Hexi Corridor

Hexi Corridor (Chinese: 河西走廊; pinyin: Héxī Zǒuláng; Wade–Giles: Ho2-hsi1 Tsou3-lang2, Xiao'erjing: حْسِ ظِوْلاْ, IPA: /xɤ˧˥ɕi˥ tsoʊ˨˩˦lɑŋ˧˥/) or Gansu Corridor is an important historical route in Gansu province of China. As part of the Northern Silk Road running northwest from the bank of the Yellow River, it was the most important route from North China to the Tarim Basin and Central Asia for traders and the military. The corridor is a string of oases along the northern edge of the Tibetan Plateau. To the south is the high and desolate Tibetan Plateau and to the north, the Gobi Desert and the grasslands of Outer Mongolia. At the west end the route splits in three, going either north of the Tian Shan or south on either side of the Tarim Basin. At the east end are mountains around Lanzhou before one reaches the Wei River valley and China proper.

China Gansu
The central and western parts of the modern province of Gansu correspond to the Gansu Corridor
Hexi Corridor
Map of the Hexi Corridor


Early crop dispersal

Cultivated wheat, originating at the Fertile Crescent, already appeared in China around 2800 BC at Donghuishan at the Hexi corridor. Several other crops are also attested at this time period. Xishanping is another similar site in Gansu.[1]

According to Dodson et al. (2013), wheat entered via the Hexi Corridor into northern Gangsu around 3000 BC, although other scholars date this somewhat later.[2]

The Chinese millets (Panicum miliaceum, and Setaria italica), rice, as well as other crops travelled the opposite way through the Corridor, and reached western Asia and Europe from the fifth millennium to the second millennium BC.[2]

As early as the 1st millennium BCE, silk goods began appearing in Siberia, having traveled over the Northern branch of the Silk Road, including the Hexi Corridor segment.[3]

Qin dynasty

At the end of the Qin dynasty (221-206 BCE), the Yuezhi overcame previous settlers, the Wusun and Qiang, occupying the western Hexi Corridor. Later, Northern Xiongnu armies vanquished the Yuezhi and established dominance here during the early Han dynasty.[4]

Han Dynasty

During the Han–Xiongnu War, Han China expelled the Xiongnu from the Hexi Corridor in 121 BCE and even drove them from Lop Nur when King Hunye surrendered to Huo Qubing in 121 BCE. The Han acquired a territory stretching from the Hexi Corridor to Lop Nur, thus cutting the Xiongnu off from their Qiang allies. Again, Han forces repelled a joint Xiongnu-Qiang invasion of this northwestern territory in 111 BCE. After 111 BCE, new outposts were established, four of them in the Hexi Corridor, namely Jiuquan, Zhangye, Dunhuang, and Guzang (Wuwei).

From roughly 115–60 BCE, Han forces fought the Xiongnu over control of the oasis city-states in the Tarim Basin. Han was eventually victorious and established the Protectorate of the Western Regions in 60 BCE, which dealt with the region's defense and foreign affairs.

During the turbulent reign of Wang Mang, Han lost control over the Tarim Basin, which was conquered by the Xiongnu in 63 CE, and used as a base to invade the Hexi Corridor. Dou Gu defeated the Xiongnu again at the Battle of Yiwulu in 73 CE, evicting them from Turpan and chasing them as far as Lake Barkol before establishing a garrison at Hami.

After the new Protector General of the Western Regions Chen Mu was killed in 75 CE by allies of the Xiongnu in Karasahr and Kucha, the garrison at Hami was withdrawn. At the Battle of the Altai Mountains in 89 CE, Dou Xian defeated the Northern Chanyu, who retreated into the Altai Mountains.

Tang Dynasty

Dunhuang Zhang Yichao army
Mural commemorating victory of General Zhang Yichao over the Tibetan Empire in 848. Mogao cave 156, late Chinese Tang Dynasty
Tang Dynasty circa 700 CE
Tang-era map showing the Hexi Corridor connection China proper to the Tarim Basin

The Tang dynasty fought the Tibetan Empire for control of areas in Inner and Central Asia. There was a long string of conflicts with Tibet over territories in the Tarim Basin between 670–692 .

