Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu, is a large modern city as the political, economical and cultural centre of the province. The city covers about 13,086 square kilometer with a population of around 2.8 million, half of which live in the urban area.
Lanzhou takes the heart position of China and owes a reputation of The City Of Melon and Fruits to its semiarid temperature climate. Local peach, water melon, honey dew melon and melon seeds are all well known.
Lanzhou was an important strategic town on the ancient Silk Road, and is now a key link on the present Eurasia Bridge. It is the standard Yellow River crossing point and owns its historical significance due to its geographical position. The spectacular scenery and relics around Lanzhou include the statue of Yellow River Mother, Water Wheel Park, Zhongshan Bridge and White Pagoda Park dotted along the Yellow River. But also Gansu Provincial Museum, Five Springs Mountain Park, Mt. Xinglong and Mt. Tulugou make Lanzhou well worth a stop.
Lanzhou is a major transport terminal of Gansu. Over 20 flights are opened to major cities from Zhongehuan Airport, some 70 kilometer from the town. There are 92 passenger trains extend daily to all directions from Lanzhou Railway Station and back and also good highways link the neighbouring parts. Lanzhou today is a key tourist city with complete infrastructure, many star-rated hotels and tour operators.
On a map of China with a scale of 1:260,000,000, draw a circle at a radius of 90 mm to include all China in it, and you will find that the center of this circle is Lanzhou, the capital city of northwest Gansu Province. Lanzhou is not only the geometrical center of China but also a center in the northwest in terms of transportation, telecommunication and the Silk Road Tourism Ring.
Lanzhou used to be a key point connecting the central China and the western region as well as a vital city on the Silk Road. Today, Lanzhou is a hub of the Silk Road, with Maiji Caves to the east, Bingling Thousand Buddha Caves to the west, Labrang Monastery to the south and Dunhuang Mogao Caves to the north.
With mountains in the south and north of the city and the Yellow River flowing from the east to the west, Lanzhou is a beautiful modern city with both the grand beauty of northern cities and the prettiness of southern cities.
The landscape along the Yellow River should not be missed, as Lanzhou is the only provincial city through which the Mother River runs. Whether you choose to roam along the River, to cross the Zhongshan bridge; the First Bridge over the Yellow River, or to have a cup of 8 auspicious teas at the Watermill Park, you will be impressed by Lanzhou with its harmonious combination of the modern and the old. While the natural parks around the city such as Yan Tan Park and Shifogou National Forest Park will restore and refresh you, the White Pagoda Park and the Five-Spring Mountain Park will give you an understanding of the cultural side of Lanzhou.
Besides the above-mentioned attractions, the hospitable locals, multifarious restaurants, cheap yet delicious snacks, and convenient transportation system will all ensure that you get a memorable trip in this peaceful city.
Located in Lanzhou City, the Gansu Provincial Museum is the biggest comprehensive museum in the province. It is one of the best sights in the city and a visit is well worthwhile. Built in 1956, the museum covers a total area of 18,000 square m. Designed by the soviet experts, this museum will provide visitors with a unique and memorable experience.
The world-famous bronze Galloping Horse's Hoof Stepped on a Flying Swallow, also named as Galloping Horse, is a treasure of Gansu Provincial Museum. Excavated in 1969 in Wuwei County, Gansu Province, the piece depicts a vigorous horse with long tail waving and head perking. Its 3 hooves are in the air, galloping like lightening.
What makes this sculpture amazing is the right back hoof of this galloping horse lands on the back of a small flying bird. The bird turns in surprise to look at the big creature on its back. At the same moment, the horse's head also turns slightly in attempt to know what has happened. The whole statue is honored as the mysterious and rare treasure in the history of Chinese ancient sculpture art.
Zhongshan Bridge, also called the first bridge over the Yellow River, lies at the foot of Bai Ta Mountain and in front of Jin Cheng Pass in Lanzhou.
Before Zhongshan Bridge was built there were many floating bridges over the Yellow River, but only one existed for a relatively long period. This bridge was called Zhen Yuan Floating Bridge and was made up of more than 20 ships, tied up by ropes and chains. It floated on the river in order to help people pass over, but it was neither solid nor safe enough. Almost every year floods destroyed the bridge or even killed people. Problem also arose in the winter, when ice would build up on the river, so the bridge would have to undergo the costly process of being disassembled and then re-built in the spring.
