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Zhejiang (Chinese: 浙江; pinyin: Zhèjiāng) is a province of the People's Republic of China located along the country's southeastern coast. It borders Jiangsu province and Shanghai municipality to the north, Anhui province to the northwest, Jiangxi province to the west, and Fujian province to the south. To its east is the East China Sea and even further east lies the Ryukyu Islands of Japan. The word Zhejiang (meaning "crooked river") was the old name of the Qiantang River that passes through Hangzhou, the provincial capital. The name of the province is often abbreviated to "Zhe" (浙).

Zhejiang has been enjoying a dramatic upsurge in its economy and standard of living during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Situated with its eastern border on the East China Sea, the province enjoys the booming trade through its ports and the financial services needed to support that trade. Historically on the periphery of Chinese power and economy, that began to change with the construction of the Grand Canal of China through the province. Zhejiang has won renown for its naturally beauty and for the role the province has played in fostering Buddhism, especially Zen Buddhism.


Zhejiang consists mostly of hills, which account for about 70 percent of its total area. Altitudes tend to be highest to the south and west, and the highest peak of the province, Huangyajian Peak at an altitude of 1921 m, can be found in the southwest. Mountain ranges include the Yandang Mountains, Tianmu Mountains, Tiantai Mountains, and Mogan Mountains, which traverse the province at altitudes ranging from 200 to 1000 m.

Along with mountains and hills, valleys and plains are found along the coastline and rivers of Zhejiang. The northern part of the province is just south of the Yangtze Delta, and consists of plains around the cities of Hangzhou, Jiaxing, and Huzhou, where the Grand Canal of China enters from the northern border and ends at Hangzhou. Another relatively flat area can be found along the Qujiang River, around the cities of Quzhou and Jinhua. Major rivers include the Qiantang River and the Oujiang River. Most of the rivers in the province carve out valleys in the highlands, with plenty of rapids and other features associated with such topography. Famous lakes in the province include the West Lake of Hangzhou and the South Lake of Jiaxing.

Sun rising over West Lake.
Sun rising over West Lake.

In addition to its territory on the mainland, Zhejiang contains over three thousand islands along its ragged coastline. The largest, Zhoushan Island, is the third largest island in China, after Hainan and Chongming. There are also many bays, with Hangzhou Bay being the largest.

Zhejiang has a humid subtropical climate with four distinct seasons. Spring starts in March and is rainy with varying types of weather. Summer, which lasts from June to September, is long, hot and humid. Fall is generally dry, warm and sunny. Finally, winters are short but very cold, except in the far south. The average annual temperature in the province is around 15 to 19°C, with the average January temperature ranging around 2 to 8°C, and the average July temperature ranging from 27 to 30°C. Annual precipitation is about 1000 to 1900 mm. There is plenty of rainfall in early summer, and by late summer Zhejiang is directly threatened by the many typhoons that form in the Pacific Ocean.

Administrative divisions

Administrative divisions of Zhejiang.
Administrative divisions of Zhejiang.

Zhejiang is divided into eleven prefecture-level divisions, all of them prefecture-level cities:

  • Hangzhou (Simplified Chinese: 杭州市, Hanyu Pinyin: Hángzhōu Shì)
  • Huzhou (湖州市 Húzhōu Shì)
  • Jiaxing (嘉兴市 Jiāxīng Shì)
  • Zhoushan (舟山市 Zhōushān Shì)
  • Ningbo (宁波市 Níngbō Shì)
  • Shaoxing (绍兴市 Shàoxīng Shì)
  • Quzhou (衢州市 Qúzhōu Shì)
  • Jinhua (金华市 Jīnhuá Shì)
  • Taizhou (台州市 Tāizhōu Shì) not tái
  • Wenzhou (温州市 Wēnzhōu Shì)
  • Lishui (丽水市 Líshuǐ Shì) not lì

The eleven prefecture-level divisions of Zhejiang are subdivided into 90 county-level divisions (32 districts, 22 county-level cities, 35 counties, and one autonomous county). Those are in turn divided into 1570 township-level divisions (761 towns, 505 townships, 14 ethnic townships, and 290 subdistricts).


Longjing tea fields in Hangzhou
Longjing tea fields in Hangzhou

The province is traditionally known as the "Land of Fish and Rice," and true to its name, rice is the main crop, followed closely by wheat. Also true to its namesake, north Zhejiang is a major center of aquaculture in China, with the Zhoushan fishery serving as the largest fishery in the entire country. Some of the province's main cash crops include jute and cotton, and the province also leads all of China in tea production, with its renowned Longjing tea, grown mainly in Hangzhou. Zhejiang is also a producer of silk, for which it is ranked second among all of the provinces.

Zhejiang possesses rich reserves of over 100 different minerals, including 12 non-metallic ones that rank among the top three in China in terms of their reserve quantities. Its reserves of stone coal, pyrophyllite, limestone for cement-making and limestone for construction rank first in the whole country. Its fluorite reserve ranks as the second highest in the country, while the reserves of silica, pearlite, granite, zeolite, silver, zinc, vanadium and cadmium all rank within the country’s top tens.

Zhejiang's manufacturing is centered upon its electromechanical, textiles, chemical, food, and construction materials industries. In recent years, Zhejiang has followed its own unique development model, dubbed the "Zhejiang model," which is based on prioritizing and encouraging entrepreneurship, emphasizing small businesses responsive to the whims of the market, large public investments into infrastructure, and the production of low cost goods in bulk for both domestic consumption and export. As a result of these reforms, Zhejiang has made itself one of the richest provinces in the country, and the famous "Zhejiang spirit" has become something of a legend within China. While all of this is positive, some economists are now worrying that the model is not sustainable, in that it is inefficient and places unreasonable demands on raw materials and public utilities. Some also fear that it is a dead end, since the myriad of small businesses in Zhejiang producing cheap goods in bulk are unable to move to more sophisticated or technologically-oriented industries.

In addition to agriculture and industry, Zhejiang's coastal location makes it a strong economic center in terms of sea trade, with Ningbo, Wenzhou, Taizhou and Zhoushan serving as the major commercial ports in the province. The Hangzhou Bay Bridge is being constructed between Haiyan County and Cixi, and once completed, it will be the longest sea-crossing bridge in the entire world.

The per capita disposable income of urbanites in Zhejiang reached 18,265 yuan (US$2,291) in 2006, an annual real growth of 10.4 percent. The per capita pure income of rural residents stood at 7,335 yuan, a real growth of 6.4 percent year-on-year. Its nominal GDP for 2006 was 1.565 trillion yuan (US$196 billion) with a per capita of US$3,975. In 2005, Zhejiang's primary, secondary, and tertiary industries were worth 87.3 billion yuan (US$10.8 billion), 714.7 billion yuan (US$88.1 billion), and 534.5 billion yuan (US$65.9 billion) respectively.

While north Zhejiang has historically been an economic power, the southern part of Zhejiang is mountainous and ill-suited for farming, and has traditionally been poor and underdeveloped. The 1978 economic reforms of Deng Xiaoping, however, have brought change to that region which is unparalleled across the rest of China.Driven by hard work, an entrepreneuring spirit, low labor costs, and an eye for the world market, south Zhejiang (especially cities such as Wenzhou and Yiwu) has become a major center for exports. This development, together with the traditional prosperity of north Zhejiang, has allowed the whole province of Zhejiang to leapfrog over several other provinces and become one of the richest in all of China.

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