Archive for ‘Gansu Province’


Seven Silk Road destinations, from China to Italy: towns that grew rich on trade

  • Settlements along the route linking Europe and Asia thrived by providing accommodation and services for countless traders
  • Formally established during the Han dynasty, it was a 19th-century German geographer who coined the term Silk Road
The ruins of a fortified gatehouse and cus­toms post at Yunmenguan Pass, in China’s Gansu province. Photo: Alamy
The ruins of a fortified gatehouse and cus­toms post at Yunmenguan Pass, in China’s Gansu province. Photo: Alamy
We have a German geographer, cartographer and explorer to thank for the name of the world’s most famous network of transconti­nental trade routes.
Formally established during the Han dynasty, in the first and second centuries BC, it wasn’t until 1877 that Ferdinand von Richthofen coined the term Silk Road (historians increasingly favour the collective term Silk Routes).
The movement of merchandise between China and Europe had been taking place long before the Han arrived on the scene but it was they who employed troops to keep the roads safe from marauding nomads.
Commerce flourished and goods as varied as carpets and camels, glassware and gold, spices and slaves were traded; as were horses, weapons and armour.
Merchants also moved medicines but they were no match for the bubonic plague, which worked its way west along the Silk Road before devastating huge swathes of 14th century Europe.
What follows are some of the countless kingdoms, territories, (modern-day) nations and cities that grew rich on the proceeds of trade, taxes and tolls.


A watchtower made of rammed earth at Dunhuang, a desert outpost at the crossroads of two major Silk Road routes in China’s northwestern Gansu province. Photo: Alamy
A watchtower made of rammed earth at Dunhuang, a desert outpost at the crossroads of two major Silk Road routes in China’s northwestern Gansu province. Photo: Alamy

Marco Polo worked in the Mongol capital, Khanbaliq (today’s Beijing), and was struck by the level of mercantile activity.

The Venetian gap-year pioneer wrote, “Every day more than a thousand carts loaded with silk enter the city, for a great deal of cloth of gold and silk is woven here.”

Light, easy to transport items such as paper and tea provided Silk Road traders with rich pickings, but it was China’s monopoly on the luxurious shimmering fabric that guaranteed huge profits.

So much so that sneaking silk worms out of the empire was punishable by death.

The desert outpost of Dunhuang found itself at the crossroads of two major Silk Road trade arteries, one leading west through the Pamir Mountains to Central Asia and another south to India.

Built into the Great Wall at nearby Yunmenguan are the ruins of a fortified gatehouse and cus­toms post, which controlled the movement of Silk Road caravans.

Also near Dunhuang, the Mogao Caves contain one of the richest collections of Buddhist art treasures any­where in the world, a legacy of the route to and from the subcontinent.


Afghanistan's mountainous terrain was an inescapable part of the Silk Road, until maritime technologies would become the area's undoing. Photo: Shutterstock
Afghanistan’s mountainous terrain was an inescapable part of the Silk Road, until maritime technologies would become the area’s undoing. Photo: Shutterstock

For merchants and middlemen hauling goods through Central Asia, there was no way of bypassing the mountainous lands we know today as Afghanistan.

Evidence of trade can be traced back to long before the Silk Road – locally mined lapis lazuli stones somehow found their way to ancient Egypt, and into Tutankhamun’s funeral mask, created in 1323BC.

Jagged peaks, rough roads in Tajikistan, roof of the world

Besides mercan­tile exchange, the caravan routes were responsible for the sharing of ideas and Afghanistan was a major beneficiary. Art, philosophy, language, science, food, architecture and technology were all exchanged, along with commercial goods.

In fact, maritime technology would eventually be the area’s undoing. By the 15th century, it had become cheaper and more convenient to transport cargo by sea – a far from ideal development for a landlocked region.


The Ganjali Khan Complex, in Iran. Photo: Shutterstock
The Ganjali Khan Complex, in Iran. Photo: Shutterstock

Thanks to the Silk Road and the routes that preceded it, the northern Mesopotamian region (present-day Iran) became China’s closest trading partner. Traders rarely journeyed the entire length of the trail, however.

Merchandise was passed along by middlemen who each travelled part of the way and overnighted in caravan­serai, forti­fied inns that provided accom­mo­dation, storerooms for goods and space for pack animals.

