Glorious History

History Of Zhangye

Zhangye is a historically famous city of China. As early as 5000 years ago, the ancient people already farmed here and herded animals on the land which can be well testified by the stone axes, painted potteries, stone grinds, grains... excavated in several Neolithic sites in the area.

In the time of the Xia dynasty (2100-1600BC), Zhangye belongs to Yun state and under the government of Emperor Shun’s youngest son.


According to the historical record, the people lived here during early Qin dynasty (221BC-207BC) are the nomadic Wusong and Yuezhi. Yuezhi boasted of having 100,000 gritty fighters. They drove their neighbor- Wusong out of Dunhuang and Hexi corridor with force and controlled the vast grassland. But good times do not last long, in the early Han dynasty (203BC-176BC) another tribe intruded from Mongol Plateau, they were know as Huns or Xiongnu by Chinese. They defeated Yuezhi people, killed their king and drove the Yuezhe as far as Amu Darya in Mid Asia. The Huns controlled the corridor and became its dominator.

To the east of the Hexi corridor there laid the Chinese empire – Han. In order to defeat Huns and control the corridor, the emperor Wudi of the Han sent a diplomat Zhangqian to Mid Asia. His mission was to find the Yuezhi people and build alliance with them. It was the first time that Chinese people get to know the world west of Pamir’s.  Zhangqian collected intelligence for the fight and made an important report to emperor Wudi. In 127BC and 121BC the emperor dispatched 2 important generals with soldiers and launched battle against Huns on the Mogol plateau and in the corridor. The Huns were finally defeated and dove to the west. The emperor Wudi established 4 prefectures along the corridor. They were Wuwei, Zhangye,Jiuquan and Dunhuang.

After the great unification of Han dynasty, China again fell into destructive civil war (Wei and Jin Dynasty). Especially in the central China the old country was overthrown and replaced by several kingdoms. The kingdoms fought ceaselessly with each other. Numerous people were killed and forced to leave their home. Zhangye, for its special location, avoided a lot of political disaster.  A lot of people, among them there are commons as well as big clan and businessmen, migrated from central China to Zhangye, Which not only boomed the local economy but its culture.

China was reunified in Sui dynasty (518-618). The stable central government and favorable policies made trade on the Silk Road recovered quickly. Zhangye was valued by government for its important location and an international trade fair was held here in the Sui dynasty.

After the short Sui dynasty, Tang (618-907) built up the most powerful Empire of the world. The western Turks - the major barrier lay between east and west were defeated and cleared out. The trade on the Silk Road was entering the most glorious times.  Benefited by the trade on the Silk Road, Zhangye reached a climax of its development. It was not only a military center that most military operation to the west based on but a custom and trading center.

With the collapse of Tang Empire, the declining Chinese economy can’t afford expensive exotic merchandise anymore. In the Song dynasty, the economic weight of China gradually moved to the south and the development of shipping technology finally resulted in the decline of trade of the Silk Road on land. Zhangye gradually lost its former glory.

In 1028AD, the tangut people conquered Zhangye and later Mongolians vanquished Western Xia and controlled Zhangye.In the Yuan dynasty, Zhangye was the capital city of Gansu province. The famous Italian traveler Marco Polo came to Zhangye and stayed here for on year. In his book he was amazed by the richness of the city and the grandeur of Buddhist temples.

In the Qing dynasty and Qing dynasty, Zhangye was the capital city of Gansu province.

In 1986 Zhangye was nominated as historically and culturally famous city of China.