In 763 the Tibetans even captured the Tang capital of Chang'an for fifteen days during the An Lushan Rebellion. It was during this rebellion that the Tang withdrew its western garrisons stationed in what is now Gansu and Qinghai, which the Tibetans then occupied along with the area that is modern Xinjiang. Hostilities between the Tang and Tibet continued until they signed a formal peace treaty in 821. The terms of this treaty, including fixed borders between the two countries, are recorded in a bilingual inscription on a stone pillar outside the Jokhang in Lhasa.

Western Xia Dynasty

The Western Xia Dynasty, known also as the Tangut Empire, was established in the 11th century by Tangut tribes. Western Xia controlled from 1038 CE up to 1227 CE the areas in what are now the northwestern Chinese provinces of Gansu, Shaanxi, and Ningxia.

Yuan Dynasty

Genghis Khan began the Mongol conquest of the Jin dynasty around 1207 and Ögedei Khan continued it after his death in 1227. The Jin dynasty of the Jurchen people fell in 1234 CE with help from the Han Chinese dynasty of the Southern Song.

Ögedei also crushed the Western Xia in 1227, pacifying the Hexi Corridor region, which was later controlled by the Yuan dynasty established by Kublai Khan, the fifth Khagan of the Mongol Empire. The Yuan lasted officially from 1271-1368.

Geography and climate

The Hexi Corridor is a long, narrow passage stretching for some 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) from the steep Wushaolin hillside near the modern city of Lanzhou to the Jade Gate[5] at the border of Gansu and Xinjiang. There are many fertile oases along the path, watered by rivers flowing from the Qilian Mountains, such as the Shiyang, Jinchuan, Ejin (Heihe), and Shule Rivers.

A strikingly inhospitable environment surrounds this chain of oases: the snow-capped Qilian Mountains ("Nanshan") to the south; the Beishan mountainous area, the Alashan Plateau, and the vast expanse of the Gobi desert to the north. Geologically, the Hexi Corridor belongs to a Cenozoic foreland basin system on the northeast margin of the Tibetan Plateau.[6]

The ruins of a Han Dynasty watchtower made of rammed earth at Dunhuang.

The ancient trackway formerly passed through Haidong, Xining and the environs of Juyan Lake, serving an effective area of about 215,000 km2 (83,000 sq mi). It was an area where mountain and desert limited caravan traffic to a narrow trackway, where relatively small fortifications could control passing traffic.[7]

There are several major cities along the Hexi Corridor. In western Gansu Province is Dunhuang (Shazhou), then Yumen, then Jiayuguan, then Jiuquan (Suzhou), then Zhangye (Ganzhou) in the center, then Jinchang, then Wuwei (Liangzhou) and finally Lanzhou in the southeast. In the past, Dunhuang was part of the area known as the Western Regions. South of Gansu Province, in the middle just over the provincial boundary, lies the city of Xining, the capital of Qinghai Province. Xining used to be the chief commercial hub of the Hexi Corridor.

The Jiayuguan fort guards the western entrance to China. It's located in Jiayuguan pass at the narrowest point of the Hexi Corridor, some 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) southwest of the city of Jiayuguan. The Jiyaguyan fort is the first fortification of Great Wall of China in the west.

See also



  1. ^ Li, Xiaoqiang; et al. (2007a). "Early cultivated wheat and broadening of agriculture in Neolithic China" (PDF). The Holocene. 17 (5).
  2. ^ a b Stevens, C. J.; Murphy, C.; Roberts, R.; Lucas, L.; Silva, F.; Fuller, D. Q. (2016). "Between China and South Asia: A Middle Asian corridor of crop dispersal and agricultural innovation in the Bronze Age" (PDF). The Holocene. 26 (10): 1541–1555. doi:10.1177/0959683616650268. ISSN 0959-6836. PMC 5125436.
  3. ^ Silk Road, North China, C.Michael Hogan, the Megalithic Portal, ed. A. Burnham
  4. ^ "Dunhuang History". Retrieved 2009-06-12.
  5. ^ Zhihong Wang, Dust in the Wind: Retracing Dharma Master Xuanzang's Western Pilgrimage, 經典雜誌編著, 2006 ISBN 9868141982
  6. ^ Youli Li; Jingchun Yang; Lihua Tan; Fengjun Duan (July 1999). "Impact of tectonics on alluvial landforms in the Hexi Corridor, Northwest China". Geomorphology. 28 (3–4): 299–308. doi:10.1016/S0169-555X(98)00114-7.
  7. ^ "The Silk Roads and Eurasian Geography". Retrieved 2007-08-06.


