated on the Ulan Bu­tong Grass­land in Heshigten Global Geop­ark, the Hong­shan Ranch is open to tourists. The grass­land was once an im­pe­rial hunt­ing ground for Manchu rulers; to­day it at­tracts tourists and pho­tog­ra­phers from across the coun­try with its nat­u­ral beauty and di­verse ter­rain. On the steppes, the snowy sea­son typ­i­cally lasts from late Novem­ber to Fe­bru­ary. The freez­ing white win­ter dis­cour­ages most tourists, but for pho­tog­ra­phers, it’s just what they or­dered: a sil­ver world of won­der.

In the nearby vil­lage, daily ac­tiv­i­ties used to be lim­ited to herd­ing horses and other live­stock, but the vil­lage has be­come a haven for pho­tog­ra­phers too.

They re­turn each night to coun­try home­s­tays af­ter a long day of shoot­ing, only to get up be­fore dawn to catch the first light of day­break on the snow­cov­ered steppe.

They wait on high ground, set­ting up tripods in the chill and watch­ing for the glow on the hori­zon. The dark sky soon changes to a pal­ette of pur­ple, blue, red, and yel­low, un­til the sun fi­nally hoves into view. On their way back to the vil­lage for a hearty break­fast, the herds­men be­gin to drive out their horses and sheep. With sil­very birch trees, frozen lakes, and an end­less blue sky, there is al­ways more to be cap­tured in this win­try land.

A SHEP­HERD DRIVES HIS FLOCK ACROSS THE PLAINS, SEARCH­ING FOR SPA­CES WITH SHAL­LOW SNOW AND DRY GRASS

THE MORN­ING SUN SHINES THROUGH THE BARE BRANCHES ON THE PLAINS

HORSES GAL­LOP UN­DER THE WHIP OF THE HERDS­MAN

VA­POR RISES FROM A FROZEN WET­LAND AT NOON

MON­GO­LIAN HORSES ARE NOT KNOWN FOR THEIR SIZE, BUT THEIR STRONG BUILD AND EN­DURANCE MAKE THEM PER­FECT FOR THE MIL­I­TARY THE SNOW- COVERED SLOPES OF THE ULAN BU­TONG GRASS­LAND RE­FLECT THE SUN­LIGHT

NIGHT FALLS ON A PEACE­FUL VIL­LAGE AS SMOKE RISES FROM CHIM­NEYS

ON THE LONELY GRASS­LAND, TWO PHO­TOG­RA­PHERS WAIT PA­TIENTLY FOR THE PER­FECT MIX OF COLOR FOR THEIR SHOT

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