Long isolated from the center of Chinese power, the Gansu area has traditionally been independent of all but the strongest central governments. After the 13th cent., Muslim strength grew, and fierce Muslim rebellions often plagued the central government. Today the province's strategic importance is enhanced by its control of communications into Xinjiang, Mongolia, and Russia. Although Han Chinese comprise most of the population, there are 11 major minorities, of which Muslims and Mongols are the largest. Gansu's boundaries have been changed several times in recent years. The former province of Ningxia was joined to it in 1954, then detached in 1958 and reconstituted as an autonomous region. In the 1969-70 redistricting, Gansu received a portion of W Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region. In 1979 this decision was reversed, and Gansu was restored to its former size.
Province (pop., 2002 est.: 25,930,000), north-central China. It is bordered by Mongolia, the autonomous regions of Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, and Ningxia, and the provinces of Shaanxi, Sichuan, and Qinghai. It has an area of 141,500 sq mi (366,500 sq km). Its capital is Lanzhou. For centuries a passage between the upper Huang He (Yellow River) region and western China, it became part of Chinese territory in the 3rd century BC. It was renowned as the entranceway into China used by Marco Polo. Eastern Gansu is the main site of earthquakes in China; in 1920 an earthquake there destroyed many towns and caused 246,000 deaths. Wheat is the province's chief crop, and wheat flour rather than rice is the basis of the local diet.
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The prefecture-level cities:
The autonomous prefectures:
In prehistoric times, Gansu was host to a number of Neolithic cultures. The Dadiwan culture, from where numerous archaeologically significant artifacts have been excavated, flourished in the eastern end of Gansu from about 6000 BC to about 3000 BC . The Majiayao culture (馬家窯文化) and part of the Qijia culture (齊家文化) also took root in Gansu from 3100 BC to 2700 BC and 2400 BC to 1900 BC respectively.
The Qin state (秦), later to become the founding state of the Chinese empire, grew out from the southeastern part of Gansu, specifically the Tianshui (天水) area. The Qin name itself is believed to have originated, in part, from the area . Qin tombs and artifacts have been excavated from Fangmatan near Tianshui, including one 2200 year old map of Guixian county .
In imperial times, Gansu was an important strategic outpost and communications link for the Chinese empire, as the Hexi corridor (河西走廊) runs along the "neck" of the province. The Han dynasty extended the Great Wall across this corridor, also building the strategic Yumenguan (Jade Gate Pass, near Dunhuang) and Yangguan (阳关) fort towns along it. Remains of the wall and the towns can be found there to this date. The Ming dynasty also built the Jiayuguan outpost in Gansu. To the west of Yumenguan and the Qilian mountains, at the northwestern end of the province, the Yuezhi, Wusun, and other nomadic tribes dwelt (Shiji 123), occasionally figuring in regional imperial Chinese geopolitics.
Situated along the Silk Road, Gansu was an economically important province, and a cultural transmission path as well. Temples and Buddhist grottoes such as those at Mogao Caves ('Caves of the Thousand Buddhas') and Maijishan Caves contain artistically and historically revealing murals. An early form of paper inscribed with Chinese characters and dating to about 8 BC was discovered at the site of a Western Han garrison near the Yumen pass in August 2006 .
The province was also the origin of the Muslim Rebellion of 1862-77, which later spread to much of China and resulted in the deaths of upwards of twelve million Chinese Muslims in addition to the decimation of Chinese Muslim culture in Yunnan province, where over one million Muslims were killed by Qing forces. Gansu's Muslim community was almost entirely exterminated during this period, and only a small minority of Chinese Muslims still remain, many of whom work and own Muslim restaurants, which are extremely popular amongst the Han Chinese majority.
Its frequent earthquakes, droughts and famines have tended to slow its economic progress, until recently when based on its abundant mineral resources it has begun developing into a vital industrial center. An earthquake in Gansu at 8.6 on the Richter scale killed around 180,000 people in 1920, and another with a magnitude of 7.6 killed 70,000 in 1932.
Part of the Gobi Desert is located in Gansu.
The Yellow River gets most of its water from Gansu province. The Yellow River also flows straight through Lanzhou.
The landscape in Gansu is very mountainous in the south and flat in the north. The mountains in the south are part of the Qilian mountain range. At 5,547 meters high, Qilian Shan Mountain is Gansu’s highest elevation. It is located at latitude 39°N and longitude 99°E.
Other cities include:
The Asian Development Bank is working with the State Forestry Administration of China on the Silk Road Ecosystem Restoration project, designed to prevent degradation and desertification in Gansu. It is estimated to cost up to US$150 million.
Governors of Gansu: The Governorship of Gansu is the second highest ranking official within Gansu, behind the Secretary of the CPC Gansu Committee. The governor is responsible for all issues related to economics, personnel, political initiatives, the environment and the foreign affairs of the province. The Governor is appointed by the Gansu Provincial People's Congress, which is the province's legislative body.
Agricultural production includes cotton, linseed oil, maize, melons (such as the honeydew melon, known locally as the Bailan melon or "Wallace" due to its introduction by US vice president Henry A. Wallace), millet, and wheat. Gansu is known as a source for wild medicinal herbs which are used in Chinese medicine.
However, most of Gansu's economy is based on mining and the extraction of minerals, especially rare earth elements. The province has significant deposits of antimony, chromium, coal, cobalt, copper, fluorite, gypsum, iridium, iron, lead, limestone, mercury, mirabilite, nickel, crude oil, platinum, troilite, tungsten, and zinc among others. The oil fields at Yumen and Changqing are considered significant.
According to some sources, the province is also a center of China's nuclear industry.
Despite recent growth in Gansu and the booming economy in the rest of China, Gansu is still considered to be one of the poorest provinces in China. Its nominal GDP for 2006 was about 269.9 billion yuan (35.5 billion USD) and per capita of 10,335 RMB (1,359 USD). Tourism has been a bright spot in contributing to Gansu's overall economy. As mentioned below, Gansu offers a wide variety of choices for national and international tourists.
An extra brick is said to rest on a ledge over one of the gates. One legend holds that the official in charge asked the designer to calculate how many bricks would be used. The designer gave him the number and when the project was finished, only one brick was left. It was put on the top of the pass as a symbol of commemoration. Another account holds that the building project was assigned to a military manager and an architect. The architect presented the manager with a requisition for the total number of bricks that he would need. When the manager found out that the architect had not asked for any extra bricks, he demanded that the architect make some provision for unforeseen circumstances. The architect, taking this as an insult to his planning ability, added a single extra brick to the request. When the gate was finished, the single extra brick was, in fact, extra and was left on the ledge over the gate.
The historic Silk Road starts in Chang'an and goes to Constantinople. On the way merchants would go to Dunhuang in Gansu. In Dunhuang they would get fresh camels, food and guards for the journey around the dangerous Taklamakan Desert. Before departing Dunhuang they would pray to the Mogao Grottoes for a safe journey, if they came back alive they would thank the gods at the grottoes. Across the desert they would form a train of camels to protect themselves from thieving bandits. The next stop, Kashi (Kashgar), was a welcome sight to the merchants. At Kashi most would trade and go back and the ones who stayed would eat fruit and trade their Bactrian camels for single humped ones. After Kashi they would keep going until they reached their next destination.
Located about 5 km southwest of the city, the Crescent Lake or Yueyaquan is a oasis and popular spot for tourists seeking respite from the heat of the desert. Activities includes camel and 4x4 rides.