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Henan (Chinese: 河南; pinyin: Hénán; Wade-Giles: Ho-nan), is a province of the People's Republic of China located in the central part of the country. Its one-character abbreviation is 豫 (pinyin: yù), named after Yuzhou (豫州 Yù Zhōu), a Han Dynasty province (zhou) that included parts of modern-day Henan. The name Henan literally means "south of the (Yellow) River" (Huang He). The province is contiguous with many other Chinese provinces, including Hebei to the north, Shandong to the northeast, Anhui to the southeast, Hubei to the south, Shaanxi to the west, and Shanxi to the northwest.

With nearly 100 million people, Henan is the most populous province in China. It is often called Zhongyuan (中原 zhōngyuán) or Zhongzhou (中州 zhōngzhōu), which literally means "central plains" or "midland." This name is also broadly applied to the entire North China Plain. Along with being the most populous province in China currently, Henan is also important because it is traditionally regarded as the cradle of Chinese civilization.


Henan is flat in the east and mountainous in the west and extreme south. The eastern and central parts of the province form part of the North China Plain. To the northwest, the Taihang Mountains intrude partially into Henan's borders, and the Qinling Mountains enter Henan from the west and stretch halfway across the province, with branches (such as the Funiu Mountains) extending northwards and southwards. To the far south, the Dabie Mountains separate Henan from neighboring Hubei province.

Taihang Shan Mountains in North China
Taihang Shan Mountains in North China

Four major rivers run across Henan: the Yellow River, the Huaihe River, the Weihe River and the Hanshui River, with the Huaihe River valley covering up nearly 53 percent of the entire province. The Yellow River passes through northern Henan, entering from the northwest via the Sanmenxia Reservoir. After it passes Luoyang, the Yellow River is raised via natural sedimentation and artificial construction onto a levee which is at a higher elevation than the surrounding land. From there, the Yellow River then serves as the principle division between the Haihe watershed to the north, and the Huaihe watershed to the south. The Huaihe River itself originates in southern Henan, and the southwestern corner of Henan, around Nanyang, serves as part of the drainage basin of the Hanshui River across the border in Hubei.

Along with its rivers, Henan is home to many reservoirs. Some of the most important ones include the Danjiangkou Reservoir on the border with Hubei, the Sanmenxia Reservoir, the Suyahu Reservoir, the Baiguishan Reservoir, the Nanwan Reservoir, and the Banqiao Reservoir.

Henan has a temperate continental climate, with most rainfall in summer. Temperatures average about 0°C in January, and 27 to 28°C in July.


Henan is an agricultural province, leading the provinces of China in wheat and sesame production, and is third place overall in terms of total grain output. Cotton, rice, and maize are also important crops for the province. In addition to agriculture, Henan is home to several types of minerals. In fact, of the roughly 150 types of minerals in the world, 121 of them can be found in Henan. Aluminum, bauxite, gold and silver serve as the four most important mineral products in Henan, but other minerals like wolfram, cesium, coal, petroleum, natural gas, nickel, and marble also lead the nation in terms of the number of reserves.

Zhengzhou, China - the square in front of the railway station
Zhengzhou, China - the square in front of the railway station

Henan is a relatively poor province. Since undergoing the economic reforms of the 1970s however, the speed of economic development has increased by an average of about 10 percent each year for the past 20 years. In 2005, Henan's nominal GDP was 1.05 trillion RMB (US$131.68 billion), a year-on-year rise of 14.1 percent. Henan's primary, secondary, and tertiary industries are worth 184.3 billion RMB (US$23 billion), 553.93 billion RMB, and 315.28 billion RMB, respectively. Its per capita GDP topped 10,000 RMB (US$1,250).

Henan has established a strong industrial system, with light textile, food, metallurgy, building materials, chemicals, machinery, and electronics as its main sectors. Nearly one hundred products, including industrial cord fabrics, fridges, color glass cases, meat products, tires, chemical fibers, glass, cement, and others are an important part of their national market. Industrial sales reached 1 trillion RMB in 2005, which was a 3.1 times increase from the figure for 2000.

As a major coal production base of China, Henan has 65 colliery enterprises, which produce 100 million tons of coal a year, making Henan second in the country in terms of coal production. There are several important centers of coal production in Henan, including Pingdingshan, Yima, and Jiaozuo. With sizable reserves of petroleum and natural gas, Henan possesses Zhongyuan Oil Fields and Henan Oil Fields, both of which produced 5.62 million tons of crude oil and 1.495 billion cubic meters of natural gas in 2000. Henan is the fifth largest petroleum and natural gas producer in China. Due to its abundant natural energy resources, electricity generation is also another important industry of Henan.

Henan is also actively trying to build an open economy in terms of foreign investment. In 2002, the total trade volume (import and export) was US$3.2 billion, including US$2.1 billion for export. Over 7,100 foreign enterprises have been approved, and foreign funds (FDI) of US$10.64 billion have been used in contracts with a realized FDI of US$5.3 billion. Foreign exchanges are increasing continuously. Friendly provincial relationships have been established with 16 states (districts) in the United States, Japan, Russia, France, Germany, and a few others. Some cities of Henan have also established friendly relationships with 32 foreign cities, by establishing them as sister cities.

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