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Gansu Travel Guide

Gansu Province is located in the northwest of China or the up reaches of Yellow River, with the short name is Gan (甘) or Long (陇). The name of Gansu is first used in the Song Dynasty (960–1276) compounded by two prefectures, Gan Zhou (Zhangye City now) and Su Zhou (Jiuquan City now). With the capital city of Gansu is Lanzhou, Gansu Province is a key place and a golden section of the Silk Road. As one of the cradle of Chinese civilization, there are many traces for historical figures including Fu Xi (the ancient emperor in Legendary Period in Ancient China is regarded as the primogenitor of Chinese culture) and Marco Polo. On this patch of land, scatter numerous culture landscapes, such as Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, the Jiayuguan Pass, Bingling Thousand Buddha Caves in Lanzhou, etc. If you would like to ramble along the ancient Silk Road and experience the long river of history, Gansu Province is a good choice to travel.

Gansu Province borders Shaanxi to the east, Qinghai to the south, Inner Mongolia and Ningxia to the north, and Xinjiangto the west. Long and narrow in shape, Gansu is the seventh largest province in China covering an area of 454,000 square kilometers (175,290 square miles), so the landforms in Gansu are complex and various including mountainous region, plateau, plain, river valley, desert and stone desert. Besides the Han Nationality people, there live many ethnic minorities, like Hui, Tibetan, Dongxiang, Yugu, Baoan, Mongol, Kazak, and Manchu, and so on. In addition, Dongxiang, Yugu and Baoan are three proper minorities to Gansu.

History and Culture

Gansu has been a province for more than 700 years. This time-honored land is a major habitation for ancient Chinese people, as well as one of the important birthplaces of ancient agriculture. According to plenty of historic objects in archeological excavations, there were ancestors living and struggling with the nature in Gansu 200,000 years ago during the Paleolithic Period. So there are thousands of Neolithic culture relics including the Qijia culture (a matriarchal clan society) and Kayao culture (an early slave society at the end of primitive society), and the discovery of Dadi Wan Relics (a relics of the early stage of neolith in Qinan County, Tianshui City) has provided important materials to the researches of ancient architectures, words and the daily life of ancient people. The ancestor of Chinese, Fu Xi taught people the skills of fishing and hunting, Marco Polo (a famous traveler and merchant from Italy in 13th century) left his footprints in Gansu during his journey in China (check our special tour: The Track of Marco Polo Tour).

The ancestors of Qin (秦) settled in Tianshui area in Gansu during the Zhou Dynasty (1,029 BC–771 BC) and spreaded their area to the central Shaanxi plain. After Emperor Qin (259 BC–210 BC) unified the whole country, the Qin Great Wall from Lintao (临洮, a county in Gansu in the west to north Shaanxi in the east was built.

With the development of history, Gansu entered her heyday on politic, military and culture in Sui Dynasty (518–618) and Tang Dynasty (618–907), emerging a politician named Liyuan (the Emperor Gaozu of Tang Dynasty), a famous poet called Li Yi, and a romancist with the name of Li Gongzuo. During this period, the Silk Road also got to its most prosperous peak. The Mogao Grottoes with exquisite murals and statues was first built in the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317–420), developed in the Northern Wei Dynasty (368–534), the Western Wei Dynasty (535–556) and the Northern Zhou Dynasty (557–581), reached its scale as today in Sui and Tang Dynasties.

Gansu was first established as a province in Yuan Dynasty (1206–1368), which is the first dynasty dividing China into provinces.


Besides numerous culture landscapes in Gansu, like Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, the Jiayuguan Pass, Bingling Thousand Buddha Caves in Lanzhou, the Mount Maji Grottoes (famous the plenty of clay sculptures), the Lapuleng Temple (the biggest center of Tibetan religion and culture in Gansu), etc; there are also many nature scenery scattering in this vast land. The boundless stone desert, the broadest loess plateau, the endless grasslands and the pure white glacier constitute a magnificent picture. The fantastic combination of the Singing Sand Mountains and Crescent Spring adds a pleasure into the traveling to the mysterious ancient Silk Road.

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