Gansu is a province located in the northwest of the People's Republic of China. It lies between Qinghai, Inner Mongolia, and the Huangtu plateaus, and borders Mongolia to the north and Xinjiang to the west. The Yellow River passes the southern part of the province. It has a population of nearly 31 million (2009) and has a large concentration of Hui Chinese. 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 east of Gansu.
Gansu has a generally semi-arid to arid, continental climate, with warm summers and very cold winters. Most of the precipitation is concentrated in the summer months.
The cuisine of Gansu is based on the staple crops grown there: wheat, barley, millet, beans, and sweet potatoes. Within China, Gansu is known for its lamian (pulled noodles), and Muslim restaurants which feature authentic Gansu cuisine. Muslim restaurants are known as "qingzhen restaurants" ("pure truths restaurants"), and feature typical Chinese dishes, but without any pork products, and instead an emphasis on lamb and mutton.
Silk Route Museum
The Silk Route Museum is located in Gansu Province, and has over 100,000 square feet (9,300 m2) of exhibition space.
The Jiayuguan Pass of the Great Wall
Main article: Jiayuguan Pass
Jiayuguan Pass, in Jiayuguan city, is the largest and most intact pass, or entrance, of the Great Wall. Jiayuguan Pass was built in the early Ming dynasty, somewhere around the year 1372. It was built near an oasis that was then on the extreme western edge of China. Jiayuguan Pass was the first pass on the west end of the great wall so it earned the name "The First And Greatest Pass Under Heaven."
An extra brick is said to rest on a ledge over one of the gates. One legend holds that the official in charge asked the designer to calculate how many bricks would be used. The designer gave him the number and when the project was finished, only one brick was left. It was put on the top of the pass as a symbol of commemoration. Another account holds that the building project was assigned to a military manager and an architect. The architect presented the manager with a requisition for the total number of bricks that he would need. When the manager found out that the architect had not asked for any extra bricks, he demanded that the architect make some provision for unforeseen circumstances. The architect, taking this as an insult to his planning ability, added a single extra brick to the request. When the gate was finished, the single extra brick was, in fact, extra and was left on the ledge over the gate.
The Mogao Grottoes near Dunhuang represent an astonishing collection of Buddhist art and religion. Originally there were a thousand grottoes, but now only 492 cave temples remain. Each temple has a large statue of a buddha or bodhisattva and paintings of religious scenes. In 336 AD, a monk named Le Zun (Lo-tsun) came near Echoing Sand Mountain, when he had a vision of golden rays of light shining down on him like a thousand Buddhas. Le Zun started to carve the first grotto to memorize the incident. During the Five Dynasties period they ran out of room on the cliff and could not build anymore grottoes. Now they have started to find old paintings that were painted over in the Five Dynasties.
Silk Road and Dunhuang City
The historic Silk Road starts in Chang'an and goes to Constantinople. On the way merchants would go to Dunhuang in Gansu. In Dunhuang they would get fresh camels, food and guards for the journey around the dangerous Taklamakan Desert. Before departing Dunhuang they would pray to the Mogao Grottoes for a safe journey, if they came back alive they would thank the gods at the grottoes. Across the desert they would form a train of camels to protect themselves from thieving bandits. The next stop, Kashi (Kashgar), was a welcome sight to the merchants. At Kashi most would trade and go back and the ones who stayed would eat fruit and trade their Bactrian camels for single humped ones. After Kashi they would keep going until they reached their next destination.
Located about 5 km southwest of the city, the Crescent Lake or Yueyaquan is a oasis and popular spot for tourists seeking respite from the heat of the desert. Activities includes camel and 4x4 rides.
Bingling Temple, or Bingling Grottoes, is a Buddhist cave complex in a canyon along the Yellow River. Begun in 420 AD during the Western Jin Dynasty, the site contains dozens of caves and caverns filled with outstanding examples of carvings, sculpture, and frescoes. The great Maitreya Buddha is more than 27 meters tall and is similar in style to the great Buddhas that once lined the cliffs of Bamiyan, Afghanistan. Access to the site is by boat from Yongjing in the summer or fall. There is no other access point.
Labrang Tashikyil Monastery is located in Xiahe County, Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, located in the southern part of Gansu, and part of the traditional Tibetan province of Amdo. It is one of the six major monasteries of the Gelukpa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism in Tibet, and the most important one in Amdo. Built in 1710, it is headed by the Jamyang-zhaypa. It has 6 dratsang (colleges), and houses over sixty thousand religious texts and other works of literature as well as other cultural artifacts.