Skip to main content Skip to Search Box
Summary Article: Henan
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Province of east central China, bounded to the north by Hebei, to the east by Shandong and Anhui, to the south by Hubei, and to the west by Shaanxi and Shanxi provinces; area 167,000 sq km/64,500 sq mi; population (2013 est) 94,133,500. The province is one of the most densely populated in China. The capital is Zhengzhou; other major cities are Luoyang, Kaifeng, and Anyang. The main industries are coal mining, crude oil production, and the manufacture of iron and steel, heavy machinery, aluminium, textiles, cement, glass, and fertilizers. Agricultural products are cereals (especially wheat), cotton, fruit, tobacco, and peanuts.

Three of China's ancient capitals are in Henan: the ‘Great City’ of Shang (now Anyang) of the Shang dynasty (c. 1500–c. 1066 BC); Luoyang of the Eastern Zhou (770–221 BC) and Eastern Han (25–220) dynasties; and Kaifeng of the Northern Song dynasty (960–1126). The countryside is studded with the tombs of ancient kings and nobles, and is a rich area for archaeologists. The earliest Chinese script, on oracle bones, was unearthed in Henan. Near Luoyang the caves of Longmen contain thousands of statues of Buddha as well as many stone tablets of the 5th to 7th centuries. There are ruins of Xibo, the 16th-century BC capital of the Shang dynasty.

Topography The southwestern part of Henan is mountainous but much of the remaining terrain consists of fertile alluvial plains, particularly those of the Huang He River in the northern part of the province and the Huai He River in the south.

Climate The province experiences cold, dry winters with January average temperatures ranging around 0°C/32°F; and hot, humid summers with July temperatures averaging around 27°C/81°F. Annual rainfall varies from 500 mm/29 in in the northwest to 900 mm/35 in in the south.

Flood control Extensive engineering works aimed at controlling the rivers have greatly improved agricultural prospects. In the past much destruction was caused by the Huang He River changing its course, but the risk of flooding has now been greatly reduced. In the 1950s an ambitious programme to control the Huang He using dams was adopted, and construction began on a large hydroelectric project at Sanmenxia. Left incomplete when Soviet technicians were withdrawn from China in 1960, the scheme was finished in 1968, after the original design had to be substantially revised and its capacity reduced to cope with silting in the reservoir behind the dam. The construction of a larger dam downstream at Xiaolangdi will control even the highest flows in the lower course of the Huang He. Nearly a quarter of a million people are estimated to have died in the floods and subsequent epidemics when two dams burst in 1975.

Economy In many places rainfall is supplemented through irrigation. The main crops are winter wheat, followed by sorghum or maize, and cotton. Apples and oil-producing seeds such as rape, sesame, and peanut are also important. In the southwest of the province rice can be grown.

The principal mineral resource is coal; there are large anthracite mines at Jiaozuo, and coalfields producing coke at Hebi and Pingdingshan. Aluminium, salt, and gold are also exploited. The Zhongyuan oilfield in the northeast produces 5 million tonnes of crude oil annually.

There are textile industries in several cities based on local cotton production. Cities such as Zhengzhou, the capital of the province, Luoyang, and Kaifeng have a much greater diversity of industry.

Communications The province is crossed from east to west by the Longhai railway, and from north to south by the Beijing–Guangzhou and the Beijing–Kowloon lines.

© RM, 2018. All rights reserved.

Related Articles


Full text Article Henan (or Honan)
The Macmillan Encyclopedia

A province in E central China. The Yellow and the Huai Rivers irrigate the E fertile plain. Densely populated, it has been a centre of...

Full text Article Henan
Britannica Concise Encyclopedia

Baima (“White Horse”) Temple, Luoyang, Henan province, China. Credit:© Buddhadl/Shutterstock.com Province, north-central China. Area: 64,500 sq

See more from Credo