Located on the banks of the mighty 5,487km-long Yellow River (the second longest in China after the Yangtze), Lanzhou is capital of Gansu Province, a harsh and rugged region. Gansu connects the Chinese heartland with the vast desert regions of the northwest. Indeed, the Hexi Corridor, running some 1200km between two mountain ranges and dotted with oases, formed a link between China and the far West. Lanzhou was a former staging post on the legendary Silk Road at the beginning of the Hexi Corridor, which linked ancient Xi’an with Central Asia and the Roman Empire. The Silk Road spawned hundreds, then thousands of diverging tracks that enabled traders to transport Chinese goods to Persia, Arabia and Europe and return with treasures from these faraway lands. To protect Lanzhou, the Great Wall was extended as far as Yumen.
After the fall of the Han Dynasty, Lanzhou became the capital of a succession of tribal states. From the 5th to 11th century, the region became a centre for Buddhist study. The city acquired its current name in the 17th century during the Qing Dynasty.
Today, Lanzhou offers good food, shopping, a number of notable parks hosting pagodas, and the excellent Gansu Provincial Museum. The museum is set in an old Soviet-style building west of the centre and offers an excellent natural history section including a mammoth skeleton plus prized bonze exhibits and Silk Road relics.
About 100km northwest of Lijiang in Yunnan province is where the Yangtze River’s upper reaches, the Jingsha Jiang, channel with ...