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From top, left to right: Lanzhou skyline, Xiguan Mosque, Chanyuan Temple, Lanzhou city from Five Springs Park, Lanzhou beef noodles, Yellow River Mother sculpture
Location of Lanzhou City jurisdiction in Gansu
Location of Lanzhou City jurisdiction in Gansu
Lanzhou is located in Gansu
Location of the city center in Gansu
Lanzhou is located in China
Lanzhou (China)
Coordinates (Gansu People's Government): 36°03′38″N 103°49′36″E / 36.0606°N 103.8268°E / 36.0606; 103.8268Coordinates: 36°03′38″N 103°49′36″E / 36.0606°N 103.8268°E / 36.0606; 103.8268
County-level divisions8
Municipal seatChengguan District
 • TypePrefecture-level city
 • BodyLanzhou Municipal People's Congress
 • CCP SecretaryLi Rongcan
 • Congress ChairmanZhang Jianping
 • MayorZhang Weiwen
 • CPPCC ChairmanLi Hongya
 • Prefecture-level city13,086.9 km2 (5,052.9 sq mi)
 • Urban
2,432.9 km2 (939.3 sq mi)
 • Metro
1,112.9 km2 (429.7 sq mi)
 (31 December 2020)
 • Prefecture-level city4,359,446[1]
 • Urban
 • Rural
Time zoneUTC+8 (China Standard)
Postal code
Area code(s)931
ISO 3166 codeCN-GS-01
License plate prefixes甘A
GDP (2019)CNY 284 billion[2]
 - per capitaCNY 71,772[2]
City flowers
Rugosa Rose
Lanzhou (Chinese characters).svg
"Lanzhou" in Simplified (top) and Traditional (bottom) Chinese characters
Simplified Chinese兰州
Traditional Chinese蘭州
Literal meaning"Orchid [Hills] Prefecture"[4]

Lanzhou (UK: /lænˈ/, US: /lɒn-/;[5] simplified Chinese: 兰州; traditional Chinese: 蘭州; pinyin: Lánzhōu; Postal romanisation: Lan-chou[6]/Lan Chow) is the capital and largest city of Gansu Province in Northwest China.[7] Located on the banks of the Yellow River, it is a key regional transportation hub, connecting areas further west by rail to the eastern half of the country. Historically, it has been a major link on the Northern Silk Road and it stands to become a major hub on the New Eurasian Land Bridge. The city is also a center for heavy industry and petrochemical industry.

Lanzhou is one of the top 100 major cities in the world by scientific research output as tracked by the Nature Index.[8] The city hosts several research institutions, including, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou University of Technology, Northwest Normal University and Lanzhou Jiaotong University.[9][10] Notably, Lanzhou University is one of China's prestige universities as a member of the Project 985.

As of 31 December 2019, Lanzhou was home to 3,790,900 inhabitants of which 3,072,100 in the urban area.[2] In the 2020 Census, Lanzhou surpassed 4 million population for the first time, with a total population of 4,359,446.


Lanzhou and the Zhongshan Bridge under construction in 1909 taken by Robert Sterling Clark
The West Gate (西关; Xīguān) of the old city wall in 1875. It has been demolished, although its busy neighborhood still bears its name.

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–AD 220), it was taken from the Huns' Huandi Chanyu and made the seat of Jincheng commandery (jùn), and later of the Jincheng (Golden City) county (xiàn), later renamed Yunwu. Since at least the first millennium BC it was a major link on the ancient Northern Silk Road,[11][12] and also an important historic Yellow River crossing site. To protect the city, the Great Wall of China was extended as far as Yumen. Parts of the Great Wall still exist within the built-up area.[13]

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 Jincheng (金城 'Gold city'). 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 1081. 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.

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.

Viceroy of Shaan-Gan and Baron C. G. E. Mannerheim in Lanzhou, 1908

Second Sino-Japanese War-World War II[edit]

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 Ürümqi, Xinjiang.

