The 1950's and 60's - Jiuquan as a Top Secret Nuclear Facility and China's First Missile launch base :
Three Gorges of the Air - the Worlds Largest Wind Energy Project at JiuQuan:
History of Jiuguan :
This page was last updated on: July 29, 2017
The Jiuquan Report
History of Jiuquan (Suzhou District)
Map of China during the Rule of the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 221 AD) with the main trading roads of the Empire, the Silk Road and location of Jiuquan marked.
Apart from being a hystorical Oasis Town along the Silk Road trajectory, near the fringes of Chinese Civilization Jiuquan is historically known for a variety of major and minor events. Among the most noteworthy; Jiuquan is known for a visit payed by Marco Polo sprouting the popular legend of Jiuquan as the place where rhubarb was first grown. Many centuries later a secret base at Jiuquan stood at the base of China's Nuclear Weapons program and saw the birth of China's first A-Bomb.
To start with the beginning of the Towns' history however, one must start with the renowned local product often offered for sale to tourists known as the Luminous Jade Cup. The kind of Jade these cups are made of was already noted for its brilliant white, green, black and yellow colours during the years of the Zhou Dynasty (1151 BC - 255 BC). Legend has it that King Mu of the Zhou once drank from a Qilian Jade Luminous Cup and found it glittering snow-white in the moonlight. Hence it was then
Not much later the town of Jiuguan, became the atomic weapons research facility of the Nation during a 1950's drive to achieve the production of a home grown bomb, after Stalin's Soviet Union had pulled out of nuclear cooperations. Eversince, the town has seen remarkable transformations, turning it first from struggling dust-hole into a Top Secret Nuclear Development Center, then from Nuclear Base into the Main Launch Base and Space City for the Nation.
As such Jiuquan town witnessed the birth of the first chinese built nuclear bomb and was once more engraved in the annals of History. Much development work went before the successes, and much more would come after. Meanwhile Jiuquan, the secret base city grew larger and larger, with its imported population of scientist and
"Great Explosions in the East - The Story of Two Bombs & One Satellite"
( no longer available )
support staff living in absolute seclusion from the rest of the Nation. Not much had to be achieved to guard its secrets, due to the extreme remoteness of the Town as well as the total underdevelopment of the Region, impoverished as it was at the Time.
After being a secret base for a few years, Jiuquan became an equally secret launch base for ballistic missiles in the year 1958 AD, in order to meet the demand for a transport vehicle with which to launch the nuclear warheads under development on to their targets.
To recapture the biggest moments of what occured thereafter: On October 16Th 1964 AD China's first nuclear test detonation, dubbed project 59-6 occured in the mongolian desert not far from Jiuguan. Its result was an impressive athmospheric blast near ground level with a yield of some 20 kilotons of TNT, leaving a bulging mushroom cloud to climb into the upper reaches of the Atmosphere. The Scientists of Jiuquan, supported by the nations leading Universities as well as units of the Peoples' Liberation Army had projected the Peoples Republic of China into the nuclear age. China had made it to become a world power, albeit one that was still recovering from a terrible beating. The Nation found new confidence and pride, and suddenly the Jiuquan Base was not entirely secret anymore.
It wasn't really anymore since United States U2 reconaissance aircraft had started overflying Chinese Territory.
During the 13Th Century the then still flourishing Silk Road town was visited by Marco Polo on his way into Yuan Dynasty era China. The place was apparently interesting enough for Marco Polo to note the place in his travel stories as Succuir (Suzhou), and several sources report that Marco Polo described several of the ancient Landmarks of the Old Town including the ancient Bell- & Drum-Tower. The first thing he noted was how difficult the 10 day journey to get to Jiuquan from a town named Chingitalis (which is now estimated to have been between Besbaliq and East Turkestan) had been.
In the words of Marco Polo himself: "When one leaves this province and travels for 10 days in a north-eastern direction, one hardly comes across any towns/signs of life, and there is not much to be told about these places. After 10 days one reaches a province (district) named Succuir. It has many town strongholds and defended cities. Here life Christians and Headons, and they are all subjects of the Great Khan. The greater province of which this district and the other two i have mentioned are part of, goes by the name of Gansu. In all of the Mountains there is an abundance of rhubarb. Merchants buy it and ship it from here to the entire world. The inhabitants of this province (Suzhou District) live of what the earth brings them and of the flesh of their cattle, they do not engage in trade. The District is perfectly healthy and the complexion of the locals is brown. Now we depart from here I will say something about ... ".
