|Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (Retd.)|
It lies between the Tibetan and Huangtu plateaus, and borders Mongolia, 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.
In prehistoric times, Gansu was host to a number of Neolithic cultures. The Dadiwan culture, from where numerous archaeologically significant artifacts have been excavated, flourished in the eastern end of Gansu from about 6000 BC to about 3000 BC.
The Yuezhi originally lived in the very western part of Gansu until they were forced to emigrate by the Xiongnu around 177 BCE. The State of Qin, later to become the founding state of the Chinese empire, grew out from the southeastern part of Gansu, specifically the Tianshui area. The Qin name itself is believed to have originated, in part, from the area. Chinese archaeologists have discovered remains of walls of three ancient cities dating back between 3,100 and 2,500 years ago in northwest China's Gansu Province.  Qin tombs and artifacts have been excavated from Fangmatan near Tianshui, including one 2200-year-old map of Guixian County.
In imperial times, Gansu was an important strategic outpost and communications link for the Chinese empire, as the Hexi corridor runs along the "neck" of the province. The Han dynasty extended the Great Wall across this corridor, also building the strategic Yumenguan (Jade Gate Pass, near Dunhuang) and Yangguan fort towns along it. Remains of the wall and the towns can be found there to this date. The Ming dynasty also built the Jiayuguan outpost in Gansu.
To the west of Yumenguan and the Qilian Mountains, at the northwestern end of the province, the Yuezhi, Wusun, and other nomadic tribes dwelt (Shiji 123), occasionally figuring in regional imperial Chinese geopolitics.
After the fall of the Uyghur Empire, an Uyghur state was established in parts of Gansu that lasted from 848 to 1036 AD. During that time, many of Gansu's residents converted to Islam.
Situated along the Silk Road, Gansu was an economically important province, as well as a cultural transmission path. Temples and Buddhist grottoes such as those at Mogao Caves ('Caves of the Thousand Buddhas') and Maijishan Caves contain artistically and historically revealing murals. An early form of paper inscribed with Chinese characters and dating to about 8 BC was discovered at the site of a Western Han garrison near the Yumen pass in August 2006 
The historic Silk Road starts in Chang'an and goes to Constantinople. On the way merchants would go to Dunhuang in Gansu. In Dunhuang they would get fresh camels, food and guards for the journey around the dangerous Taklamakan Desert. Before departing Dunhuang they would pray to the Mogao Grottoes for a safe journey, if they came back alive they would thank the gods at the grottoes. Across the desert they would form a train of camels to protect themselves from thieving bandits. The next stop, Kashi (Kashgar), was a welcome sight to the merchants. At Kashi most would trade and go back and the ones who stayed would eat fruit and trade their Bactrian camels for single humped ones. After Kashi they would keep going until they reached their next destination.
- Dadiwan Relics Break Archeological Records
- Remains of 2,500-year-old cities discovered in Gansu
- Chinese surname history: Qin
- Over 2,200-Year-old Map Discovered in NW China
- Turghun Almas, "Uygurlar", Kashgar, 1989
- Over 500 Ancient Grottoes Discovered in Gansu
- "Artistic treasures of Maiji Mountain caves" by Alok Shrotriya and Zhou Xue-ying. Asianart.com
- New Evidence suggests longer paper making history in China