Used for over 500 years, the Zhen Yuan Floating Bridges was finally retired in 1909, when an iron bridge was built. This new bridge is what we call the First Bridge over the Yellow River.
In the year 1907, under the proposal of local officers in Lanzhou and Gansu and the help of a Germany businessman, the Qing Government began to build this first iron bridge over the upper reaches of the Yellow River. All materials, even the rivets, were transported from Germany to China using ships, trains, carts and any other means possible. The bridge was completed in 2 years, and named "Zlanzhou Iron Bridge over the Yellow River". In 1942, to commemorate Dr. Sun Yatsen, the bride was re-named Zhongshan Bridge (Zhongshan is the Chinese name of Dr. Sun Yatsen).
The service life of the Zhongshan Bridge expired in 1989, and so about 10 bridges have already been built nearby. Even more bridges are planned to replace the Zhongshan Bridge's work, but none can replace its great value in history or its great work over its 80 years. The Zhongshan Bridge will be remembered forever as a piece of history and a cultural relic.
50 kilometer west of the Yongjing County, the Thousand Buddha Caves of Bingling Temple is on the Jishi Hill. Boating from the nearby Liujiaxia Dam, one of China's hydropower dams, for several minutes, you can see the Jishi Hill on which the caves are excavated. Bingling is a transliteration of Tibetan, which means Ten Thousand Buddha, just the common name of Buddhist caves in China. They were initially made in 420, and expanded several times through the ages.
Nowadays, there still exist 183 niches, 694 stone statues, 82 clay sculptures, and 900 square m of murals. All the statues, sculptures and murals exhibit superb craftsmanship, and have great artistic appeal. These caves, which stretch for 200 m, include the caves of Western Qin, North Wei, Sui, Tang, and Song, Yuan, Ming, Qing dynasties.
The most imposing is the statue of Maitreya (the Buddha of the Future), which is 27 m high, and stands out as the first sight of the caves from the river. Its cover has fallen off, possibly because the Buddha was made of straw and stucco over an inner wooden frame.
The Caves have great value for research of the history of Chinese painting, and the spread of Buddhism during that time. Between June (sometimes as late as July) and October, tourist boats depart daily from the dam to Bingling Si, while during the winter months the water level is too low for boats, and there is no access by road. Staircases have been built onto the rock-face to make your visit more convenient.
This park lies at the foot of Gaolan Hill southeast of the city. Behind it a landscaped park rises up to 1600 m. A climb to the summit (by chairlift) offers a panoramic view of the whole city. The park got the name for its 5 crystal springs.
There is a legend that Han Emperor Wudi sent General Huo Qubing to defend his northern border which was under attack by Huns in 120 BC. When the troops approached the Gaolan Hill with all soldiers thirsty and tired, they found that there was no water. General Huo was desperate to find the water himself, and when he whipped upon a stone with rage, 5 pure springs gushed out!
The springs flow to this day. The highest one is called "Amrita Spring". Legend has it that anyone who drinks the water will become eternal. Another interesting spring is called "Moziquan" (Spring of Son). It rumored that at the bottom of this 10 m deep cave are screes and tiles. People who retrieve the screes would get a son.
Most of the buildings have been destroyed in warfare over the centuries, and there only remains the Hall of Adamantine, which was built in 1372. Inside there is enshrined a bronze statue of Adamantine, 5.3 min height. Another attractive sight is a bell from the Jin dynasty. It is 3 m high and weights 5 tons. Near the park is a zoo.
The mountain stands at the northern bank of the Yellow River and has its name after the white pagoda on top of it. It is a nice place for strolling, with green forests, scattered pavilions, teahouses and, from its heights, some good views of both the churning river and the city beyond. The park was named after the White Pagoda Temple that crowns the summit of its steeply terraced slopes. This temple was first constructed in the Yuan dynasty, allegedly under orders from the despot Genghis Khan to commemorate a Tibetan lama. The temple was then rebuilt and expanded in the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Nowadays the center point of the temple is octangular. The Pagoda is structured in 7 terraces with an octagonal body in a height of 17 m.
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