Map Trade Routes in Asia in the 13Th Century.
A Schematic Map of the Eurasian Trade Routes existing in the 13Th Century. Clearly marked in Red Accent on the Map are the cities of the network of land-bound trading routes through Central Asia known as the Silk Road (the path of Marco Polo and others).
In the year 1582 AD a small but high level Jesuit Mission was sent by Sea from Goa (India), in an attempt to reach the Chinese Court.
Having arrived in China but restricted to Southern China, another mission was decided upon, to be sent from Goa. This Mission covered in secrecy would attempt to reach Cathay overland, traveling from West to East along the path of the ancient Silk Road. Since China was said to be off-limits to all Foreigners, this missions was Top Secret. Thus, a lone Jesuit Priest known as Bento de Gois (1562 AD - 1607 AD) set off disguised as an Armenian Merchant to attempt to travel the harsh and dangerous path through Central Asia.
The Sea-born mission reached South-China in safety, bringing the first Christian Mission in more than two Centuries onto Chinese Soil (1582/1583 AD). The attempt to travel the land-bound Silk Road however ended in utter tragedy.
Bento De Gois was nearly successful. After a dangerous journey which lasted three whole years and traversed no less than 4,000 miles of the roughest lands and mountains, he finally arrived at the Great Wall of China. It was the year 1605 AD, and the place was the Fortress of the Great Wall of China at nearby Jiayuguan, the First Gate under Heaven in the West.
Having reached there, De Gois had succeeded in one part of his mission, proving that Cathay of Marco Polo really did exist.
It however also proved that it was the same nation that had already been reached by overseas route in the South, among things recently by a Jesuit Mission including Italian Father Matteo Ricci. Thus, the Cathay of Marco Polo was proven to be China and simultaneously it was proven that overland travel was just too cumbersome compared to travel by Sea.
Although De Gois had managed to reach this far, he was unable to travel further on the way to his secondary goal, the Imperial Court at Beijing. Instead of enjoying safety within the mighty walls of the Great Wall, the tenacious explorer and missionary was only some miles within the Wall, at Jiuquan/Suzhou, the administrative center of this far western district, when his Mission was exposed. He was ridiculed, molested, robbed and stripped of most of his belongings. Having been thus humiliated he found himself down and out, alone in Suzhou (now Jiuquan).
By his last stroke of luck, De Gois managed to sent a notice of his dire situation by courier to the sea-born Jesuit Mission to China and the leading Jesuit Matteo Ricci, who by then had reached Peking. However, communications were to say the least slow. The Message took one year to reach Beijing. Although the Jesuits in Beijing received his message and swiftly responded by dispatching a 1 lay servant rescue party to Bento De Gois, when the servant sent found De Góis at Jiuquan the tough old Jesuit traveler was already at the point of death. He was possibly poisoned after being exposed as a Christian and near ostracized, he expired in 1607 AD at Jiuquan, far away from any Christian Monks, the Imperial Court and Rome.
Although martyred and his name living on in the history of the Silk Road, no Tomb or official Memorial to Bento De Gois can be found anywhere in Jiuquan. The Chinese in general have no fond memories of the Missionaries, and the still leading Communist Party frowns upon their historic legacy of subversive activities. To memorialize what in their eyes amounted to a foreign spy or at least meddler, would likely go to far for the City Government. At any rate, the whole journey of Bento De Gois is regarded as just a mere footnote in Chinese History, and likely the Tourists -mostly Chinese Nationals- wouldn't care much for it if a Memorial was built.
Bentos De Gois did leave his daily reports as a testimony to his historic achievement of solving the Cathay Question and reaching China. Among things his writings on Jiuquan reveal that at the time the city was visited by many foreign traders from the West. It was the place where they were gathered by local authorities in order to identify them and their purpose of travel, and determine their ultimate fate within China.
