Lanzhou: The Chinese Renaissance

In 1907, Lanzhou was still an archaic outpost whose fortified clay walls ran for two kilometres along the Yellow River. It lay pinched at a narrow spot in the dramatic river gorge, surrounded by mountaintop temples, terraced farmland and fruit groves. Inside the fortress town, streets recently paved in cobblestone were the only signs of modernity. Still, Gustaf Mannerheim found that reforms were much further along here than in remote Xinjiang, especially when it came to establishing new, Western-style schools. He stayed in Lanzhou from January 28 to March 16, 1908.

There’s almost nothing left of old Lanzhou. The old fortress has been razed, along with most other ancient architecture. One of the few historic buildings I found was an old hall which was part of a complex where the ancient Imperial exam used to take place. It is now hidden among bland institutional buildings that make up Lanzhou Hospital No. 2. I spent a week in the city, touring the local universities, interviewing professors and taking note of the sweeping educational reforms underway in China.

Route Map

Click on the features to view details about Mannerheim’s route from Zhangye and the Sunan Yugur Autonomous County to Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu province.

View Chapter 12: Lanzhou in a larger map

Photo Map

Click on the icons to view photos of my journey around Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu province.

Map: Then and Now

In this map, I superimposed Mannerheim’s sketch map over a Google Earth satellite image of modern Lanzhou. Notice how the river has shifted over the past century. Click on the image or this link to see a larger version.



For more information about Lanzhou, check out these links:

Lanzhou University
Lanzhou on Wikipedia
Redefining Lanzhou – City Guide
Lanzhou Pollution in China Daily
Drought in Gansu province in China Daily