The urban system in West China: A case study along the midsection of the ancient Silk Road - He-Xi Corridor

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Geography and Geology


The evolution of the urban system in the semi-arid and arid West China has a close relationship to the origin, prosperity, and decline of the ancient Silk Road. This urban system bears noticeable inscriptions of the fragile physical environment, complex ethnic mix, and changing political systems and policies. This paper uses the mid-section of the ancient Silk Road - He-Xi Corridor as a case study to examine the challenges of urban development in West China and to propose suggestions for future development from the perspective of comprehensive planning. The research focuses on a series of seven cities and numerous towns which primarily serve the local population by providing different functions, beyond their value to travelers and historians. These cities are rapidly gaining importance to provincial and national authorities. Although current political, social, and economic influences are significant, a considerable part of their evolution can be explained by the natural environment, primary resources, ethnic differences, and their geographical distributions. The investigation examines the relationship between the evolution of these urban centers and internal and external conditions and provides a base for planning policy to enhance their viability as significant nodes for future development. (c) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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