De Gois describes that the City of Suzhou was divided into two parts, one half of the City for the Han Chinese Citizens, the other half the place of home of Muslim Residents , the Hui who counted those who immigrated from the West and families derived from those who had come to China and stayed to marry with Chinese Women. At night the Muslims kept away from the Chinese and vice versa.
The hordes of Silk Road travelers were herded into the Muslim Section of Town.
According to official Chinese Records, the Muslim Section was known as Dongguan, which is still a part of Jiuquan today and is the location of its only ancient landmark, the Bell & Drum Tower.
Interestingly Bento De Gois writes in his diaries on how many of the Travelers into China boast of being official emmisaries or are otherwise deceitful. It was exactly the opposite of his own crime. Bento De Gois could consider himself a scout and had concealed his identity until reaching the Gates of the Great Wall of China.
He further describes that official emmisaries to the Imperial Court must come to the border bearing Jade Gifts to present to the Emperor. Although the investment required was considerable, being recognized as a 'connected man', an emmisary with connections to the Imperial Court would reap many benifits, and thus it was a popular claim to try and make.
Although not depicted on the adjacent detailed Map, Jiuquan was literally a turning point for Marco Polo as the usual road into the Chinese hinterland led eastward from Jiuquan through the Hexi Corridor and Lanzhou. Destined for the Beijing Court however, Marco Polo turned from Jiuquan to the North-East to pass through Juyanhai (Ejin Banner) and the vicinity of today's (Space) Missile Launch Facility to cut through Inner-Mongolia and reach the Capital at Khanbalik (Beijing).
No landmarks of the city Succuir can be found described in current day editions of "Il Millione", also known as "Travels to the Orient", the Book of Marco Polo. However the book did leave the small desert town with the Legacy of being "the birthplace" or "home" of Rhubarb. Not unimportantly, although Marco Polo was (probably) wrong about seeing Christians in Suzhou Town and likely had mistaken Buddhist monks for Christian monks, a few century later these few words in the book of Marco Polo did lead other Europeans to travel to these remote regions in an attempt to find and contact the Christians described by Marco Polo. The Mission had other goals as well, but the task of finding the lost Christian Brethren of the East was not forgotten.
Although Marco Polo never returned to Jiuquan, many years later other Europeans who had heard of his almost literally unbelievable adventures in a place named Cathay would attempt to follow in his footsteps. Among these were the Christian Order of the Jesuits, who were very active in the Far East in the second half of the 16Th Century.
Having taken notice of rumors circling within European Civilizations of remnants of Christian Groups surviving among Muslim Tribes somewhere in lands far to the East, during the second half of the 16Th Century decisions were made at the highest levels in Rome to attempt to contact these brethren of the far East. Thus, Christian Missionaries sent to India were all aware of the rumors and some of the Leading Jesuits in India were highly inspired to break into Cathay, the land described by Marco Polo the Venetian, and see for themselves. Perhaps, the 'Christian Monks' described by Marco Polo, could join the worldwide Church. In the early 14Th Century there had already been an Arch-Bishop in charge of Papal Legation to the Mongol Court at Khanbalik (Beijing). Were the Christians described by Marco Polo descendants of the Nestorians outlawed in Europe by Roman Church in the year 432 AD, and who had then been forced to move Far to the East to Persia and Tarim Basin, now part of China's Xinjiang-Uygur Autonomous Region. Had any of the Converts or Legation made survived the downfall of Mongols in favor of the Ming ? Possibly, a whole new nation might be converted to Christianity extending the influence of Rome further over the Globe. It was a cause to dream of for many Christians, and those who were sent on the Mission were among the Best and most dedicated.
named the "night-glittering cup" in this Era. Later the night glittering cups produced from Jades mined on Qilian Mountain would become that famous that they were traded internationally, the amount of Jade's hauled leading to the name given to the Famous Westernmost gate during the Han Dynasty, the Yu Men - Jade Gate, north-west of Dunhuang. The Toll House for leaving China was located at the Yu Men and still stands today.
