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Prefecture-level city
View of Lanzhou
View of Lanzhou
Location of Lanzhou City (yellow) in Gansu and the PRC
Location of Lanzhou City (yellow) in Gansu and the PRC
Lanzhou is located in China
Location in China
Coordinates: 36°02′N 103°48′E / 36.033°N 103.800°E / 36.033; 103.800Coordinates: 36°02′N 103°48′E / 36.033°N 103.800°E / 36.033; 103.800
Country People's Republic of China
Province Gansu
County-level divisions 8
 • Party Secretary Yu Haiyan
 • Mayor Yuan Zhanting (袁占亭)
 • Prefecture-level city 13,300 km2 (5,100 sq mi)
 • Urban 1,088 km2 (420 sq mi)
Population (2010 census)
 • Prefecture-level city 3,616,163
 • Density 270/km2 (700/sq mi)
 • Urban 2,177,130
 • Urban density 2,000/km2 (5,200/sq mi)
Time zone China Standard (UTC+8)
Postal code 730000
Area code(s) 931
License plate prefixes A
GDP (2008) CNY 84.6 billion
 - per capita CNY 25,566
Website (Chinese)
City flowers
Rugosa Rose
Lanzhou in Chinese.svg
Simplified Chinese 兰州
Traditional Chinese 蘭州
Postal Lanchow
Literal meaning "[Gao] Lan prefecture"

Lanzhou (Chinese: 兰州; [lǎnʈʂə́ʊ]) is the capital and largest city of Gansu Province in Northwest China.[1] A prefecture-level city, it is a key regional transportation hub, allowing areas further west to maintain railroad connections to the eastern half of the country. Lanzhou is home to 3,616,163 inhabitants at the 2010 census and 2,177,130 in the built-up area (urban) of 1,088 square kilometres (420 sq mi).[2]


Originally in the territory of the Western Qiang peoples, Lanzhou became part of the territory of the State of Qin in the 6th century BC.

In 81 BC, under the Han dynasty (206 BC–220 AD), it was taken from the Huns' Huandi Chanyu and made the seat of Jincheng commandery (jùn), and later of the Jincheng county (xiàn), later renamed Yunwu. The city used to be called the Golden City, and since at least the first millennium BC it was a major link on the ancient Northern Silk Road,[3][4] and also an important historic Yellow River crossing site. To protect the city, the Great Wall of China was extended as far as Yumen.

After the fall of the Han dynasty, Lanzhou became the capital of a succession of tribal states. In the 4th century it was briefly the capital of the independent state of Liang. The Northern Wei dynasty (386–534) reestablished Jincheng commandery, renaming the county Zicheng. Mixed with different cultural heritages, the area at present-day Gansu province, from the 5th to the 11th century, became a center for Buddhist study. Under the Sui Dynasty (581–618) the city became the seat of Lanzhou prefecture for the first time, retaining this name under the Tang dynasty (618–907). In 763 the area was overrun by the Tibetan Empire and in 843 was conquered by the Tang. Later it fell into the hands of the Western Xia dynasty (which flourished in Qinghai from the 11th to 13th century) and was subsequently absorbed by the Song dynasty (960–1126) in 1041. The name Lanzhou was reestablished, and the county renamed Lanzhuan.

After 1127 it fell into the hands of the Jin dynasty, and after 1235 it came into the possession of the Mongol Empire.

Downtown Lanzhou seen from across the Yellow River

Under the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) the prefecture was demoted to a county and placed under the administration of Lintao superior prefecture, but in 1477 Lanzhou was reestablished as a political unit.

The city acquired its current name in 1656, during the Qing dynasty. When Gansu was made a separate province in 1666, Lanzhou became its capital.

In 1739 the seat of Lintao was transferred to Lanzhou, which was later made a superior prefecture called Lanzhou.

Lanzhou was badly damaged during the Dungan revolt in 1864–1875. In the 1920s and 1930s it became a center of Soviet influence in northwestern China. During the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945) Lanzhou, linked with Xi'an by highway in 1935, became the terminus of the 3,200 km (2,000 mi) Chinese–Soviet highway, used as a route for Soviet supplies destined for the Xi'an area. This highway remained the primary traffic route of northwestern China until the completion of the railway from Lanzhou to Urumqi, Xinjiang. During the war Lanzhou was heavily bombed by the Japanese.

