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Gansu ▶ (Simplified Chinese: ; Traditional Chinese: C; pinyin: Gns; Wade-Giles: Kan-su, Kansu, or Kan-suh) is a province of the People's Republic of China located in the northwest region of the country. It lies between Qinghai, Inner Mongolia, and the Huangtu Plateaus, and borders Mongolia to the north and Xinjiang to the west. The Huanghe River passes through the southern part of the province. It has a population of approximately 25 million (1997) and has a large concentration of Hui Chinese as well as a variety of other ethnic groups. The capital of the province is Lanzhou, located in the southeast part of Gansu. Gansu is abbreviated Gan or Long (¤/]), and is also known as Long West or Long Right, in reference to the Long Mountain that lies to the east of Gansu.

Gansu has a unique role in China. Sitting on the terminus of the Silk Road, Gansu benefited from the trade with Constantinople and India. Tibet, bordering with Gansu, has one of the most important Tibetan Buddhist monasteries in Gansu. That presence, along with the historical presence of Buddhist monks in the caves of the region, has positioned Gansu as one of the foremost regions in China for Buddhism. Gansu enjoys an abundance of mineral wealth, as well as potential for hydroelectric power, that promises to bring wealth to a region suffering from poverty.


The Yellow River crossing Lanzhou.

Gansu province has an area of 454,000 km², and the majority of its land is more than one km above sea level. It lies between the Tibetan Plateau, Inner Mongolia, and the Loess Plateau, and borders Mongolia to the north-west, with part of the Gobi Desert being located in Gansu.

The Yellow River (Huang He) gets most of its water from Gansu province, and it flows straight through the capital city of Lanzhou. Much like the rest of northwest China, the landscape in Gansu is very mountainous, especially in the south. The mountains in the south are part of the Qilian mountain range, which contain the province's highest elevation point, the Qilian Shan Mountain, which is about 5,547 meters high. It is located at latitude 39N and longitude 99E.

Gansu has large land resources, but the percentage of usable land is low, and as a result the proportion of cultivated land is small. Since precipitation is often scarce and irregular, Gansu is also a province that suffers from large periods of drought.

The province contains the geographical center of China, marked by the Center of the County Monument at 355040.9N, 103277.5E

Major cities:

  • Lanzhou
  • Yumen
  • Xiahe
  • Tianshui
  • Wuwei
  • Jinchang

Major rivers and lakes:

  • Yellow River
  • Shule River


The Yellow River seen from the park of the White Pagoda.

Agricultural production represents a small portion of Gansu's economy, and includes cotton, linseed oil, maize, melons, millet, and wheat. Gansu is also well known as a source for wild medicinal herbs which are used in traditional Chinese medicine. The province is second place in China for most medicinal plants and herbs, including some odd ones like hairy asiabell root, fritillary bulb, and Chinese caterpillar fungus.

The largest portion of Gansu's economy is based on mining and the extraction of minerals, especially rare earth elements. The province has significant deposits of antimony, chromium, coal, cobalt, copper, fluorite, gypsum, iridium, iron, lead, limestone, mercury, mirabilite, nickel, crude oil, platinum, troilite, tungsten, and zinc among others. Industries other than mining include electricity generation, petrochemicals, oil exploration machinery, and building materials.

Along with its mineral resources, Gansu also serves as a significant producer of energy for the People's Republic of China. Among Gansus most important sources of energy are its water resources, including the Yellow River and other inland river drainage basins. Gansu places ninth among all of Chinas provinces in annual hydropower potential and water discharge, producing a total of 17.24 gigawatts of hydropower a year. Twenty-nine hydropower stations have been constructed throughout the province, and each of them are capable of generating 30 gigawatts. In addition to hydropower, Gansu has an estimated coal reserve of 8.92 billion tons and a petroleum reserve of roughly 700 million tons. The oil fields at Yumen and Changqing are particularly considered significant among these petroleum reserves. Besides these more traditional forms of energy, there is also significant potential for wind and solar power development in Gansu, that remains largely untapped. According to some sources, the province is also a center of China's nuclear industry, although these reports are unconfirmed.

Despite its abundant natural and mineral resources, Gansu is considered to be one of the poorest provinces in China. Its nominal GDP for 2004 was about 155.9 billion yuan (19.34 billion USD) and per capita of 5010 RMB (605 USD). This poor economic status can be attributed to a variety of factors including a weak economic and technological foundation, a low degree of resource exploitation, poor industrial foundation, inadequate communication and transportation, less developed agricultural production, government revenue and investment issues, lack of arable land, mountainous terrain, and its distance from the more prosperous coastal regions of China.

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