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From the series Cities of China

It would be a stretch to say that I have been to the city of Lanzhou, capital of Gansu Province. I can, however, claim to have been through it. The year was 1992; two friends and I were travelling by train from Beijing on our way to Tu’er’fen (Turpan), in Xinjiang. At the time, it was a three-day trip. Unfortunately, we ran out of food after the first day and had nothing left for the rest of the journey except a couple of tins of cheddar cheese. Yes, tins!

In the afternoon of the second day of that journey, we pulled into Lanzhou, a city that straddles the Yellow River. We didn’t get off the train, and I don’t remember too much about what the city looked like (it was similar to all other cities in China at that time with rows and rows of seven-story buildings). But I can tell you it looked nothing like the city in this video.

Lanzhou, which has always been on the edges of empire, became a part of Qin China in the 6th century, BC. During successive dynasties it alternated between being under imperial and tribal rule and served as the first major stop along the Silk Road that went west from Xi’an to Central Asia. In 1666 Gansu became a province of Qing China, and Lanzhou was made the capital. It retains that status today. It became a key industrial base during the early days of the People’s Republic of China, in the mid-20th century. Today it is a city of more than four million inhabitants.

The church in the video (1:12) is the Lanzhou Sanzhisi Christian Church, established by China Inland missionaries in 1885. The building featured in the video dates to 2018. At the dedication of that building in 2018, the China Christian Daily wrote about the church:

In January 1877, Easton and Parker from CIM introduced the gospel into Gansu province, Northwest China. One year later, the mission established the first general station in the province. In 1885, the British pastor of Inland Mission Baghdaugh started building Shanzishi Chapel. First named the “Gospel Church of Inland Mission,” the chapel had over 80 rooms with an area of 5 mu (0.82 acres). In 1921, he invested more than 4000 silver dollars into the construction completed in 1923.

Lanzhou also serves as the seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Lanzhou.

You can learn more about prominent Christians, both local and foreign associated with Lanzhou on the website, Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Christianity. A search for “Lanzhou” turns up eight entries. Read them and be encouraged.

Besides its industrial output, Lanzhou is also famous for hand-pulled noodles, Lanzhou lamian.

I’m happy to report that we even have a Lanzhou lamian restaurant in St. Paul, MN, complete with a man behind the counter hand-pulling the noodles. If you are in the area, be sure to check it out.

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Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman is Vice President of Partnership and China Engagement and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University …View Full Bio

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