Although thus, Jiuquan's earliest recorded history dates from well before 1000 BC and the local aquifer spring had supported civilization for many centuries since, the District of Suzhou was officially founded in 111 BC during the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 221 AD). At the time it functioned as a military outpost on the Silk Road to Central Asia (the Hexi Corridor). The soldiers on station had to grow their own food, and were essentially farmers in peaceful times. During Times of War most of the Towns inhabitants were mobilized and turned back into an army. The main Fortress and supporting administrative City was located at the later Wine Spring, a strategic location that ensured ample water to drink for horse and man, as well as fertile lands on which to grow food crops. The Suzhou District is currently the location of Jiuquan's Suzhou District.
Being an important key point in the Hexi Corridor, Suzhou often found itself to be a defended fortress, taken with a heavy loss of life. Throughout the Han Dynasty Era it was known as a Garrison Town, an important strongpoint in the ongoing war with the maurauding Xiongnu Tribes who were vieying for influence over the same regions as did the Han Chinese.
From the first explosion onwards the nuclear weapons development progressed when a second test was conducted on May the 14Th of 1965 AD, reaching a yield of 35 Kilotons of TNT. Obviously, the Chinese A Bomb design was of inferior nature, but roughly a year later on May 9, 1966 AD there was a Third Nuclear Test. This test, dubbed CHIC-3 by United States Intelligence, consisted of an Atmospheric Test of an air-dropped bomb of the layered cake design derived from the soviet union. The bomb was dropped in the Lop Nur area of Xinjiang yielding a massive 250 kilotons. Again the scientists of Jiuquan Base and their colleagues around the Nation had succeeded in making dramatic progress. Many more test would follow.
As mentioned, in 1958 AD the function of Jiuquan Base was altered and Jiuquan became a Launch Center for Ballistic Missiles. As such it was given the official name: Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center and the military name: 20th Test & Training Base (or Base 20).
Ever since its official designation and the start of operations the Jiuquan Launch Base has made history several times over seeing a series of dramatic launches. Among these first and foremost the first test of a nuclear warhead launched on a missile. In this test dated October 27, 1966 (CHIC-4) the launch base for the Mission was the Jiuquan Base, at the Time the only such base in the Nation. A nuclear tipped prototype
European Explorers of the 19Th and 20Th Century:
Around the year 1900 and shortly after the dusty Town of Jiuquan saw the passing of Great European travelers among which the Norwegian Scientist and alledged Nazi-sympathiser Sven Hedin, and the controversial but lauded (Sir) Marcus Aurel Stein.
(The exact findings of the two explorers at Jiuquan and the near vicinity are under research by China Report Staff).
About half a Century later, in 1945 AD another scholar, a diplomat, Cambridge Man and perhaps explorer the right honorable Joseph Needham passed this way on his way to the West and the famed Mogao Caves at the town of Dunhuang. The journey made along the path of the Silk Road to Mogao would prove invaluable to his later work, the worlds largest and most complete encyclopedia on the contributions of the Chinese Civilization to the overall developement of world civilization. The Book today counts 37 Volumes and is still growing after the death of Needham, the original main author.
16Th Century Jesuit Missionaries, Bento De Gois and the Road from the West into China:
In the Year 1368 AD, the last Mongol Troops are driven out of China after a last Battle for the Jiayu Pass, near Jiuguan. Almost the immediatly the Military Encampment and nearby twin City Jiayuguan is turned into a stronghold that would become known as "the end-lock in connection", the "most magnificents pass under heaven" or simply the Jiayuguan Fortress. After the Fall of the Mongol Dynasty China would be ruled by the (Han) Chinese again. During the length of the Ming Dynasty, Suzhou District -today's Jiuquan- would serve as the administrative center for all Imperial Government Business in the Region. The Fortress at Jiayuguan was the Military Headquarters. Jiuquan served as the Civil Governments Headquarters.
As a result, Silk Road Travelers, Caravans with armed escorts and rare indivudal travelers who had been approved to pass into China through the Gates of the Military Fortress were then obliged to proceed to Jiuquan for customs, inspections and ofcourse to pay taxes on their various trading goods.
Wind Farms have been operational in the Jiuquan City Prefecture since the year 1996 AD. However, as the latest significant if not sensational event to occur at small Jiuquan the year 2009 saw the beginning of construction of the largest wind energy project in the world at this Town.