The good, bad and ugly sides to visiting Chernobyl and Kiev

With so many wheeler-dealers gathering in one place, the hostelries developed into ad hoc marketplaces.

Marco Polo writes of the Persian kingdom of Kerman, where craftsmen made saddles, bridles, spurs and “arms of every kind”.

Today, in the centre of Kerman, the former caravanserai building forms part of the Ganjali Khan Complex, which incorporates a bazaar, bathhouse and mosque.


A fort in Khiva, Uzbekistan. Photo: Alamy
A fort in Khiva, Uzbekistan. Photo: Alamy

The double-landlocked country boasts some of the Silk Road’s most fabled destinations. Forts, such as the one still standing at Khiva, were built to protect traders from bandits; in fact, the city is so well-preserved, it is known as the Museum under the Sky.

The name Samarkand is also deeply entangled with the history of the Silk Road.

The earliest evidence of silk being used outside China can be traced to Bactria, now part of modern Uzbekistan, where four graves from around 1500BC-1200BC contained skeletons wrapped in garments made from the fabric.

Three thousand years later, silk weaving and the production and trade of textiles remain one of Samarkand’s major industries.


A street in old town of Tbilisi, Georgia. Photo: Alamy
A street in old town of Tbilisi, Georgia. Photo: Alamy

Security issues in Persia led to the opening up of another branch of the legendary trade route and the first caravan loaded with silk made its way across Georgia in AD568.

Marco Polo referred to the weaving of raw silk in “a very large and fine city called Tbilisi”.

Today, the capital has shaken off the Soviet shackles and is on the cusp of going viral.

Travellers lap up the city’s monaster­ies, walled fortresses and 1,000-year-old churches before heading up the Georgian Military Highway to stay in villages nestling in the soaring Caucasus Mountains.

Public minibuses known as marshrutka labour into the foothills and although the vehicles can get cramped and uncomfortable, they beat travelling by camel.


Petra, in Jordan. Photo: Alamy
Petra, in Jordan. Photo: Alamy

The location of the Nabataean capital, Petra, wasn’t chosen by chance.

Savvy nomadic herders realised the site would make the perfect pit-stop at the confluence of several caravan trails, including a route to the north through Palmyra (in modern-day Syria), the Arabian peninsula to the south and Mediterranean ports to the west.

Huge payments in the form of taxes and protection money were collected – no wonder the most magnificent of the sand­stone city’s hand-carved buildings is called the Treasury.

The Red Rose City is still a gold mine – today’s tourists pay a hefty

US$70 fee to enter Petra

. The Nabataeans would no doubt approve.


Tourists crowd onto Venice’s Rialto Bridge. Photo: Alamy
Tourists crowd onto Venice’s Rialto Bridge. Photo: Alamy

Trade enriched Venice beyond measure, helping shape the Adriatic entrepot into the floating marvel we see today.

Besides the well-documented flow of goods heading west, consignments of cotton, ivory, animal furs, grapevines and other goods passed through the strategically sited port on their way east.

Ironically, for a city built on trade and taxes, the biggest problem Venice faces today is visitors who don’t contribute enough to the local economy.

A lack of spending by millions of day-tripping tourists and cruise passengers who aren’t liable for nightly hotel taxes has prompted authorities to introduce a citywide access fee from January 2020.

Two thousand years ago, tariffs and tolls helped Venice develop and prosper. Now they’re needed to prevent its demise.

Source: SCMP


Chinese primary school teacher sacked for beating boy with stick over 100 times

  • Parent posts photos of son’s bruised bottom and it is claimed pupils are too scared to go to school
  • Education authority says teacher is under investigation
The education authority said the teacher was under investigation. Photo: Shutterstock
The education authority said the teacher was under investigation. Photo: Shutterstock
A primary school teacher in eastern China has been sacked and detained for hitting a young boy on the bottom with a stick over 100 times, education authorities have said.
The teacher, surnamed Han, was dismissed by No 2 Experimental Primary School in Tancheng county, Shandong, the county’s education and sports bureau announced.
The boy, a first-year pupil surnamed Wang, sustained minor injuries from Han’s corporal punishment, the bureau said on Thursday in a post on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter.
One of the boy’s parents posted pictures of his red and swollen bottom on social media. “It’s a shock to me,” they wrote, according to news outlet The paper. “I wish it were possible to take my son’s place to be beaten 100 times.”
Chinese kindergarten teachers arrested after camera shows beatings
A Weibo post by someone who said they lived in the county claimed the teacher had beaten the boy in a classroom on Tuesday after telling him to bend over so that he could strike the boy’s hip more easily.
One of the boy’s parents posted pictures of his bruises on social media. Photo: Weibo
One of the boy’s parents posted pictures of his bruises on social media. Photo: Weibo

“Now the students in that class are too scared to go to school,” they wrote.