  • Yap, Joseph P. (2009). "Wars With The Xiongnu - A Translation From Zizhi tongjian" . AuthorHouse. ISBN 978-1-4490-0605-1
  • Yap, Joseph P. (2019), "The Western Regions, Xiongnu and Han" from the Shiji, Hanshu and Hou Hanshu ISBN 978-1792829154

Gansu (甘肃 formerly romanized as Kansu) is a province of the People's Republic of China, located in the northwest of the country.

It lies between the Tibetan and Loess plateaus, and borders Mongolia (Govi-Altai Province), Inner Mongolia, and Ningxia to the north, Xinjiang and Qinghai to the west, Sichuan to the south, and Shaanxi to the east. The Yellow River passes through the southern part of the province.

Gansu has a population of 26 million (as of 2009) and covers an area of 453,700 square kilometres (175,200 sq mi). The capital is Lanzhou, located in the southeast part of the province.

The State of Qin originated in what is now southeastern Gansu, and went on to form the first dynasty of Imperial China. The Northern Silk Road ran through the Hexi Corridor, which passes through Gansu.

Ganzhou Uyghur Kingdom

The Ganzhou Uyghur Kingdom, also referred to as the Hexi Uyghurs, was established in 894 around Gan Prefecture in modern Zhangye. The kingdom lasted from 894 to 1036; during that time, many of Ganzhou's residents converted to Buddhism.The Hexi Corridor, located within modern Gansu, was traditionally a Chinese inroad into Asia. From the 9th to 11th centuries this area was shared between the Ganzhou Uyghurs and the Guiyi Circuit. By the early 11th century both the Uyghurs and Guiyi Circuit were conquered by the Tangut people of the Western Xia Dynasty.The Ganzhou Uyghur rulers were descended from the Yaghlakar dynasty.

Gulang County

Gulang County (Chinese: 古浪县; pinyin: Gǔlàng Xiàn) is a county in central Gansu province, the People's Republic of China, bordering Inner Mongolia to the northeast. It is under the administration of Wuwei City. Its postal code is 733100, and its population in 2006 was 393,200 people. Located in the east of the Hexi Corridor and to the south of the Tengger Desert, it borders Jingtai County to the east, Tianzhu County to the south, Liangzhou District to the northwest, and Inner Mongolia's Alxa Left Banner to the northeast.


Gusiluo (Chinese: 唃厮啰; 997-1065) was a Tibetan king of Tsongkha, in present-day Qinghai and parts of Hexi Corridor. Claimed to be a descendant of Buddha, Guosiluo laid a foundation to a large Tibetan confederacy centered in Zongge (present-day Ping'an District). The Gusiluo regime built a closed relationship with the Khitans to resist the increasing powerful Western Xia.

In 1099, the Northern Song launched a campaign into Xining and Haidong (in modern Qinghai province), occupying territory that was controlled by the Tibetan Gusiluo regime since the 10th century.

Han–Xiongnu War

The Han–Xiongnu War, also known as the Sino-Xiongnu War, was a series of military conflicts between the Chinese Han dynasty and the Xiongnu confederation from 133 BC to 89 AD. Under Emperor Wu of Han's reign (r. 141–87 BC), the Han dynasty switched from a relatively passive foreign policy focused on appeasement to an aggressive expansionist strategy to deal with the increasing Xiongnu incursions on the northern frontier. In 133 BC, the conflict escalated to a full-scale war when the Xiongnu realized that the Han were about to ambush them at Mayi. The Han court decided to deploy several military expeditions toward the regions situated in the Ordos Loop, Hexi Corridor, and Gobi Desert and successfully expelled the Xiongnu.

