Jiuquan is a city with a population of 110 000. The major towns of Yumen (80 000) and Dunhuang (30 000) are county seats in the region. The major town 8 km W of Dunhuang (50 000) in Dunhuang Metropolitan County and the major towns of Liuyuan (28 000) in Guazhou County and Yumenzhen (20 000) in Yumen Metropolitan County are also in the region.
The city's name came from legendary tale of the young Han general Huo Qubing, who poured a jar of precious wine into a local creek in order to share the taste with his troops, in celebration of their crushing victory against Xiongnu forces. The creek was later named Jiu Quan ("Wine Spring"), which became the name of the Han prefecture established there. It was an active military garrison during the Later Han Dynasty.
It is known in popular legend as the place where rhubarb was first grown and is also the town where the Portuguese Jesuit missionary and explorer Bento de Gois (1562-1607) was robbed and died destitute.
Jiuquan city (i.e. Suzhou) is the closest major city to the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. Still, the space launch center is more than 100 km away from the city, and is actually located not Gansu province, but in the neighboring Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. It was built in 1958; the first Chinese human spaceflight, Shenzhou 5 was launched there on 15 October 2003, making Yang Lingwei China's first cosmonaut and a national hero.The second was in 2005.