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Zhelaizhai (Chinese: 者來寨; pinyin: Zhěláizhài) is a village on the edge of the Gobi in China. It belongs to Yongchang county (永昌縣; Yŏngchāng xiàn), Jinchang prefecture (金昌市; Jīnchāng shì), Gansu province (甘肅省; Gānsù shěng).

Location of Jinchang Prefecture (yellow) within Gansu


Zhelaizhai lies in the Hexi Corridor. It did not become part of Chinese territory until the Western Han dynasty conquered this area in 2nd century BC. Until the 1st century BC, it belonged to Fanhe county (番和縣; Fānhé xiàn), Zhangye prefecture (張掖郡; Zhāngyè jùn).[1]

In 37 BC, general Chen Tang (陳湯; Chén Tāng) of the Western Han dynasty attacked Xiongnu and brought many captives back to China in 36 BC. These captives were given a land to be settled. The place was called Liqian (驪靬; Líqián), which is where Zhelaizhai is situated nowadays.[1][2]

Liqian was split from Fanhe and received the county status in the Western Han dynasty. The inhabitants around Liqian were later called Liqian Rong (驪靬戎; Líqián Róng) or Lushui Hu (盧水胡; Lúshŭi Hú) in historical records.[1] Several states established by non-Han Chinese have controlled Liqian during the Sixteen Kingdoms period. Lushui Hu even ruled one of these states, the Northern Liang, from 401 AD to 439 AD.

The Northern Wei conquered the Northern Liang. In the coming years, Liqian was ruled by the Northern Wei, the Western Wei, the Northern Zhou, and then the Sui dynasty, which reunified China in 589. Liqian county was merged into Fanhe county again in about 592.

Zhelaizhai got much attention from international media and researchers due to a hypothesis according to which its inhabitants may have descended from the Romans.

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Coordinates: 38°08′49″N 102°11′10″E / 38.147°N 102.186°E / 38.147; 102.186