Hereafter, the war progressed further west towards the many smaller oasis states of the Western Regions. The nature of the battles varied through time, with many casualties during the changes of possession or loss of actual control over the western states near the frontier regions. Regional alliances also tended to shift, sometimes forcibly, when one party gained the upper hand in a certain territory over the other. The Han empire's political influence expanded deeply into Central Asia as a result. As the situation deteriorated for the Xiongnu, civil war befell and weakened the confederation. In 50 AD, the Southern Xiongnu submitted to the Han empire, but the Northern Xiongnu continued to resist. Eventually the war resulted in the total victory of the Han empire over the Xiongnu state in 89 AD. The Xiongnu were replaced by the loose confederation of the Xianbei, which lacked the centralized features of Xiongnu organization, but continued to harass the Han to their south.

Incorporation of Xinjiang into the People's Republic of China

The incorporation of Xinjiang into the People's Republic of China in 1949, also known in Chinese historiography as the Peaceful Liberation of Xinjiang, refers to the takeover of Xinjiang by the Chinese Communists and the People's Liberation Army, largely through political means, in the waning days of the Chinese Civil War.

In the late summer of 1949, the People's Liberation Army drove into the Hexi Corridor in Gansu Province and pressed toward Xinjiang. At the time, Xinjiang was ruled by a coalition government based in Dihua (now Urumqi), which comprised Chinese Nationalists (KMT) and representatives from the former Second East Turkestan Republic (ETR), a regime founded with the support of the Soviet Union in the Three Districts in northwestern Xinjiang during the Ili Rebellion in 1944 and then disbanded in 1946. Under the coalition government which ruled Xinjiang from 1946 to 1949, the KMT controlled most of the province and leaders of the former ETR retained autonomy in the Three Districts. In the fall of 1949, the Chinese Communists reached separate agreements with the political leadership of the KMT and the Three Districts.

The Chinese Communists persuaded the KMT provincial and military leadership to surrender. The Soviet Union induced the leaders of the former ETR to accede to the Chinese Communists. Some of the former ETR leaders were said to have died in a plane crash en route to Beijing to attend the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, the Chinese Communists' united front conference. Most of the remaining former ETR leadership accepted the absorption of the autonomous Three Districts into the newly founded People's Republic of China. They along with the surrendered KMT officials took senior positions in the PRC government.

Thus, the Chinese Communists' takeover of Xinjiang was largely achieved through political means. The PLA entered Xinjiang in October 1949 and controlled most of the vast region by the spring of 1950. Among the major military actors in Xinjiang, only Yulbars Khan, a KMT loyalist, and Osman Batur, a former ETR commander turned KMT supporter, fought against the Chinese Communists. They were both defeated by the PLA.


Ingentidens is an extinct genus of chroniosuchid reptiliomorph from upper Permian (upper Roadian age) mudstone deposits of Dashankou locality, Xidagou Formation of China. It was first named by Jin-Ling Li and Zheng-Wu Cheng in 1999, from a mandible (IGCAGS V 363). The type species is Ingentidens corridoricus. The generic name means “large” (Inget in Latin) + “tooth” (dens), and the specific name referring to the region of Gansu, the Hexi Corridor where the type specimen was found.

Lanzhou–Xinjiang railway

The Lanzhou−Xinjiang railway or Lanxin railway (simplified Chinese: 兰新铁路; traditional Chinese: 蘭新鐵路; pinyin: Lánxīn Tiělù) is the longest railway in northwestern China. It runs 1,904 kilometers (1,183 mi) from Lanzhou, Gansu, through the Hexi Corridor, to Ürümqi, in Xinjiang. It was Xinjiang's only rail link with the rest of China until the opening of the Lanzhou–Xinjiang high-speed railway in December 2014. The railway follows the path of the ancient Silk Road.


Laoshang (Chinese: 老上; r. 174–160 BCE), whose proper name was Jiyu (Chinese: 稽粥), was a chanyu of the Xiongnu Empire who succeeded his father Modu Chanyu in 174 BCE. Under his reign, the Xiongnu Empire continued to expand against the Yuezhi and the Xiongnu thus gained control of the Hexi Corridor.

Liangzhou District

Liangzhou District (simplified Chinese: 凉州区; traditional Chinese: 涼州區; pinyin: Liángzhōu Qū) is an district and the seat of the city of Wuwei, Gansu province of the People's Republic of China, bordering Inner Mongolia to the east.