During the 1937 Japanese invasion of China, the Guominjun Muslim Generals Ma Hongkui and Ma Bufang protected Lanzhou with their cavalry troops, putting up such resistance that the Japanese never captured Lanzhou.[5][6][7]

The city is the seat of a currently vacant Roman Catholic diocese[8] and was previously the center of a vicariate apostolic (Vicariate Apostolic of Northern Kan-Su).[9]


Lanzhou is situated on the upper reaches of the Yellow River where it emerges from the mountains and has been a center since early times, being at the southern end of the route leading via the Hexi Corridor across Central Asia. It commands the approaches to the ancient capital area of Chang'an (modern Xi'an) in Shaanxi province from both the west and the northwest, as well as the area of Qinghai Lake via the upper waters of the Yellow River and its tributaries.

Climate and environment[edit]

Lanzhou is situated in the temperate zone and enjoys a semi-arid climate (Köppen BSk) with hot summers and cold and very dry winters. The monthly 24-hour average temperature ranges from −5.3 °C (22.5 °F) in January to 22.4 °C (72.3 °F) in July. The mean annual temperature is 9.75 °C (49.5 °F), while annual rainfall is 315 millimetres (12.4 in), almost all of which falls from May to October. The winters are so dry that snow is extremely rare. With monthly percent possible sunshine ranging from 50 percent in December to 59 percent in February, sunshine is generous but not abundant, as the city receives 2,424 hours of bright sunshine annually.

Environmental issues[edit]

Further information: Environment of China

The city is located in a narrow and curved river valley with surrounding mountains causing it to be hemmed in blocking a free flow of air. Lanzhou repeatedly has had the worst air quality of any of 84 Chinese cities surveyed.[12] According to the Blacksmith Institute, Lanzhou is one of the 30 most polluted cities in the world, with its TSP (total suspended particle) rating 247 percent above that of the Gansu State recommendation.[citation needed] Air quality is so poor that at times one cannot see Lanshan, the mountain rising up along the south side of the city. At one point, a controversial suggestion was put forward to bulldoze a mountain adjacent to the city, in order to let fresh air into the bowl where Lanzhou is situated.[citation needed] Lanzhou is also the home of many factories, including some involved in petroleum processing, and suffers from large dust storms kicked up from the Gobi Desert, especially in the winter and spring. In 2011, using Chinese statistics, the World Health Organization reported that Lanzhou has the worst air quality (annual mean PM10 ug/m3 of 150) among eleven western Chinese cities, and is even worse than Beijing with its reading of 121.[13]

According to the National Environmental Analysis released by Tsinghua University and The Asian Development Bank in January 2013, Lanzhou is among one of ten most air polluted cities in the world. Also according to this report, 7 of 10 most air polluted cities are in China, including Taiyuan, Beijing, Urumqi, Lanzhou, Chongqing, Jinan and Shijiazhuang.[14]

The reach of the Yellow River at Lanzhou carries a high load of silt, giving the river its characteristic muddy appearance; however water quality in this reach is better than the "fetid outflow that barely passes for water two hours downstream".[15]

On April 11, 2014 Lanzhou officials advised residents not to drink tap water, because benzene levels were 20 times the national limit of 10 micrograms per liter.[16] The city water supply suspected industrial chemical production to be the culprit, similar to what happened in 2005 Jilin chemical plant explosions.[17]


Lanzhou experiences earthquakes regularly, although usually at low intensities. In 1920 a large earthquake was experienced killing more than 100,000 people in Eastern Gansu province, although only 42 were killed in Lanzhou itself, the low number being attributed to the strong yet flexible nature of the wooden buildings in the city.[18]


The 14,000-capacity Northwest University for Nationalities Stadium[19] is one of the main sports venues in the city. It is mostly used for football games.

Lanzhou previously had a professional soccer team named Gansu Tianma F.C. from 1999 to 2003.[20] The team played in Chinese Football Association Yi League from 1999 to 2001 and bought a position in the Jia League from Tianjin Lifei. The team relocated to Ningbo, Zhejiang and changed their name to Ningbo Yaoma (Simplified Chinese: 宁波耀马) in 2003.[21] The team later relegated to the Yi League in 2004 and sold to Dongguan Dongcheng, who moved the club to the Hong Kong First Division League.

