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Millenniums of glory: Luoyang, oriental capital of culture and science (3)

By Kou Jie, Liu Ning (People's Daily Online)    17:22, December 04, 2020

From China’s No.1 to global tech power

In 1958, China’s first tractor, “Dongfanghong,” literally the “Oriental Red,” was manufactured in Luoyang. In a letter written by Bulekov, a Soviet tech expert who helped China’s industrial development, he noted: “Oriental Red, what an inspiring name! For thousands of years, Chinese farmers carried their hoes to work under the sun, but now, they are driving their own tractor to embrace the sun.” (Photo provided by YTO Group)

Throughout China’s history, you can hardly find any city that has valued scientific innovation as much as Luoyang. Three out of the four Great Inventions of ancient China - paper-making, print technologies and the compass - were invented in this city. Its zeal for science and innovation has been passed on until today, making it a tech hub in modern China.

Unlike the great ancient inventions, Luoyang’s modern tech innovation started from something much smaller – tractors. Though tractors were widely used in western countries in the 1950s, for over 800,000 villages across China at that time, cattle and plough were the only options for farmers.

Liang Jun, China’s first female tractor driver who passed away in 2020 at the age of 90, recalled her first time seeing tractors in 1948 in a previous interview.

“All the tractors we used were imported from the Soviet Union. I was amazed by the modern machine, but at the same time felt dejected, because it seemed far-fetched that I could drive a Chinese tractor someday,” said Liang.

The mission of creating China’s first tractor was designated to the Luoyang-based YTO Group Corporation. To Liang’s surprise, her dream became real sooner than she could have ever imagined. A decade after her first encounter with tractors, Dongfanghong (Oriental Red), China’s first self-designed tractor, was put into use on over 60 percent of the nation’s farmland. An image of Liang proudly driving Oriental Red was featured on China’s one-yuan banknote in 1960.

The image of Oriental Red driven by China’s first female tractor driver Liang Jun was imprinted on China’s one-yuan banknote in 1960. China’s first tractor has become a national icon to date. (Photo provided by YTO Group)

For the next few decades, the YTO Group Corporation has grown into a world leading agricultural machinery power. Its products have been exported to over 100 nations, while a large number of research center and tech labs were built overseas along the Belt and Road. In 2020, the company, along with its tech partner, Luoyang Research Institute for Intelligent Agricultural Equipment Co., Ltd., invented the world’s first 5G driverless tractor, which can plan routes and analyze agricultural data smartly, leading to a tech revolution in agricultural industry worldwide.

The development of tractors is merely the epitome of Luoyang’s modern tech innovation. As of 2020, Luoyang has 1796 industrial enterprises with an annual business revenue of 20 million yuan or more, covering a wide range of high-tech sectors including robots, high-speed rails and energy saving batteries.

The world’s first 5G driverless tractor was invented in Luoyang in 2020, which has the potential to significantly change the world’s agricultural industry. (People’s Daily Online/Du Mingming)

The city has also launched favorable policies, as well as established a national innovation demonstration area and seven national key labs to attract talents and tech start-ups. Zou and her Tsinghua University colleagues started their research base in Luoyang four years ago, which now has 18 teams with various focuses on high-tech areas such as robot and smart-manufacturing and advanced agricultural machinery, cooperating with 1,722 companies nationwide, while over 30 research projects are expected to be put into manufacturing soon.

“With its solid industrial base and favorable policies, young scientists like us can realize our ambitions, further strengthening Luoyang’s tech advantages. The robots we designed are now widely used in factories, providing smart solutions to upgrade industry. We hope our high-tech products can become Luoyang’s new name card,” Zou said. 


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(Web editor: Kou Jie, Liang Jun)

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