Qilian Mountains

The Qilian Mountains (simplified Chinese: 祁连山; traditional Chinese: 祁連山; pinyin: Qílián Shān; Wade–Giles: Ch'i2-lien2 Shan1, also romanized as Tsilien; Mongghul: Chileb), together with the Altyn-Tagh (Altun Shan) also known as Nan Shan (Chinese: 南山, literally "Southern Mountains"), as it is to the south of Hexi Corridor, is a northern outlier of the Kunlun Mountains, forming the border between Qinghai and the Gansu provinces of northern China.

Shiyang River

The Shiyang River (石羊河), previously called the Gu River (谷水), flows through the eastern Hexi Corridor in the China.

The catchment area of the Shiyang River covers about 41,600 km2, most of which lies within today's Wuwei prefecture-level city of the Gansu Province. The river originates from the Qilian Mountains, and flows north-east, toward the Gobi Desert. The Wuqiaoling Range (乌鞘岭), in Tenzhu Tibetan Autonomous County, forms the dividing ridge between the endorheic Shiyang River catchment in the north and the exorheic Yellow River catchment in the south.

In the Tang Dynasty, the Baiting Lake (白亭海) was one of the terminal lakes of Shiyang River. However, the Baiting Lake has dried up and the modern terminal lake of Shiyang River is the Qingtu Lake (青土湖).

Agricultural oases are distributed in the Shiyang River catchment, with Wuwei being the main city of this region. Reservoirs have been constructed for the purposes of irrigation and flood prevention. There were 24 reservoirs in the Shiyang River Basin as of 2000. The population in the Shiyang River catchment was about 2 268 900 as of 2003. Currently people in this region are facing problems of overdevelopment and desertification.In the lower reaches of Shiyang River is the Minqin Oasis, which is surrounded by the Tengger Desert (腾格里沙漠) in the east and the Badain Jaran Desert (巴丹吉林沙漠) in the west. Currently efforts are being made to prevent the desertification and disappearance of the Minqin Oasis.

Siba culture

The Siba culture (Chinese: 四坝文化), also called Huoshaogou culture (火烧沟), was a Bronze Age archaeological culture that flourished circa 1900 to 1500 BC in the Hexi Corridor, in Gansu Province of Northwest China. It was discovered in 1984 at Sibatan in Shandan County. Siba type pottery vessels are different from the others in Gansu. Siba produced painted pottery with coloured decorations; these were painted after the vessels had been fired. Similar pottery was used by the Tianshanbeilu culture at Hami basin to the west.The Siba engaged in agricultural activities like millet farming and pig farming. Their metallurgy was highly developed.Siba culture is found mainly to the west of the Gansu corridor. The locations are found at Yongchang, Minyue, Jiuquan, Yumen counties, and others. Siba culture is bordered by the Qijia culture to the east. The later period of Qijia is very close to Siba culture. The Siba culture may have developed independently.The site of Ganguya in Jiuquan has been excavated.Significant differences have been observed in the comparison of the burial customs and artifacts in the three sites excavated: Donghuishan, Huoshaogou and Ganguya.

"During the first two periods of the [Donghuishan] Cemetery, there were only arsenical copper articles, but by the third period, bronze articles came into being. In the Ganguya Cemetery which was later than the Donghuishan Cemetery, more than sixty-five percent of the copper samples was tested bronze articles."

Siba culture played an intermediary role between the cultures to the east and west. There were also contacts with the Eurasian steppe. Research indicates that there was close interaction between agricultural and pastoral/hunting communities in this wide geographical area; pastoral/hunting communities also possessed many metal artefacts.

Silk Route Museum

The Silk Route Museum (Chinese: 丝绸之路博物馆) is located in Jiuquan, Gansu Province along the Silk Road, a trading route connecting Rome to China, used by Marco Polo. It is also built over the tomb of the Xiliang King in Gansu Province. Founded by Mei Ping Wu and staffed by volunteers, the museum is dedicated to the fostering of an enhanced understanding between East and West. The museum opened in October 2009and is dedicated to the history of the ancient Silk Road. The museum holds in trust a collection of rare and historical artifacts dating to the time of the original Silk Road. The museum houses an exhibition area of over 100,000 square feet which includes over 35,000 pieces from the Jade Road collection, a substantial subterranean art gallery, the Wei Jin Tombs, as well as historical sites from the Hexi Corridor of ancient China.