Former England international Paul Gascoigne played four games in both a playing and coaching role for Gansu in 2003,[22][23] scoring two goals,[24][25] before returning to England after falling out with the club,[26][27] as his mental state meant that he had to return to America for treatment against drink and depression.[28]

Administrative divisions[edit]

Name Simplified Chinese Hanyu Pinyin Population
(2010 census)
Area (km²) Density
City proper
Chengguan District 城关区 Chéngguān Qū 1,278,745 220 5,812.47
Qilihe District 七里河区 Qīlǐhé Qū 561,020 397 1,413.14
Xigu District 西固区 Xīgù Qū 364,050 385 945.58
Anning District 安宁区 Ānníng Qū 288,510 86 3,354.76
Honggu District 红古区 Hónggǔ Qū 136,101 575 236.69
Yongdeng County 永登县 Yǒngdēng Xiàn 418,789 6,090 68.76
Gaolan County 皋兰县 Gāolán Xiàn 131,785 2,556 51.55
Yuzhong County 榆中县 Yúzhōng Xiàn 437,163 3,362 130.03

Lanzhou New Area[edit]

Main article: Lanzhou New Area

On 20 August 2012, Lanzhou New Area was approved by the State Council of China's Central Government as the fifth state-level new special economic development zone (followed by Pudong of Shanghai, Binhai of Tianjin, Liangjiang of Chongqing, Zhoushan of Zhejiang), which is also the first state-level new area in the northwest of China.[29]


  • The Five Spring Mountain Park(五泉山公园)was built at the northern side of Gaolan Mountain, is famous for its five springs and several Buddhist temples.
  • The Yellow River Bridge(黄河铁桥) has connected the transport hub of Lanzhou to the mainland and northwest since the Ming dynasty when people began to envisage such a crossing to conquer the Yellow River .
  • Baita Mountain Park(白塔山公园) was built close to the mountains at an elevation of 1,700 metres (5,600 ft) and opened in 1958 across the Yellow River bridge.


Panoramic view of Lanzhou city centre


Since 1949 Lanzhou has been transformed from the capital of a poverty-stricken province into the center of a major industrial area. The GDP per capita of Lanzhou was 25,566 (RMB) (US$3,681) in 2008, ranking it at number 134 among 659 Chinese cities.


The International Solar Energy Center (UNIDO-ISEC) is located in Lanzhou's Chengguan district.[30]

Headquarters of UNIDO-ISEC near the new Jin Yan bridge

Natural resources[edit]

There is a thermal generating plant supplied with coal from fields in Qinghai. In addition, there is a hydroelectric station at Zhulama Gorge in Gansu, and a large multipurpose dam has been built in the Liujia Gorge on the Yellow River above Lanzhou.[31]


Main industries include textile mills, rubber processing and fertilizer plants, an oil refinery, petrochemicals, machinery, and metallurgical industry.

Gansu has one of the largest oil refineries in the country and Lanzhou itself is the center of the province's petrochemical industry. Lanzhou has a large refinery linked to the fields at Yumen by pipeline. It also manufactures equipment for the oil industry.

Lanzhou has a large textile industry, particularly noted for the production of woolen and leather goods. In addition, Lanzhou produces locomotives and rolling stock for the northwestern railways, as well as machine tools and mining equipment. aluminum products, industrial chemicals, and fertilizers are produced on a large scale, and there is a large rubber industry. Copper is mined in nearby Gaolan.

Lanzhou has been one of the centers of China's national nuclear power industry since the 1960s.

Industrial zones:

  • Lanzhou Economic and Technological Development Zone
  • Lanzhou High-tech Industrial Development Zone


Lanzhou is the collecting center and market for agricultural produce and livestock from a wide area.


Lanzhou Railway Station
The Yellow River seen from the park of the White Pagoda.


