Province of northwest China, bounded to the north by Mongolia and Inner Mongolia, to the east by Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and Shaanxi, to the south by Sichuan, and to the west by Qinghai and Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region; area 530,000 sq km/205,000 sq mi; population (2013 est) 25,821,800. The main cities are Lanzhou (capital), Yumen, Tianshui, Dunhuang, and Jiayuguan. Chief industries are coal, oil, iron and steel, and petrochemicals. Hydroelectric power from the Huang He River has been important in industrial development, and other industries include mining, metal-processing, and tourism. Agriculture is based on the cultivation of spring wheat, millet, sorghum, flax, and fruit, and animal rearing.
History The Silk Road, a medieval caravan route, winds its way through Gansu. The province became a Muslim stronghold in the 13th century. In the 19th century it was the base for the Muslim Rebellion (1862–78) which was violently suppressed by the Chinese authorities. A massive famine occurred at the end of the 19th century. In 1920 and 1932 the province was devastated by major earthquakes. In 1954 the boundaries of the province included the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, but this was separated from Gansu in 1958 .
Topography The eastern part of the province consists of the fertile loess lands which characterize most of neighbouring Shaanxi province. The Nan Shan and Qilian mountain ranges extend along much of its southern border. Between the mountains of the west and the Ala Shan Desert to the north is a piedmont zone (glaciers formed at the foot of mountains) trending to the northwest. The zone is followed by a line of communications and settlements known as the Gansu Corridor, which gives access to Xinjiang and Central Asia, and was part of the medieval Silk Road.
The Huang He is the principal river of the province and flows across its middle section. Lanzhou, the capital of the province, is situated on its banks.
Features The Silk Road medieval trade route to central Asia passes through the province, and the western end of the Great Wall is at Jiayuguan. There are Buddhist frescoes at Mogao caves near Dunhuang.
Climate The climate is harsh but varies widely between the southeast and northwest of the province. Winters are cold with January average temperatures ranging between 3°C/37°F in the south to −14°C/7°F in the northwest. Summers are mild with July average temperatures ranging from 27°C/81°F to 11°C/52°F. Rainfall also decreases from southeast to northwest, ranging from a maximum yearly average of 860 mm/34 in to 30 mm/1 in, with most of the province receiving less than 400 mm/16 in of rain a year.
Economy Around Lanzhou and to the south is a large expanse of agricultural land. The lowlands are fertile, especially where covered by loess. Spring wheat, millet, and sorghum are the major crops. In some restricted localities the growing of fruit, especially melons near Lanzhou, is important.
Natural resources include coal, copper, iron ore, nickel, platinum, magnesium, alumina, rare earths, and petroleum. An important oil-field has been developed at Yumen since the middle 1950s and it is linked both by rail and pipeline to Lanzhou,
site of the major refineries. There is a large copper mine at Baiyin. After the arrival of the railway in 1952 Lanzhou became the major industrial centre of the province, with manufactures which include chemical fertilizers, petrochemicals, and equipment for the petroleum industry and for the railways. Oil refining has developed at Yumen as well as at Lanzhou and there is an iron and steel works at Jiuquan.
Communications The province is crossed by China's principal east–west rail and highway route from Jiangsu to Xinjiang and Kasakhstan. At Lanzhou it is crossed by railways and roads from Qinghai to Ningxia and Inner Mongolia.
People Although the population is predominantly Han Chinese, about 8% comprises minority groups. The most numerous of these groups are the Hui, who are Muslims. Northern Gansu is populated by Mongols and there are substantial Tibetan minorities in the mountains of the southwest. There is a community of Kazakhs around Aksay in the far northwest of the province.
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