With its construction the wind power industry in China is entering a new stage. In the recent past developments of wind mill parks in China were limited by problems of how to distribute the generated energy efficiently and thus keep cost and prices acceptable. To solve all these problems in one grandiose gesture, the central government has decided to build many wind mills in one convenient geographic location, thus creating a 10 million-kilowatt-level wind power station, basicly made up a huge collection of windmills strewn across the desert floor. According to the officials responsible for the giant project, this strategy ensures the maximize wind power efficiency through large-scale construction and transmission. Altogether 28 new wind farms with be built in the area.
Already compared to its hydro-electric twin, the great dam across the Yangtse River, the wind mill project at Jiuquan has been dubbed the "Three Gorges in the Air". The completion of its initial phase with an installed wind power capacity of 5.2 GW is expected to be reached by the end of 2010. It is hoped that by 2015 AD the Jiuquan Site(s) can generate 12.7 GW of electrical energy and a top capacity of 20 GW is planned for the completion in the year 2020. For the period thereafter the Jiuquan wind power base could be expanded to have the combined installed capacity of 35.65 million kilowatts.
Meanwhile, The State Grid Corporation of China is planning to establish a 750-kilovolt grid network in northwest China to make use of the wind power that would be generated from the Jiuquan site. The grid is expected to be in operation by the end of 2010 AD.
When fully operational, the wind farm is anticipated to be able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 3.37 million tons a year.
Jiuquan city is on track to become China’s first major wind power production base.
Jiuquan - During the Ming Dynasty Era:
Soundbonus: "Marco Polo", By Loreena McKennit.
As an outpost in a remote multi-ethnic region the City of Jiuquan has not only often witnessed large scale War but also its fare share of simmering ethnic and religious tensions. During the establishing years of the Qing Dynasty (1644 AD - 1911 AD) Jiquan saw wars erupt between regional tribes while it had fallen out of the control of the Han Chinese.
One such episode occurred during the establishment of the Qing Dynasty, when there was a brief lapse in central authority. Early in the year 1648 AD no less than a hundred thousand angry Muslim rebels had occupied Lanzhou the Capital of Gansu after which the rebellion had spread throughout the Hexi Corridor. Jiuquan was incoorperated into the rebelious territories. However, probably much to the surprise of the Rebels led by their General Ding Guodong, the lapse in Central Power was very brief.
The transfer of powers occured swiftly and generally speaking the Ching would firmly establish their rule in all territories of the Empire previously held by the Ming.
By 1648 AD the Imperial Armies arrived in Gansu Province (and Ningxia) to deal with the Rebels. According to records some ten thousand Muslims were killed in the battle for the Capital of Lanzhou. Facing a superior army the Muslims then retreated up the Hexi Corridor towards Jiuquan. In the year 1649 AD the final battle took place when the Town of Jiuquan was taken by the Imperial Army under leadership of Shaanxi Governor Meng Qiaofang. A Massacre of muslim civilians in the rebelious regions retaken was to ensure no further resistance, however not much after unrest returned to the region.
After having attempted to rule the Regions by proxy from Beijing during the Kangxi Reign (1661 AD - 1722 AD). The Han and Manchu would return to quel local resistance and reinclude Jiuquan in the Chinese Empire during the Qianlong Reign (1735 AD - 1796 AD) of the Ching Dynasty.
Jiuquan - Suzhou District during the Ching Dynasty Era (1644 AD - 1911 AD) :
During the later Qing Era, no less five wars and campaigns were waged against the Muslim Minorities: In and around Lanzhou in Gansu and in the Tarim River Basin (1820 AD - 1828 AD) in the first year of the Reign of the DaoGuang Emperor - The Khojas revolt against Chinese rule in Altishahr (the Tarim Basin), in Che Kanio (1830 AD), in the Western Territories or Sinkiang (l847 AD), and in Yunnan and Shaanxi Province there were multiple muslim rebellions between 1855 and 1873 AD.
Each Time the rebellions were suppressed and retributions for the Muslims were severe. Mosques were raised and whole villages displaced or even burned to the ground. It was all out war. Half the Population was exterminated.
In the aftermath Han immigrants were brought in to sustain the territorial gains.
