Gansu is one of the birthplaces of the Chinese nation and ancient Chinese civilization. Dating back to the Xia Dynasty, Gansu was under administration of Yongzhou. During the periods of the Shang and Zhou Dynasties, the countries of Gong, Mi, Rui, Zheng and Yu were founded here.
The Qin state, later to become the founding state of the Chinese empire, formed from the southeastern part of Gansu, specifically the Tianshui area. The Qin name itself is believed to have originated, in part, from the area. The ancestors of Zhou (11-256 B.C.) and Qin (221-206 B.C.), both took the eastern part of Gansu as their base, grew from strength to strength and fulfilled the great cause of unifying China. During the period of the Han Dynasty, Emperor Wu set up four Juns, Wuwei, Zhanfye, Jiuquan and Dunhuang in Hexi, after that a succession of other Juns were established such as Tianshui Jun, Anding Jun, Wudu Jun and Jinzheng Jun. Under the jurisdiction of these governments, there were 115 counties.
In the periods of the Sui and Tang dynasties, the prefecture-county system changed significantly. The administrative areas were divided according to state, prefecture and county. In the period of the Three Kingdoms the majority of the Gansu Province belonged to Wei. Up to the Tang Dynasty, it was under the administration of Guanlei and Longyou Dao. As for the Song Dynasty, there were 17 states under the jurisdiction of Yongxing, Qinfeng and Lizhou Lu.
During the Xixia Dynasty the western part the area belonged to Gansu while the eastern part was occupied by Jin. In the Yuan Dynasty, the system of provinces was adopted and China was divided into 11 provinces. In 1218, Gansu Zhongshu Province was officially formed with Zhangye as the capital. Most parts of present day Gansu as well as some parts of present day Qinghai, Ningxia, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia were under the jurisdiction of Zhongshu Province. It governed 7Lu, 5 states directly under the central government, and 4 Fu, 24 counties. This was the beginning of the administrative division of the Gansu province.
In the Ming Dynasty, the province system was abolished and 13 Chengxuan Buzhengshishi were set up and most of present day Gansu was governed by Shanxi Buzhengshishi. In the early Qin Dynasty, Gansu was separated from Shanxi, and it governed the areas of Xining Fu, Ningxia Fu and the eastern part of present day Xingjiang. Dating back to the period of Emperor Guangxu, Xingjiang was separated from Gansu. In the Republic of China, the administrative division system of province, Dao and county was put into practice, the territory of Gansu was almost the same as the Qing Dynasty’s and governed 7 Dao and 76 counties. In 1927, the Dao system was abolished. In 1928, Qinghai and Ningxia set up provinces respectively, the territory of Gansu became much less and Gansu was divided into one city (Lanzhou), 69 counties and 2 bureaus.