Province of northwest China, bounded to the north by Inner Mongolia, to the east by Shanxi and Henan, to the south by Hubei and Sichuan, and to the west by Gansu and Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region; area 195,800 sq km/75,600 sq mi; population (2013 est) 37,640,000. The capital is Xi'an. There are coalmining, iron, steel, textile, and aerospace industries. Wheat, maize, rice, fruit, and tea are grown.
History The province was part of the cradle of Chinese civilization in north China, during the Spring and Autumn, and Warring States periods (8th to 3rd centuries BC). It was the centre of the state of Qin, whose ruler united the country in 221 BC and whose name was the origin of the name China. His capital was at Chang'an (modern Xi'an), and the Han and Tang dynasties also had capitals there. The Great Wall of China was built through the north of Shaanxi, defining the limit of Chinese settlement for long periods. A traditional trading route to the west, part of the medieval Silk Road ran through the centre of the province. From 1936 to 1947 Yan'an, in northern Shaanxi, was the headquarters of the Communist Party in China.
Geography Shaanxi is bounded on the north by the Ordos Desert of Inner Mongolia and on the south by the Daba Mountains. Most of the province lies north of the Qinling Mountains and, like neighbouring Shanxi to the east, consists of a dissected upland covered by deposits of wind-blown loess, a superficial deposit derived from the deserts of Inner Mongolia. The height of the plateau of northern Shaanxi is about 1,000 m/3,200 ft above sea level. The most populated part of Shaanxi is the Wei He River valley, a tributary of the Huang He flowing eastwards at the foot of the Qinling Mountains. Towns include Baoji, Yan'an, and Tongchuan.
Climate The Qinling Mountains divide Shaanxi's climate into two regions. To the south of the range the climate is mild and wet, the January average temperature being around 2°C/36°F and the July average around 26°C/79°F. Annual rainfall in this southern area averages around 800 mm/30 in. In Xi'an, north of the mountains, the January average temperature is −1°C/30°F and the July average 27°C/81°F. The average annual rainfall in Xi'an is 550 mm/20 in, which drops to less than 400 mm/16 in in the north of the province.
Economy Shaanxi has relatively short growing seasons. Spring wheat and millet are the major crops. Near the Ordos Desert grazing for animals is more important than arable cultivation because of lack of rainfall. The Wei He Valley is well watered and extensively irrigated, with winter wheat, tobacco, and cotton being the principal produce. In the extreme south of the province the Han Valley, sheltered by the Qinling Mountains to the north and the Daba Mountains to the south, has an almost sub-tropical climate similar to that of Sichuan; fruit crops such as apples, pears, apricots, and grapes are produced alongside wheat, corn, and rice.
There are large coalmining areas araound Tongchuan in the centre of Shaanxi, and around Shenmu in the far north. Limestone is quarried for cement and chemicals at many sites in the centre and south of the province. Food-processing and textile industries are found in numerous towns and cities, but other manufacturing is concentrated in a corridor through the centre of the province, especially in the area around Sian. There are large engineering and aerospace industries, manufacturing machinery and machine tools, aircraft components, aero engines, and electrical equipment, but consumer goods, including domestic appliances, bicycles, watches, radio and television sets, and clothing are of increasing importance in recent years.
Communications Shaanxi sits astride China's principal east–west rail and road transport artery from Jiangsu to Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and there are modern north–south rail and highway links to Sichuan, Ningxia, and Inner Mongolia.