The Battle of Lanzhou[edit]

Lanzhou's old Donggang Airport, located near the city centre, was the primary entry point for combat aircraft provided to China under the Sino-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact, and along with other targets around Lanzhou, including civilian centers, were heavily bombed by the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force and Navy Air Force.[14] Many air battles were fought between the Chinese Air Force and the Imperial Japanese air forces over Lanzhou and surrounding regions from 1937 to 1945, particularly from 1938 to 1941 when the influx of Soviet war materials formed the primary support in China's War of Resistance against the Imperial Japanese invasion.[15] Instances of major air-battles include an IJAAF raid consisting of 30 BR.20 and Ki-21 bombers against civilian targets in Lanzhou on 20 February 1939; 17th PS, 5th PG commander Capt. Cen Zeliu and his deputy commander Capt. Ma Guolian (Ma Kwok-Lim),[16] a Canadian-Chinese volunteer for the Chinese Air Force,[17] shot down the first two bombers in the battle, followed by two more downed as Capt. Cen led another attack on the third formation.[18] They would be joined by pilots of the Soviet Volunteer Group led by Nikolay Garilov and the 15th PS led by Li Debiao, whom would all shoot down five more of the Japanese bombers; the northern Chinese air-raid early-warning net headquarters in Xi'an observed 21 of the original 30 IJAAF bombers returning from Lanzhou.[19]

As the Imperial Japanese forces were preparing for Operation Z against the United States and other allies in Southeast Asia and the Pacific by mid-1941, the IJANF were busy training new aircrews in live combat action across China for the upcoming war in the Pacific; on 22 May 1941, Lt. Gao Youxin of the 21st PS, 4th PG engaged an IJNAF raid on Lanzhou in an I-16 fighter aircraft, while avoiding confrontation against the Zero fighters, he shot down a Mitsubishi G3M bomber north of Lanzhou.[20] On the ground, the KMT Muslim Generals Ma Hongkui and Ma Bufang protected Lanzhou with their cavalry troops, putting up such resistance that the Japanese never captured Lanzhou.[21][22][23]

The city is the seat of a currently vacant Roman Catholic diocese[24] and was previously the center of a vicariate apostolic (Vicariate Apostolic of Northern Kan-Su).[25]


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.

Panorama of Chengguan District (city centre), seen from the Lanshan mountain park.


Lanzhou is situated in the temperate zone and enjoys a semi-arid climate (Köppen BSk) with hot summers and cold and very dry winters. In the urban core, based on 1971–2000 normals,[26] 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),[26] almost all of which falls from May to October. The winters are so dry that snowfall is sometimes restricted to fall and spring. 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.

Climate data for Lanzhou (Gaolan County, 1981–2010 normals, extremes 1951–2015)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 17.1
Average high °C (°F) 0.8
Daily mean °C (°F) −8.5
Average low °C (°F) −15.0
Record low °C (°F) −27.7
Average precipitation mm (inches) 1.5
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.1 mm) 1.9 2.4 4.5 5.3 7.5 9.4 11.4 11.2 9.9 6.3 1.7 1.0 72.5
Average relative humidity (%) 53 47 46 43 51 59 64 66 69 65 62 58 57
Mean monthly sunshine hours 155.7 179.3 195.4 224.5 245.9 234.7 244.8 241.1 191.5 186.0 174.0 151.2 2,424.1
Percent possible sunshine 51 59 53 57 57 54 55 58 52 53 57 50 55
Source 1: China Meteorological Administration (sunshine 1971–2000 at old Lanzhou station)[27][28]
Source 2: Weather China (precipitation days 1971–2000)[26]

Environmental problems[edit]

View on Zhongshan Bridge from Baita Mountain Park

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. According to the National Environmental Analysis released by Tsinghua University and The Asian Development Bank in January 2013, Lanzhou was among the ten most air-polluted cities in the world.[29] Air quality reportedly was so poor that at times one could not see Lanshan, the mountain rising up along the south side of the city.[30] 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 had the worst air quality among eleven western Chinese cities. Its annual mean PM10 μg/m3 of 150 is 7 times the safe level established by the World Health Organization. It was worse than Beijing with its reading of 121.[31]

Since then, authorities have taken measures to improve air quality, which have largely been successful. "Thirteen polluting enterprises with excessive capacity have been closed, more than 200 highly polluting enterprises were suspended in winter, and 78 industrial enterprises have moved to an industrial park outside the city."[30] In 2015 it was awarded China's climate progress title. As a city once unable to be spotted from satellites, Lanzhou has taken various measures to combat air pollution in recent years, having reduced its Air Pollution Index at the fastest speed across China.[32] According to the 2018 WHO database,[33] of 2700 towns listed, Lanzhou has the 158th highest level of PM 2.5 pollution, with an average of 54 micrograms per cubic meter (twice that of Milan). The large particle PM10 remains high, at 132 micrograms per cubic meter, in part as a result of sand storms.

