Red beds are Meso–Cenozoic continental sedimentary strata that are mainly composed of gravel stone, sandstone, siltstone, mudstone, and shale and occasionally have interlayers of limestone, halite, and gypsum. As a typical rock mass, red beds are widely distributed throughout South China. In a typical tropical and subtropical continental environment, red beds are the product of multiple sedimentary cycles, which have resulted in complicated rock mass structures that play an important role in rock mass stability. It is thus of great significance to investigate the influence of different rock mass structures on the stability of red-bed slopes. In this paper, the geological formation history of red beds in South China is described. The main features of red-bed rock mass slopes in South China are discussed. The main combinations of inner geomechanical structures comprise: (1) mega-thick soft rock structures; (2) mega-thick hard rock structures; (3) thick hard rock structures with weak intercalation; and (4) soft–hard interbedded structures. In addition, the features of slope failure are analyzed, and four common failure modes are identified from the statistical data: (a) weathering spalling and scouring; (b) rock falls; (c) landslides; and (d) tensile dumping.
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