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Summary Article: Hubei from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Province of central China, bounded to the north by Henan, to the east by Anhui, to the south by Jiangxi and Hunan, and to the west by Sichuan and Shaanxi provinces; area 187,500 sq km/72,375 sq mi; population (2013 est) 57,990,000. The capital is Wuhan; other major cities and towns are Huangshi, Shashi, Yichang, and Xiangfan. The main industries are the mining of copper, gypsum, iron ore, coal, phosphorus, and salt; and the production of steel, machinery, domestic appliances, textiles, food processing, and fibre-optic cables. Agriculture is based on the cultivation of rice, cotton, rapeseed, wheat, beans, and vegetables.

Hubei occupies an important location at the crossing of the land route from Beijing to the south of China with the Chang Jiang River, a major east–west artery. It developed as an industrial centre after the mid-19th century when the Chang Jiang was opened to foreign-owned steamships, and Hankou (now Wuhan) and other ports on the river were opened for foreign trade and settlement.

Topography The western part of the province consists of rugged highlands with only small areas of cultivable land. However, the eastern parts comprise extensive and fertile alluvial plains formed by the Chang Jiang and Han Shui rivers which run through the province. There are numerous smaller streams and the eastern part of the province is dotted with numerous lakes.

Over the centuries, flooding has been a serious problem in the lowlands, but strenuous efforts have been made by the government to reduce flood risks through the construction of dams and dykes. The Three Gorges Dam, under construction on the Chang Jiang in the west of the province, is expected to eliminate the risk of flooding.

Climate Hubei experiences mild winters, with January average temperatures around 3°C/37°F; and hot summers, with July temperatures averaging from 28°C/82°F in the eastern plain to 24°C/75°F in the western hills. Average annual rainfall is around 1,300 mm/50 in; precipitation is highest in the west of the province and occurs mainly in the summer months. Wuhan's summer heat and humidity make it one of China's hottest cities, and have earned it the reputation of being one of the ‘furnaces of China’.

Economy The agriculture of the lowlands supports a dense population. Farmland is intensively cultivated, the main crops being rice, winter wheat, barley, corn, and soybeans. Cotton is an important commercial crop, and tea is grown in the south.

Hubei has important iron mines around Daye, in the east of the province, where coal and copper are mined. Elsewhere in the province reserves of mercury, phosphorus, lead, nickel, and selenium are exploited. Wuhan is one of the most important industrial cities of China, and home to one of China's largest integrated iron and steel works, which use iron ore found at Ta-yeh in southeastern Hupeh. Wuhan is also important to China's motor-vehicle industry as a producer of trucks and all-terrain vehicles. Xiangfan and Huangshi are also large industrial centres, producing chemical fertilizers as well as iron and steel. Textiles are manufactured in many of Hubei's towns and cities.

The Gezhouba Dam on the Chang Jiang, just upstream of Yichang, is China's largest completed hydroelectric facility; its output will be overtaken by the Three Gorges project, due for completion in 2009, which will be the world's largest dam and hydroelectric scheme.

© RM, 2016. All rights reserved.

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