11-Jul-2006 -- 35°50'41"N 103°27'08"E The Monument of the Geographic Center of China - The Heart of Asia (中国之心) – Gansu (甘肃), China
Visit Date: July 11, 2006
This visit was one of the two major objectives of our two-weeks' road trip which we now called “the Heart of China Expedition”. The other objective was to explore the Tibetan area near southern Gansu and Eastern Qinghai province, all within 100 km from the geographic center of China. We visited the monument on day 12 of our expedition and it was 3,579 km since we started the trip.
We learned about the existence of the monument of the geographic center of China, or commonly referred to as “the Heart of China” from news reports when the monument was established on September 2000 in Dong Xiang Zu Autonomous County (东乡族自治县) of the Ling Xia (临夏) Prefecture, about 80 km southwest of Lanzhou (兰州), the capital of Gansu.
The coordinates for the geographic center were reported as 35°33'49"N 103°33'19"E and a monument tower was established in Dong Jia Ling Township (董家岭乡). We had assumed that the monument tower was located right on the geographic center based on the news reports. But later we learned that this was not the case and it was a major source of confusion. One of the misleading news reports is copied and translated at bottom, and all news reports made the same mistake – indicating that the geographic center is located in Dong Jia Ling.
We reached the county seat of Dong Xiang Zu County just as sun went down, after a whole day of leisure drive having started in Jian Zha(尖扎) County of Qinghai province. According to the GPS, the “Heart of China” is located about 12 km southeast from the county town. However, during the evening check of the detailed electronic map we found that Dong Jia Ling Township where the geographic center was supposed to be was nowhere near the reported coordinates, rather the township was north from the county town. A web search to review the original news reports found all clearly stated that the Geographic Center of China is located in Dong Jia Ling with the above coordinates.
Faced with such contradictory information, we started to ask around. What was perplexing was the fact that nobody at the county town seemed to know about this monument (we figured out the reason later). After several inquiries we found a local driver who had seen the monument near the highway in Dong Jia Ling, so we decided to head north next day, even though the GPS indicated that we should go south to reach the reported coordinates.
The name of the county - Dong Xiang Zu (东乡族) is the name of one of the 56 ethnic minorities in China. This is one of the smaller minorities, about half million of them and all living near this part of Gansu, and about half of them residing in this particular county, hence the name. All Dong Xiang Zu are Muslims, and virtually all men wearing white cap and all women wearing black head scarf. The uniformity did not stop at dresses. We found every restaurant on the main street all having two and only two items – boiled mutton and noodle soup! We were unable to find something other than mutton and noodle for dinner.
We headed toward Dong Jia Ling next morning and found the monument located on a hilltop after an hour's drive on winding mountain roads. We met Mr. Li, the caretaker of the monument (photo 3) but he could not explain why the monument is not located on the coordinates defined as the geographic center of China. The best we can figure out is that the monument was placed on the highest point of the county to indicate this county is the “heart of China”. Not too far from this monument is another monument to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the county. Both monuments were inaugurated in September 2000.
At the Heart of China monument we did not find any sign or plaque to indicate it is the marker for the geographic center of China. The only marking was on the tower itself which simply stated “monument tower”. Further research found possible explanation to the lack of information at this rather impressive tower: Apparently shortly after the news announcement of the monument for the geographic center of China, the National Survey Bureau made a rather critical comment about the local initiative in defining the geographic center. The Survey Bureau indicated that only the Bureau can certify geographic landmarks, and suggested that this was an “unauthorized” landmark and should be demolished. Part of the criticism of the Survey Bureau was the fact that this geographic center was determined without including Taiwan and the small islands in South China Sea. The official sensitivity of the Taiwan issue made this geographic center of China politically incorrect. We guess it was the official criticism from the National Survey Bureau that made Dong Xiang Zu County to downplay the significance of this monument. As a result few people in the county know about the marker.
After the visit at the monument tower we headed northeast toward Ningxia province. In the process we crossed the Yellow River several times and found the exact location where the river water turns from green to the famous yellow or muddy color.
This visit can be regarded as “the monument of the Geographic Center of China” which was about 28 km away from the defined but disputed geographic center. When we visit this part of Gansu again, we will attempt to reach the actual coordinate of the "Heart of China".
News Report on the inauguration of the Heart of China Monument – Hua Shen News – September 12, 2000
English Translation of the News Report
The monument for the Heart of China established in Gansu
Hua Shen News: -- the marker of the Chinese geographic center was recently erected in Dongjialing of Dongjialing village, Dongxiang Autonomous County, Gansu Province.
Dongjialing is at longitude 103°33'49" East, latitude 35°33'49" North, 2640 meters above the sea level. According to the measurement and calculation of the geographers, this point is the geographic center of the land mass of the People's Republic of China. The monument is 2000 centimeters tall which marks the year of the establishment. The ball at the upper part symbolizes the earth while the 56 columns stand for the 56 ethnic groups; the 34 columns at the lower part representing the 34 provinces and autonomous regions which constitute the whole territory. 4 pillars underneath and a cone-shaped one in the center exactly point to the four directions and central direction with the dot of the cone-shaped pillar just directs to the geographic center of China. The rounded monument platform is 9.6 million millimeters square which signifies the dimension of the territory of China – 9.6 million kilometers square.
Coordinator's Note: This visit does not qualify as a Special visit. It was part of Ray's "Heart of China" series of confluence visits, but rather than including it with one of his visits it was decided to post it under the confluence closest to the point. After visiting this point Ray visited 37N 105E on the same day.