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" (2008).[34] In recent years, several specimens of the endangered Chinese giant salamander have been found in and near the Yellow River in Lanzhou.[35][36][37][38]

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.[39] The city water supply suspected industrial chemical production to be the culprit, similar to what happened in the 2005 Jilin chemical plant explosions.[40]

A brucellosis outbreak infecting humans took place in Lanzhou in 2020 after the Lanzhou Biopharmaceutical Plant involved in vaccine production accidentally pumped out the bacteria into the atmosphere in exhaust air, due to use of expired desinfectant, and affecting over 3,000 people.[41][42]


Lanzhou experiences earthquakes regularly, although usually at low intensities. In 1920 a large earthquake was experienced killing more than 100,000 people in Ningxia and 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.[43]


In the 2020 Census, Lanzhou surpassed 4 million population for the first time, with a total population of 4,359,446.[1] This marked a significant growth after a period of slower growth. The strong growth has been attributed to parents seeking better education opportunities for their children, retired migrant workers returning to Gansu, improved services in the city and government policies.[44]


The 14,000-capacity Northwest Minzu University Stadium[45] is one of the main sports venues in the city. It is mostly used for football games. A new sports center complex, including a stadium with a capacity of 60,000 spectators and a swimming hall, is under development.[46]

Lanzhou previously had a professional soccer team named Gansu Tianma F.C. from 1999 to 2003.[47] 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 (宁波耀马) in 2003.[48] 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,[49][50] scoring two goals,[51][52] before returning to England after falling out with the club,[53][54] as his mental state meant that he had to return to America for treatment against drink and depression.[55]

Administrative divisions[edit]

Name Simplified Chinese Hanyu Pinyin Population
(2010 census)[56]
Area (km2) Density (/km2)
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
Lanzhou New Area[A] 兰州新区 Lánzhōu Xīnqū 100,000 806 124
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

A On August 20, 2012, Lanzhou New Area was approved by the State Council of China's Central Government.[57] In 2019, Lanzhou New Area was formally established as an county-level division of Lanzhou, its area being split off from Yongdeng and Gaolan.[58][59] The updated area and population of Yongdeng and Gaolan are not yet reflected in the table.


  • 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 Zhongshan Bridge (中山桥) was the first permanent bridge over 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 Zhongshan Bridge.
  • The Lanzhou Botanical Garden (兰州植物园), located in the Anning District, has a large variety of trees, flowers and other plants.
  • Xiguan Mosque (西关清真寺), is one of the larger mosques in China.
  • On Wuquan Mountain (五泉山), many ancient architectural sites are located.
  • Xinglong Mountain (兴隆山), is covered with thick pine forests and scattered with colorful temples.[60]
  • Lutusi ancient government (鲁土司衙门旧址), a large complex of ancient governmental buildings.[61]


Gansu Provincial Museum
  • Gansu Provincial Museum (甘肃省博物馆), displays archaeological and fossil finds from Gansu and exhibitions on Gansu's history.
  • Lanzhou Museum (兰州市博物馆), is an important cultural unit on the Silk Road. As of October 2017, the collection contains more than 13,000 pieces of collections, including pottery, porcelain, bronze, calligraphy, coins, jade, stoneware, etc. There are 52 national first-class cultural relics, 78 national second-level cultural relics and 682 national third-level cultural relics.[62]
  • Gansu Art Museum (甘肃艺术馆), Providing a broad display and external communication platform for artists.[63]
  • Lanzhou City Planning Exhibition Hall (兰州市规划展览馆), showing the profound Yellow River culture of Lanzhou and integrating indoor exhibition, architectural concept and urban characteristics.[64]
  • Lanzhou Painted Pottery Museum (兰州彩陶博物馆), The total number of collections is 250, including 50 precious cultural relics, it displays the painted pottery civilization represented by the cultural pottery of Majiayao.[65]
  • Gansu Science and Technology Museum (甘肃科技博物馆) sound, light, electricity and other high-tech means will be fully adopted, and the way of teaching and learning will enable visitors to embrace modern science in a pleasant atmosphere.[66][67]


Lanzhou Center commercial complex

Since 1949 Lanzhou has been transformed from the capital of a poverty-stricken province into the center of a major industrial area. It was one of the first cities in China to industrialize, as a focus of the First and Second Five-Year Plans.[68]

The GDP per capita of Lanzhou was 25,566 (RMB) (US$3,681) in 2008, ranking it at number 134 among 659 Chinese cities.[citation needed] In 2015, the GDP per capita had grown to 57,191 RMB (US$9182.28)[69] and the city ranked at place 100 for total GDP of Chinese cities.[70]


The International Solar Energy Center (UNIDO-ISEC) is located in Lanzhou's Chengguan district.[71]

Headquarters of UNIDO-ISEC

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.[72]


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.[73] The refinery is 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.[74][75]


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



Lanzhou Zhongchuan Airport is the main airport serving Lanzhou, it is located 70 km (43 mi) north of Lanzhou. It opened for public service in 1970.[76]

The airport offers direct connections to over 70 international and domestic destinations.