  • Lanzhou Airport serves as the main airport and is located 70 km (43 mi) north of Lanzhou. The airport opened for public service in 1970,[32] and a new terminal was opened for travellers in February 2015.[33] Flights from more than 20 cities depart and arrive at the airport. The airport has flights to several domestic major cities as well as international destinations including Hong Kong[34] and St. Petersburg.[35]



Lanzhou was the second city in northwest China to construct a subway line, in August 2012.[36] The urban railway network, Lanzhou Metro, is planned to consist of six subway lines running 207 km (129 mi). The line is completely underground with a completion deadline of 2016.[37]

Three of the subway lines, coded Line 1, Line 2 and Line 3, will extend 90 km (56 mi) in the city proper, while the three outer lines, coded Line 4, Line 5 and Line 6, will run 117 km (73 mi), connecting the city centre with Lanzhou Zhongchuan Airport, Yuzhong county and Gaolan county, respectively.[37] The first two lines will cost about 23 billion yuan ($3.6 billion) and be completed by 2020.[38]


Lanzhou Railway Station is a major railway hub of western China. Every day over 100 passenger trains originate or pass via this station. It is a vital focal point connecting the western Chinese provinces with the east. Lanzhou Railway Station is located on Huochezhan Dong Lu, in Chengguan district.

It has the following railway connections:

Construction of new high-speed passenger-only railway lines is carried out both toward the east (the Xulan Passenger Dedicated Line) and the west (the Lanxin High-Speed Railway). These services will use an upgraded Lanzhou West Railway Station. The construction of Lanzhou–Zhongchuan Airport Intercity Railway between the city's airport and the city proper also started on 2012-12-21.[40]


Bus services[edit]

Lanzhou has a noted bus rapid transit system which opened in 2013 and won the city an honorable mention at the 2014 Sustainable Transport Awards.[41][42]

Other services connect to local and provincial areas

Places of interest[edit]



The city is the cultural centre of Gansu. It is home to many different ethnic groups and their respective cultures, but the most prominent three groups are the Han, Hui, and Zang.

Colleges and universities[edit]

Further information: List of universities in China

The city is the seat of Lanzhou University, founded in 1909. The National Minorities Institute at Lanzhou and a number of scientific institutes are also located there.In particular, Northwest Normal University has been the key university at the provincial level, which has prepared over 100,000 teachers in schools across the province Gansu.


Note: Institutions without full-time bachelor's degree programs are not listed.

National level[edit]

Other public institutions[edit]


According to the provincial health bureau, about 42,000 people die of cancer every year in Gansu, accounting for 25 percent of the province's overall deaths. More than 1 billion yuan (146 million U.S. dollars) is spent annually on treating cancer in the province.