In the year 1873 AD, during the episode known as the Dungang Wars or the Muslim Minority Wars, the Qing Dynasty (1644 AD - 1911 AD) general Zuo Zongtang took Jiuquan Town from its Hui defenders commanded by Ma Wenlu.
Regardless of Qing Efforts China's west briefly saw a reunification of the earlier Karakitai Khanate, now known as (East) Turkestan. The State of Turkestan was established with support of the Russians. The East Turkestan State only lasted for a brief 10 years as an indepent nation from 1865 AD to 1876 AD after which the Chinese Qing Dynasty began its reconquest of the Western Territories (Xinjiang). In the year 1878 AD Kashgar, the last Rebel stronghold East of the Tianshan Mountains, fell to the Chinese, led by General Tso Tsung-t'ang.
Only a few years Later, in 1881 AD The Treaty of St. Petersburg between Russia and China resulted in the return of the Ili Valley to China and the fixing of the current day borders of Western Xinjiang. In 1884 AD Xinjiang officially became a Chinese province, which it remains today under the name Xinjiang-Uygur Autonomous Region.
To find out More about the General History of Jiuquan and the Hexi Corridor read also "History of Jiayuguan".
After 1980 Missile test activities in Base 20 at Jiuquan completely stopped, and the facility became the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre (JSLC) dedicated for China’s space programme. Eversince, the centre has continued to be managed and operated by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) today, though the majority of the staffs working in the centre are civilians.
Today's Base lies 210km northeast of Jiuquan City in Inner Mongolia and includes 4 Launch Pads of which two are usually operational.
In military communications, the code-name for Base 20 is “Dongfeng”. This call sign is still being used today during spaceflight missions. In 1992, the then Chinese president Jiang Zemin named the centre’s central headquarters base District 10 “Dongfeng Space City”
The -so far- high-point of the Space Program came on 15 October 2003 when The ShenZhou 5 spacecraft carrying China’s first astronaut was successfully launched from the
Southern Launch Site in JSLC, making China the third nation in the world after the USSR and USA to be able to send a human into space independently.
Since, in 2008, a extra-vehicular activity, or simply space walk has been achieved and now China is aiming for the Moon.
As a relic of the important first era of the existance of Jiuquan as a secret city and nuclear base vital in the establishment of a nuclear deterent force to ward of the Evil Imperialists as well as the untrustworthy Soviet Socialist Brethren, there is a large billboard at the entrance to the city that reads: "Without Haste, Without Fear, We Conquer the World".
China's last nuclear test was done on the 29th of July, 1996. According to the Australian Geological Survey Organization in Canberra, the yield of this 1996 nuclear test was around 1-5 kilotons. It was China's 22nd underground test and 45th test overall. In that same year the Peoples Republic signed the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) putting an end to Chinese Nuclear testing (for now).
You Tube Video: 2008 Chinese Space Walk
In the year 1977 AD a special archeological find was done in the Gucheng Brigade of Sandong Commune of Jiuquan City Prefecture. At this place about 8 miles from Jiuquan City today, a fascinating bronze statue of a horse was found. The Horse, which stands still and is not galloping such as the Han Dynasty Era horse unearthed near Wuwei, nor riding atop a swallow such as other finds in the Region, dates to the Eastern Han Dynasty period and is a unique one out of 5 such horses found in the hexi corridor so far. Today its depiction serves as the logo of the Cities tourism industry and it is the pride of the local People.
Jiuquan's Bronze Horse of the Eastern Han Dynasty:
The U2 spy planes became operational in 1957 AD, and by 1960 a U2 squadron became active in the Far East, flying missions especially against targets in China (P.R.C.). They were the top secret Black Cat Squadron, flying American made U2 spy planes with Taiwanese Pilots over the territory of the Peoples Republic of China. The 35Th Squadron as it is now known was composed of 2 U-2Cs based at Taoyuan Airbase in northern Taiwan. To maintain secrecy the squadron made use of an isolated part of the airbase. Officially it was there to do high altitude weather research missions for ROCAF,
Reconnaissance Photo of the Jiuquan Missile Testing Range in 1962 AD, taken from an American made U2 Spy-plane operated by a Taiwanese Pilot.
the Taiwanese airforce, but in reality the two planes were there for only one reason: to spy on China's nuclear facilities. The Program was known as RAZOR and was run by the CIA, only with assistance from the US Air Force. All Missions flown were done with express permission from the US and Taiwanese Presidents.