The paper reported that, at a meeting between school staff and the boy’s parents, the principal blamed Han but acknowledged that the school, too, had been responsible. The principal did not say whether the school would compensate the boy, according to the report.

Han’s actions were being investigated jointly by the local police and education authorities.

Kindergarten teacher accused of stepping on child’s face, abusing two others

It is not rare for allegations to surface about mainland China’s pupils being beaten by teachers for making mistakes at school.

Last December, a primary school teacher from Huating in Gansu province was suspended and investigated for allegedly using a plastic water pipe to beat a third-year pupil who could not remember English words correctly, leaving the boy’s arms swollen and bruised, according to The Beijing News.

A maths teacher in Chenzhou, in Hunan province, was sacked and investigated in 2017 for allegedly lashing the bottom of a 10-year-old boy with a bamboo whip for three consecutive days for not finishing his homework, news portal reported.

Source: SCMP


Summit demonstrates China’s leapfrog into digital world


Huang Kunming, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, also head of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee, speaks at the opening ceremony of the second Digital China Summit in Fuzhou, southeast China’s Fujian Province, May 6, 2019. (Xinhua/Ding Lin)

FUZHOU, May 6 (Xinhua) — China on Monday sounded another heartening note for its development of information technologies, as both companies and the government rush to harness the nationwide tech boom to raise efficiency, buoy public satisfaction and even tackle corruption.

The second Digital China Summit opened Monday in eastern China’s Fujian Province, shedding light on the latest information technologies that have penetrated the country’s government, industries and society.

The Chinese government has expected information technologies to nurture new economic engines and upgrade old industries as the country shunts from the high-speed economic growth to the path of high-quality development.

Huang Kunming, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, in a keynote speech at the summit called for advancing the building of a digital China and smart society, stressing the role of information technology in promoting high-quality development.

Huang, also head of the Publicity Department of the CPC Central Committee, said China’s advantages in internet technology innovation, technology application and as a huge market should be transformed into advantages in developing a digital economy.

The official called for achieving breakthroughs in core technologies, enhancing protection of intellectual property rights, advancing information infrastructure construction and narrowing digital gaps between urban and rural areas.

A report reviewing the country’s digital development in 2018 was also issued at the summit, pointing to rapid growth in sectors including electronic information manufacturing, software service, communications and big data.

The report published by the Cyberspace Administration of China said the country last year recorded more than 9 trillion yuan (1.3 trillion U.S. dollars) in online retail. China’s digital economy reached 31.3 trillion yuan in scale, accounting for one-third of the national GDP in 2018.

Provincial-level e-government platforms have also slashed time for getting government permits by an average of 30 percent, noted the report.

Trendy technologies from driverless vendor vehicles and facial recognition security checks to 5G networks are being used at the event in the city of Fuzhou. A number of tech companies are displaying their cutting-edge products including Baidu’s driverless vehicles, Huawei’s AI chip “Ascend” and Foxconn’s “future factories.”

Pony Ma, CEO of China’s Internet giant Tencent, said at the summit that the company, by working with Fujian police, has used its facial recognition technology to help 1,000 families find missing family members in the past two years.

Hu Xiaoming, president of Ant Financial that runs the popular online payment network Alipay, said at the event that one of every four Chinese now handles government services on Alipay, making it the country’s largest platform that offers access to government services.


One of the major highlights at the summit’s exhibition area are the many e-government apps, which have mushroomed across China to incorporate a wide range of government and public services. They are part of the government’s efforts to cut red tape to benefit residents and businesses alike.

In Fuzhou, the host city of the event, a citizen’s typical day now revolves around the e-Fuzhou app, which allows users to buy bus tickets, pay tuition fees and manage social security accounts without the need of visiting government offices.