Sister cities[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Illuminating China's Provinces, Municipalities and Autonomous Regions". PRC Central Government Official Website. Retrieved 2014-05-17. 
  2. ^ 兰州市第六次全国人口普查主要数据公布我市人口年龄结构尚处“红利期”. 兰州新闻网 (in Chinese). 兰州市人民政府. 25 May 2011. Retrieved 20 July 2015. 
  3. ^ Xian Xiaowei, Zhang Linyuan, Ai Nanshan and Wihelm Wohlke, On the relation between the evolution of natural environment and human factors and the development of urban settlement—Take the Lanzhou Valley Basin as an examples, Springerlink vol.1,no.1 (1991)
  4. ^ C.Michael Hogan, Silk Road, North China, the Megalithic Portal, ed. Andy Burnham
  5. ^ Stéphane William Darrach Halsey, Bernard Johnston (M.A.) (1989). Collier's encyclopedia: with bibliography and index, Volume 14. Macmillan Educational Co. p. 285. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  6. ^ Stéphane William Darrach Halsey, Bernard Johnston (M.A.) (1983). Collier's encyclopedia: with bibliography and index, Volume 14. Macmillan Educational Co. p. 285. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  7. ^ Stéphane William Darrach Halsey, Bernard Johnston (M.A.) (1983). Collier's encyclopedia: with bibliography and index, Volume 14. Macmillan Educational Co. p. 285. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  8. ^ "Archdiocese of Lanzhou [Lanchow]". David M. Cheney. Retrieved 21 January 2015. 
  9. ^ Vicariate Apostolic of Northern Kan-Su at Catholic Encyclopedia
  10. ^ 中国地面国际交换站气候标准值月值数据集(1971-2000年) (in Chinese). China Meteorological Administration. Retrieved 2010-05-04. 
  11. ^ 兰州城市介绍以及气候背景分析. 中国天气网 (in Chinese). 中国气象局公共气象服务中心. Retrieved 27 July 2015. 
  12. ^ "Lanzhou's pollution is most bad in the cities yesterday". Lanzhou morning daily. Gansu Daily. 5 January 2005. 
  13. ^ WHO report OAP_database_8_2011.xls
  14. ^ "WEATHER & EXTREME EVENTS 7 of 10 Most Air-Polluted Cities Are in China". JAN 16, 2013 (Imaginechina/Corbis). Retrieved 1 September 2014. 
  15. ^ Rob Gifford (6 January 2008). "Yellow River Pollution Is Price of Economic Growth". NPR. 
  16. ^ 小荣, 李 (11 April 2014). 兰州自来水苯含量严重超标. 新华网甘肃频道 (in Chinese). Xinhua Agency. Retrieved 27 July 2015. 
  17. ^ Spegele, Brian (11 April 2014). "Water Scare Hits Chinese City of Lanzhou". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 14 April 2014. 
  18. ^ "The Earthquake," E. J. Mann in Links with China and Other Lands, No. 31, April 1921, Lanzhou: China Inland Mission (quarterly) Bound volume in MS 380302, Papers of Ebenezer and Mabel Mann, SOAS, 331.[1]
  19. ^
  20. ^,path,%2Fgroups%2FGROUP_6%2FFootball_cn%2FD56B5C22D%2FM.1183863314.A.html
  21. ^ Yi, Cai (15 September 2003). 甘肃天马改名宁波耀马 武汉队暗喜去宁波. 新浪网 (in Chinese). 体育周报. Retrieved 27 July 2015. 
  22. ^ "Gascoigne nets contract in China". ESPN. 27 January 2003. Retrieved 7 August 2014. 
  23. ^ Johnson, William (28 January 2003). "Gleeful Gascoigne nets job in China". The Telegraph. Retrieved 7 August 2014. 
  24. ^ "Gazza scores in winning China debut". ESPN. 29 March 2003. Retrieved 7 August 2014. 
  25. ^ "Gazza scores on China debut". BBC. 29 March 2003. Retrieved 7 August 2014. 
  26. ^ Simons, Raoul (5 August 2003). "Gazza: I'm feeling a lot better these days". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 27 July 2015. 
  27. ^ Scott, Matt (26 June 2003). "Gascoigne faces the threat of legal action". Guardian News. Retrieved 27 July 2015. 
  28. ^ "Chinese club hand Gazza ultimatum". ESPN. 21 June 2003. Retrieved 7 August 2014. 
  29. ^ "China approves new state-level SEZ in Gansu". The Global Times. Xinhua. Retrieved 3 September 2012. 
  30. ^ "UNIDO-ISEC". Retrieved 23 July 2015. 
  31. ^ Liujiaxia Gorge and Bingling Temple
  32. ^ 从“晴通雨阻”到“一日千里”
  33. ^ 南如卓玛 (4 February 2015). "兰州中川国际机场T2航站楼启用服务春运" (in Chinese). 中国新闻网. Retrieved 27 July 2015. 
  34. ^ HK Express begin service to Lanzhou from June 2015
  35. ^ "China Southern Adds St. Petersburg Route from July 2015". 4 June 2015. Retrieved 27 July 2015. 
  36. ^ "兰州城市轨道交通工程开工奠基 刘伟平冯健身赵广发欧阳坚出席奠基仪式". Retrieved 30 April 2015. 
  37. ^ a b "兰州城市轨道交通工程昨开工-今日兰州". Retrieved 30 April 2015. 
  38. ^ "N.W. China city to usher in subways". China Daily. Xinhua. 27 June 2012. Retrieved 23 July 2015. 
  39. ^ (Chinese) "西起陇原东到海,回头已是百年身--陇海铁路传略" 2011-04-29
  40. ^ 敦煌至格尔木和兰州至中川机场铁路开工建设 (Work started on the Dunhuang-Golmud Railway and on the railway from Lanzhou to Zhongchuan Airport), 2012-12-23
  41. ^ Buenos Aires, Argentina Wins 2014 Sustainable Transport Award, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy
  42. ^ Lanzhou BRT
  43. ^ Xiguan Mosque from Muslim2China
  44. ^ Institute Of Technology official website
  45. ^ Lanzhou City University official website
  46. ^ "Albuquerque, New Mexico & Lanzhou, China". Sister Cities International. 
  47. ^ "Heart crosses over the ocean". Akita City , Akita , Japan. 22 September 2010. Retrieved 23 July 2015. 

External links[edit]