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Shanxi

Shanxi ▶ (Chinese: ɽ; pinyin: Shnx; Wade-Giles: Shan-hsi; Postal map spelling: Shansi) is a province of the People's Republic of China located in the northern part of the country. It borders Hebei to the east, Henan to the south, Shaanxi to the west, and Inner Mongolia to the north. The provincial capital city is Taiyuan. Shanxi's name literally means "mountains' west," which refers to the province's location west of the Taihang Mountains. Its one-character abbreviation is Jin ( pinyin jn), after the state of Jin that existed here during the Spring and Autumn Period. According to Hanyu Pinyin rules, if tone marks are not written, both Shanxi and the neighboring province of Shaanxi should be spelled "Shanxi." However, the difference comes from the pronunciation tone: Shnx and Shnx. To make this difference clear without tonal marks, the spelling "Shaanxi" was contrived (following the romanization system of Yuen Ren Chao) for the province of Shnx, while the spelling "Shanxi" has typically been used for the province of Shnx.

Shanxi had been an important province in ancient China with the ancient city of Pingyao serving as one the leading financial centers. The shift of capital to the Gold Coast of China during the twentieth century left Shanxi suffering economically. The provinces financial fortunes have declined, agriculture suffering from a lack of water and coal mining serving as a major economic activity. Coal miners in Shanxi have suffered death and injury at an alarming rate. Lagging behind other provinces in China with GDP, education suffers. Historically Shanxi has been a center for Buddhism and Daoism; a multitude of ancient monasteries exist in the mountains, many monks actively practicing their religion there.

Geography

Taihang Mountains
Taihang Mountains

Shanxi is located on a plateau, which is in turn made up of higher ground to the east (Taihang Mountains) and the west (Lliang Mountains), with a series of valleys running through the center. The highest peak is Mount Wutai (Wutai Shan), located in northeastern Shanxi at an altitude of 3058 m. The Great Wall of China forms most of the northern border between Shanxi and Inner Mongolia.

The Yellow River acts as a natural western border between Shanxi and neighboring Shaanxi. The Fen and Qin rivers, which are tributaries of the Yellow River, run north-to-south through the province, and help drain much of its area. The northern part of the province is drained by tributaries of the Hai River, such as the Sanggan River and the Hutuo River. The largest natural lake in Shanxi is Xiechi Lake, a salt-water lake near Yuncheng, in southwestern Shanxi.

Shanxi has a continental monsoon climate, and is rather arid, due to its proximity to the desert areas of Inner Mongolia. Average January temperatures are below 0 C, while average July temperatures are around 21 - 26 C. Annual precipitation averages around 350-700 mm, with 60 percent of it concentrated between June and August.

Economy

Coal being loaded up at Datong
Coalbeing loaded up at Datong

Shanxi's agricultural sector is largely limited by the province's arid climate and lack of water resources. As a result, only roughly 23 percent of its land area is able to be cultivated agriculturally. Some of the province's primary crops include rice, wheat, barley, maize, millet, sorghum, beans, and potatoes. Its' cash crops include cotton, tobacco, beets, vegetables, oil-bearing plants, and hemp. In addition to agriculture, the raising of animals also plays a role in the provincial economy, with pigs, sheep, chicken, rabbits, cows, [[donkeys], horses, mules, silkworm, and bees all being raised throughout the province.

Over the past 40 years or so, Shanxi has established a basic industrial system made up of a variety of industries, including coal and chemical production, power generation, and metal refining. Currently, more than 12,000 different industrial enterprises are in operation in the province.

However, the backbone of the provincial economy is made up of the coal and electric power industries. The province contains 260 billion metric tons of known coal deposits, equaling about one third of China's total. The Datong, Ningwu, Xishan, Hedong, Qinshui, and Huoxi coalfields are some of the most important in Shanxi. As a result of these abundant sources, Shanxi is one of the leading producers of coal in China, with annual production exceeding 300 million metric tons. Consequently, Shanxi is also a major electricity exporter for the People's Republic of China, providing, for example, nearly a quarter of the total power consumed in the country's capital city of Beijing.

Along with coal, Shanxi also contains about 500 million tons of bauxite deposits, which makes up about one third of China's total bauxite reserves. Shanxi is also number one in all of China in its reserves of a few obscure minerals, including pearlite, refractory clay, gallium, and zeolite.

Shanxi's nominal GDP in 2006 was 474.7 billion yuan (about US$60 billion), ranked eighteenth in China.

Shanxi is infamous for sub-par working conditions in its coal mines and other heavy industries. Thousands of workers have died every year in those industries, and several cases of child labor abuse were also discovered recently.

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