Gansu is one of the cradles of Chinese culture, found in the upper reaches of the Yellow River, northwest China. Shaanxi to the east, Sichuan to the south, Qinghai, and Xinjiang to the west, and Inner Mongolia and the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region to the north are neighboring provinces. Gansu is largely surrounded by mountains at 1,000 meters (3,281 feet) above sea level and has a varied and complex topography ranging from snowy mountains to large stretches of grasslands, huge and barren deserts, lush forests, and mysterious lakes. Gansu has cultivated unique traditions and culture as a diverse ethnic settlement. Known as the Silk Road’s main place and golden part, Gansu is full of cultural and historical relics, where you can feel the charm of ancient China. It is the seventh largest province in China and is 454,000 square kilometers (175,290 square miles) in area. During November 21, to 24, I had the opportunity to participate in the Explore Gansu trip with China Daily and 9 other expats. I saw and observed the culture, charm, and beauty of Lanzhou and Zhangye closely, during a four-day journey and visited many places in both cities.
The capital and largest city of the province of Gansu is Lanzhou, situated on the banks of the Yellow River, It is famous for its beef noodles soup and the Zhongshan bridge, mountains, parks & waterwheels. It is a main regional transportation center, linking areas further west to the eastern half of the country by rail. Historically, on the Northern Silk Road, it has been a major link and it stands to become a major hub on the Modern Eurasian Land Bridge. The city is also a hub for the petrochemical industry and heavy industry.
Our first destination is the new area of Lanzhou, a new area at the state level (special economic and political administration zone) established in 2012 and under the direct control of the Lanzhou municipal government of Gansu. It is situated 30 kilometers from the old town of Lanzhou, in the valley around Lanzhou Zhongchuan Airport. It is the first new development area in northwestern China at the state level. Lanzhou New Area’s geographical position holds important advantages for its potential economic development. It is the largest of the two megacities in this vast area (Ürümqi and Xi’an), and is relatively close to two other capital cities (Xining of Qinghai Province and Yinchuan of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region). These three capital cities are similar enough to form a regional economic conglomeration, and as the center of this amalgamation, Lanzhou New Area is envisaged. LNA’s success would fuel the growth of its neighboring areas.
In the “Flower Trade Center” the first stop of our activity in the New Area of Lanzhou, snowflakes fly outside and flowers bloom inside. The spring scene in front of us was so fascinated, all of us lingered on. Under the guidance of the agricultural center florist, we made beautiful bunches of flowers, and that was the first time we all learned the art of flowers. Then, we visited the green house of the flower trade center. We saw a range of roses and other flowers there all imported from the Netherlands, we were excited about the colorful roses, and we learned about the name of flowers, the origins. The recent appearance of modern farming in the new area has broken our old perception of Gansu’s “lack of water and less green”.
Our third stop was on the viewing platform for the green chemical park, overlooking the mountains and solar panel fields, displaying beautiful scenery! It will become a meeting place for the green chemical industry in the future. We then visited “Lanzhou New Area Import Commodity Wholesale Center, which connects the world with the wholesale center there!” It has different products and goods under one roof from several countries, leaving us with a deep impression. We visited Qingwangchuan folk culture village in the afternoon, as a cultural researcher I was really amazed, particularly the folk culture museum in Baichuan building was incredible, and the characteristic of Gansu and new area was wonderful, although the artifacts are old, at that moment the history was revived.
We visited the Gansu Provincial Museum in Downtown Lanzhou the next day. There, we studied the history of Gansu and the developments of old and modern times in the city and province. About 350,000 objects are in its collections, in two main sections: history and natural science. The museum has organized nearly 300 exhibits since its establishment, and objects from its collections have been displayed worldwide. The museum was initially only for the history of Gansu itself, but was re-proposed to be a museum of natural history in 1956, after three years of renovations. The Flying Horse of Gansu, a bronze sculpture from the Eastern Han dynasty, around the 2nd century AD, is a major holding of the museum. The museum also has permanent exhibits on Buddhist art, fossils, and paleontology, painted pottery, the culture of the Silk Road, and ‘Red Gansu’ (Communist Party during the Chinese Civil War). We also enjoyed the scenery on the First Bridge of the Yellow River, inside and beside the museum. And then moved by bus to the next destination.
Lanzhou Beef Noodles Vocational Training School, Xinglong, was our last stop in Lanzhou. Who is not in love with a hearty Lanzhou-style bowl of beef noodles? The noodles are delicacies from Lanzhou and Gansu. The flavor, aroma, and special taste render mouthwatering dish of noodles, Training School Chefs gave us a nice demonstration of the beef noodle soup preparation. And all the expats, including me, learned how to make hand-pulled beef noodles. What a perfect way to spend a morning there! We enjoyed the popular traditional Lanzhou beef noodle soup for lunch. The English guide tour (Michael) helped us understand China and Gansu’s amazing cultural heritage. We left for Zhangye at Lanzhou railway station in the afternoon.