Wuwei, Gansu

Wuwei (Chinese: 武威; pinyin: Wŭwēi) is a prefecture-level city in northwest central Gansu province. In the north it borders Inner Mongolia, in the southwest, Qinghai. It is centrally located in between three western capital cities, Lanzhou, Xining, and Yinchuan, making it an important business and transportation hub for the region. Because it is positioned along the Hexi Corridor, historically the only route from central China to western China and the rest of Central Asia, many major railroads and national highways pass through Wuwei, nowadays.


Xining (simplified Chinese: 西宁; traditional Chinese: 西寧 Xīníng [ɕí.nǐŋ]; Standard Tibetan: ཟི་ལིང་། Ziling) is the capital of Qinghai province in western China, and the largest city on the Tibetan Plateau. It has 2,208,708 inhabitants at the 2010 census whom 1,198,304 live in the built up area made of 4 urban districts.The city was a commercial hub along the Northern Silk Road's Hexi Corridor for over 2000 years, and was a stronghold of the Han, Sui, Tang, and Song dynasties' resistance against nomadic attacks from the west. Although long a part of Gansu province, Xining was added to Qinghai in 1928. Xining holds sites of religious significance to Muslims and Buddhists, including the Dongguan Mosque and Ta'er Monastery. The city lies in the Huangshui River valley, and owing to its high altitude, has a cold semi-arid climate. It is connected by rail to Lhasa, Tibet and connected by high-speed rail to Lanzhou, Gansu and Ürümqi, Xinjiang.

Yang Pass

Yangguan, or Yangguan Pass (traditional Chinese: 陽關; simplified Chinese: 阳关; literally: 'Sun Gate'), is a mountain pass that was fortified by Emperor Wu of the Western Han Dynasty around 120 BC and used as an outpost in the colonial dominions adjacent to ancient China. It is located approximately 70 kilometres (43 mi) southwest of Dunhuang, in the Gansu territory to the west of the Shaanxi province in the far Northwest China, which was in ancient times the westernmost administrative center of China. It was established as a frontier defense post, as well as a developed place in China's remote western frontier; Emperor Wu encouraged Chinese to settle there. Today Yangguan is located in Nanhu Village, along the Hexi Corridor.

Yangguan is one of China's two most important western passes, the other being Yumenguan. In Chinese, yang means "sunny", but it can also be used to mean "south" (the sunny side of a hill being the southern side). Yangguan was therefore so-named because it lies to the south of the Yumenguan Pass. It was an important landmark on the Silk Road. The fortress at Yangguan however had fallen into ruin by around AD 900.

Zhang Yichao

Zhang Yichao (Chinese: 張議潮 or 張義朝; pinyin: Zhāng Yìcháo; 799?-872) was a Han Chinese resident of Sha Prefecture (Chinese: 沙州; pinyin: Shāzhōu, in modern Dunhuang, Gansu). When the Tibetan Empire plunged into civil war, he led a rebellion, capturing several cities and reverted the area's allegiance to the Tang Dynasty. He subsequently conquered the Hexi Corridor and governed it as the military commissioner (Jiedushi) of Guiyi Circuit (headquartered in modern Dunhuang) under nominal authority of the Tang emperors.

Zhuye Lake

Zhuye Lake (Chinese: 猪野泽; pinyin: Zhūyě Zé) is the terminal lake of the Shiyang River, which is located in the east of the Hexi Corridor in Gansu Province, China. Zhuye Lake is located in the marginal area of the Asian monsoon and is affected by both the Asian monsoon system and the Westerly jet. By understanding the Holocene record in Zhuye Lake, the interaction of different climate systems during the Holocene can be studied. At the same time, the Asian monsoon system is climatically dynamic; changes in its sphere of influence can result in severe drought or flood over large, densely populated, regions. In addition, Zhuye Lake and the surrounding area in arid NW China are in ecological imbalance – a consequence of human impacts and climate. Understanding the environmental history here can assist climatological forecasting of the Asian monsoon system and ecosystem reconstruction.

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