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Horses roam the frigid plains of Inner Mongolia

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.

Mongolian horses are not known for their size, but their strong build and endurance make them perfect for military

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.

The snow-covered slopes of the Ulan Butong Grassland reflect the sunlight

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 snow-covered steppe.

A shepherd drivers his flock across the plains, searching for spaces with shallow snow and dry grass

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.

Night falls on a peaceful village as smoke rises from chimney

On the lonely grassland, two photographers wait patiently for perfect mix of color for their shot

Photography by Xu Jing (许敬)

“Cavalry´s Last Stand” is a story from our newest issue, “Climate Change”, coming soon. To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the iTunes Store.


author Liu Jue

Liu Jue is the co-managing editor of The World of Chinese Magazine. She has a Master of Arts in Communication from Middle Tennessee State University, and a Bachelor of Arts from Minzu University. She has been working for TWOC since 2012. She is interested in covering history, traditional culture, and Chinese language.

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