Lanzhou Railway Station
Lanzhou West Railway Station


Lanzhou was the second city in northwest China to announce the construction of a subway line, in August 2012.[77] The urban railway network, Lanzhou Metro, is planned to consist of six subway lines running 207 km (129 mi). The first line, which is completely underground, opened in June 2019.[78]


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 provinces with the east. Lanzhou Railway Station is located on Huochezhan Dong Lu, in Chengguan district. Lanzhou West Railway Station is the city's second major railway station, offering connection to high-speed rail services.

Lanzhou Railway Station has the following railway connections:

High speed rail[edit]

New high-speed passenger-only railways are completed both toward the east (the Xuzhou–Lanzhou high-speed railway) and the west (the Lanzhou–Xinjiang high-speed railway). These services only stop at Lanzhou West Railway Station. The Yinchuan–Lanzhou high-speed railway and Chengdu–Lanzhou high-speed railway are under construction.

Freight rail[edit]

Lanzhou forms an important link in one of the routes of the Eurasian Land Bridge and also provides rail access to Qinghai, Xinjiang and Tibet further to the west.[81] A large rail freight terminal has recently been constructed to accommodate increasing volumes of rail freight and Lanzhou is home to China's fourth largest marshalling yard.[82][83]

Regular freight services connect Lanzhou to destinations including Chongqing, Hamburg, Almaty and Kathmandu.[84]

Road network[edit]

In 2016, Lanzhou was ranked 4th of Chinese cities with the worst rush hour traffic jams.[85] However by 2017, after completion of an urban ring road, it dropped to 33rd place.[86]


Bus services[edit]

Lanzhou BRT

For long distance buses, there are three major bus stations in the urban area, West Bus Station[87] in Xiaoxihu neighbourhood, East Bus Station[88] near Lanzhou Station and South Bus Station[89] near G75 Lanzhou–Haikou Expressway terminus. Furthermore, there are a total of 132 local city bus lines.[90] These have their main node station at Xiguan.

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.[91][92]



Lanzhou beef noodles

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.

  • Chinese opera: Qinqiang Opera
  • Cuisine: Lanzhou beef lamian noodles, many other types of noodles, the root of the lily, and many different kinds of mutton are important elements of Lanzhou's distinct food culture. Lanzhou Beef noodles are well known throughout China. The city of Lanzhou is home to over 1,000 beef noodle restaurants.[93]
  • Islam in China: Xiguan Mosque, the mosque was constructed in the Ming dynasty and rebuilt in 1990. It occupies an area of 467 square metres (5,030 square feet) and is one of the most influential mosques in China. The architecture of the mosque predominantly reflects that of Arab architecture.[94]

Colleges and universities[edit]

The city is the seat of Lanzhou University, founded in 1909. The National Minorities Institute at Lanzhou and a branch of the Chinese Academy of Sciences are also located in the city.[95] 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]

Lanzhou University

Other public institutions[edit]


  • People's Hospital of Gansu
  • Second People's Hospital of Gansu (see Borden Memorial Hospital, predecessor)
  • Third People's Hospital of Gansu
  • First People's Hospital of Lanzhou
  • Second People's Hospital of Lanzhou
  • Lanzhou University First Hospital
  • Lanzhou University Second Hospital
  • General Military Hospital
  • Lanzhou Military Hospital
  • Lanzhou Heavy Ion Cancer Treatment Center, joint venture by Sheng De Group, the city government and Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institution of Modern Physics
  • Gansu Tumor Hospital

Sister cities[edit]

See also[edit]


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  • Cheung, Raymond. OSPREY AIRCRAFT OF THE ACES 126: Aces of the Republic of China Air Force. Oxford: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2015. ISBN 978 14728 05614.
  • 徐 (Xú), 露梅 (Lùméi). 隕落 (Fallen): 682位空军英烈的生死档案 - 抗战空军英烈档案大解密 (A Decryption of 682 Air Force Heroes of The War of Resistance-WWII and Their Martyrdom). 东城区, 北京, 中国: 团结出版社, 2016. ISBN 978-7-5126-4433-5.

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