Active from December of 1960 AD, when the first overflight of the Chinese mainland was done and the first photos of Jiuquan acquired, the squadron flew a total of 220 Missions until the year 1974 AD.
Initial overflights went well, however, even flying from Taiwan the Jiuquan Facilities lay near the edge of the U2 aircrafts operational range. To get the photos, the U2's had to brave all the aerial defenses of the Peoples' Republic.
Several U2's were lost while gathering information on the Peoples' Republic of China during the height of the Cold War.
The first U2 was shot down over China on September 9, 1962 AD during a mission on military deployment in the Jiangxi region in U-2C "378". It was hit by an SA-2 missile and went down over Nanchang.
On November 1st of 1963 a U2 mission to spy on Jiuquan's Nuclear Facilities was shot down using an SA-2 fired by PLAAF 2nd Surface-to-Air Guided Missile Battalion over Jiangxi Province. The Taiwanese pilot Yeh Chang-di was captured alive by the Chinese Army (PLA) and not released to Hong Kong until November 10, 1982 AD.
On July the 7Th of 1964 AD another U2, allegedly on a photographing mission over Chinese supply lines into North-Vietnam, was lost over Fujian Province. Its pilot was killed when his ejection seat failed to fire because of it not being armed.
After several aircraft were shot down over China, the US Airforce introduced additional defensive systems for the U2 in the form of an early radar jamming device called system 13. The problem with System 13 was that its addition made the aircraft heavier which meant that the maximum flying distance of the U2's was reduced. For a while, the new System 13-equipped U-2's operating from Taiwan could only reach as far as the eastern part of Gansu Province and not the western parts of Gansu, where at Jiuquan the nuclear weapon testing was going on. Thus, when on October 14, 1963 AD, the great moment was there and China was ready to explode its first atomic bomb, the CIA had to fly their own U2 plane from a base in (North) India to collect data on the blast.
Throughout the 1970s, a number of high-profile missions, including China’s first manmade satellite DFH-1 and several FSW recoverable satellites, as well as DF-5 (CSS-4) ICBM flight tests, were carried out from the Base 20.
An aerial photograph of Jiuquan in the 1970's, when it was much smaller, in fact a peasant Town. Note the Qilian Mountains with the outflow of the Sancha River. Behind the Qilian Shan extends the Tibetan Plateaux. The Photo was taken in a North-South direction thereby avoiding any view of the secret base.
DongFeng 2 Missile was launched by the Second Artillery Corps from a location at Shuangchengzi village, near Jiuquan (Suzhou District). The target was a ground zero at the Lop Nur test site, some 800 kilometers to the West in Bayin Gholin' Mongol Autonomous Prefecture of Xinjiang-Uygur AR.
In the mid-1960s, a new launch area (LA2, or North Launch Site) was built at Jiuquan Base 20 to support China’s long-range ballistic missile testing as well as the then emerging and fledgling Chinese space program. The new launch site consisted of two missile/space launch pads, a technical support area as well as telemetry and tracking systems. At the same time, the SAM and AAM test facilities in the centre were separated from the base and continued their functions under the management of the PLA Air Force. The rest of the Base 20 became a dedicated surface-to-surface ballistic missile and
By September of 1967 the Chinese Air defenses were deemed to strong for the U2 to penetrate and afterwards the Black Cat squadron no longer flew missions over Chinese territory. Instead, they were limited to flights over the open seas outside of guided missile range to take photographs of mainland China. Their missions were taken over by US 'keyhole' spy satellites and the even more advanced SR-71 'Blackbird'.
In February 2, 1972 AD when President Richard Nixon visited Beijing on his much lauded visit, he promised to 'Chairman' Mao Zedong to cease all reconnaissance flights over mainland China. In the spring of 1974 AD, the Black Cat squadron was officially disbanded ending this episode in Chinese-American Relations.
Nixon and Mao shake hands at The Great Hall of the Peoples in 1972 AD. The visit was the beginning of a lasting thaw in relations between both nations.