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Lanzhou -- City on the Silk Road
Lanzhou, capital of Gansu Province, is located between the Gaolan and the White Pagoda (Baita) mountains. It has been a hub of communications between China's Central Plain and northwestern China and an important point on the Silk Road that linked China's ancient capital Xi'an with Central Asia and the Roman Empire. Branches of the Yellow River divide the city into several parts, giving Lanzhou a unique layout. Lanzhou is the political, economic, and cultural center of Gansu Province. Its chief industries include oil refining, chemicals, machinery, and wool textiles. Lanzhou is connected with Beijing, Shanghai, Xi'an, Yinchuan, Urumqi, Xining, and Jiuquan by air and has convenient railway communications as well.

Five-Spring Mountain (Wuquanshan)

This hill in the southern suburbs of Lanzhou has five springs said to have gushed forth when General Huo Qubing (140-117 B.C.) of the Han Dynasty punctured the ground with his whip. Chongqing Temple on the slope of the hill was built more than six hundred years ago and is an exquisite example of a structure adapted to the surrounding terrain. Other interesting buildings on the hill include Thousand-Buddha Pavilion (Qianfoge), Hall of Flourishing Literature (Wenchanggong), Half Moon Pavilion (Banyueting), and Bell Pavilion (Zhongting).

White Pagoda Temple (Baitasi)

Standing on the northern bank of the Yellow River, this temple was named for its white pagoda, which was built during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). It is a seventeen-meter octagonal structure with seven levels, surrounded by many ancient buildings. The pagoda provides vantage point to watch the sunrise and view the winding course of the Yellow River.

Iron Bridge

Built on the Yellow River at the foot of White Pagoda Hill near Lanzhou, this was the first bridge on the Yellow River. During the fourteenth century, there was a floating bridge here, called Zhenyuan Bridge, which served as an important link on the Silk Road. The floating bridge was replaced in 1907 by the present iron bridge, which was reinforced in 1954.

Bingling Temple Grottoes

These grottoes were hollowed out in precipitous cliffs above the Yellow River in Yongjia County to the west of Lanzhou. Bingling Temple, facing the Yellow River, contains 183 grottoes and shrines stretching for two kilometers. Most of the elegant stone carvings, clay sculptures, murals, and auxiliary buildings were created during the Tang Dynasty.

Maiji Mountain Grottoes

These grottoes are found on the precipices of Maiji Mountain thirty kilometers south of Tianshui County, Gansu Province. Maiji Mountain is a green and graceful peak in the western part of the grand Qinling Range. The grottoes were cut during a period of 1,500 years from the Later Qin Dynasty (384-417) up to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). During an earthquake in the seventh century, the cliff broke in two and the grottoes were thus divided into east and west sections. The 194 remaining grottoes today contain a total of seven thousand clay and stone statues and 1,300 square meters of mural paintings. The sculptures representing celestial figures portray them as real people, full of life and energy.


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