A slew of digital technology applications, including the big data credit inquiry system, the online tax bureau, and the paperless customs clearance system, have also been developed in the province over the years.

Dingxi, one of the least developed cities in west China’s Gansu Province, has a booth displaying an online monitoring platform, which it launched last year to allow villagers to scrutinize the management of poverty-relief funds and report any signs of corruption.

“We went door-to-door to teach villagers how to use mobile phones to check the subsidies they are entitled to and the sum other families actually received,” said Yang Sirun, an inspector with the city’s discipline inspection commission.

“In the past, some wealthy families feigned poverty to claim subsistence allowances, while some officials fraudulently pocketed subsidies in the names of families that had moved away. The new platform can easily expose such ‘micro corruption,'” Yang said.

The official said since its launch, over 3,400 officials and residents have voluntarily turned in their illegal gains for fear of being reported. “Many hidden problems were also found during the collation of data from different departments, which proves big data’s power in fighting corruption,” he said.

The summit from May 6 to 8 aims to serve as a platform for issuing China’s policies on IT development and displaying the achievements and experience of e-government and the digital economy.

More than 1,500 officials, company representatives and scholars are attending the event, which is co-organized by the Cyberspace Administration of China, National Development and Reform Commission, Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and Fujian provincial government.

Source: Xinhua


Across China: Favorable ethnic policies bring benefits for Tibetan children

XINING, April 16 (Xinhua) — Every morning, Sonam Tsering takes his backpack and earphones, boards the subway and arrives in a commercial bank — his workplace in Beijing.

Sonam, 30, is doing a successful job in the international business unit of the bank. His success in the capital city is inseparable from his education background.

Sonam was born in Jone County of Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of northwest China’s Gansu Province. Thanks to China’s favorable ethnic policies, Sonam was able to study in a middle school in the northern Hebei Province.

“There were many ethnic classes in our school, and many of my classmates were from ethnic minority groups,” he said. After graduation, Sonam went for further study in Britain.

“I am from a small town, but education truly broadened my horizons,” he said.

Over the past decades, favorable policies have brought benefits for many children living in Tibetan areas.

In Sonam’s spare time, he likes watching NBA games. Sonam, who is fluent in Chinese, Tibetan and English, is also a fan of Tibetan rap, and he occasionally hangs out with friends at a bar in downtown Beijing.

When he was studying abroad, he met the love of his life. Now both Sonam and his wife are working in Beijing while raising a one-year-old baby girl.

“We plan to let our child study in Beijing,” he said. “We want her to get in touch with avant-garde thoughts, broaden her horizons and pursue a life she likes,” he said.

Like Sonam Tsering, Tsering Lhakyi also benefited from the country’s ethnic policies.

In the 1980s, due to a lack of talents and poor education foundation in southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, the government decided to open classes for Tibetan children. In 1985, the first batch of Tibetan pupils went inland to study. Since then, an increasing number of Tibetan children came to pursue study in more developed areas in China.

Tsering Lhakyi, born in the 1990s, was raised in Tibet’s Nagqu Prefecture with an average altitude of at least 4,500 meters. Her parents sent her to primary school in Lhasa, the regional capital. After that, she got high scores in the entrance exam and was admitted to an inland Tibetan class. After the national college entrance exam, she applied for a university in Yantai City of eastern China’s Shandong Province because she “wanted to see the sea.”

“The inland class truly taught me a lot about many new things,” she said. As a fan of music, Tsering was once a singer in a bar and released two singles in Tibetan. She currently works for a state-own enterprise.

“After work, I love to write music with a bunch of friends,” she said.

In 2017, she went to a popular talent show called “Sing! China” and became quite a sensation in the music industry thanks to her unique style and great music. Before Tsering, there were no other Tibetan contestants on the show, she said.

“People thought Tibetan singers were all about ethnic music, but I wanted to break that stereotype,” she said.

After the show, Tsering became a celebrity, but she was quite patient in releasing new music.

“I don’t want to make music just to cater to the market,” she said. “I have been trying different styles of music recently, and I want to create something different.”

Liu Hua, with Qinghai’s ethnic and religious affairs committee, said that China’s favorable ethnic policies not only brought quality education to students in ethnic areas but also changed their lives.

“These graduates are using their wide range of knowledge and images to influence people around them and generations to come,” Liu said.

Source: Xinhua

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