Free «Henan Province» Essay

Henan Province

Various studies have examined the different aspects of the state’s form. These researches have often emphasized on the historical development and importance of the efforts of the state to regulate space as a territory. In general, studies on state in a global perspective might appear relatively strange. After all, classical descriptions of the state and its divisions highlight the following fact. States are the organizations seeking to govern people, land, and resources within defined boundaries. Similarly, the geographical subdivisions, such as provinces or districts, of the state can also be defined in this manner. This depiction of the state, provinces and districts is consequently inward-looking and parochial. Comprehensive and international issues might appear very little to the state as well as a mere province. In contrary to this background, this paper discusses Henan Province of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) with respect to history, geography, economy, politics, and governance.

General Description of Henan Province

Henan province is situated in the central part of China. It is abbreviated as 豫 (yu), which means Yuzhou. Yuzhou was a Han Dynasty that spanned some parts of present day’s Henan Province (Zhai, Guo & Liu 2005). Despite the name of this province meaning the south of the river, about one quarter of Henan lies to the north of the Yellow River, which is also referred to as Huang He in Chinese (Zhai, Guo & Liu 2005). The Province is frequently referred to as Zhongzhou or Zhongyuan, which implies central plains or the midlands.

Historians have often considered Henan as the origin of civilization in China with more than 3000 years of recorded history (Zhai, Guo & Liu 2005). According to studies, especially such ones focusing on the global perspective of China, Henan remained the economic, cultural and political center about 1000 years ago. The province boasts of several heritages, such as the ruins of Shang dynasty and the Shaolin Temple (Zhai, Guo & Liu 2005). It is also the home of four major Chinese capital cities: Luoyang, Zhengzhou, Kaifeng, and Anyang.

The province has an area of approximately 167000 square kilometers. It covers a significant portion of the heavily and fertile populated plains of North China (Zhai, Guo & Liu 2005). The closest provinces to Henan include Shaanxi, Hebei, Shandong, Hubei, Anhui, and Shanxi. The Chinese census classified Henan as the third most populated province with more than 94 million people. From a global perspective, if Henan was a nation on its own, it would have ranked as the 12th most populated nation in the universe behind Mexico and standing ahead of the Philippines (Zhai, Guo & Liu 2005).

In comparison to other Chinese province, Henan has been ranked as the 5th largest provincial economy of China. However, among the inland provinces (excluding coastal ones), Henan is the largest economy. Nevertheless, the GDP per capita is lower compared to the provinces located in the central and eastern parts of China. As a result, Chinese economic studies have often regarded the province as one of the less developed regions in China. Henan’s economy, for a very long time, has relied on the decreasing coal and aluminum resources, agriculture, tourism, agriculture, retail, and heavy industry. According to Hudson (1972), Henan’s high-tech industry and service sector appears less developed. It is concerted mainly around Luoyang and Zhengzhou.

History of Henan Province

Perhaps, it is in the international agreements and negotiations, which concern the political status of great countries and determine their boundaries, that the danger of inaccurate geographical knowledge is greatest (Kaplan 2013). Evidently, the previous several centuries ago were well-defined as the epoch of making boundaries and war. Mackinder (2004) has pointed out that whether one turns to Africa, Asia, America, and Europe, such an endless panorama of political geography arises before humanity. It includes a vast area of land and sea to be explored and developed. Henan province, similarly to other regions in the world, also witnesses this boundary-making epoch.

Widely considered as the origin of Chinese civilization, along with other provinces such as Shaanxi and Shanxi, Henan is popular for its historical opulence and periodic downturns (Zhai, Guo & Liu 2005). Zhai, Guo, and Liu (2005) have pointed out that economic opulence resulted from the wide fertile plains and the geographical location at the center of China. Nevertheless, according to Zhai, Guo, and Liu (2005), the strategic location of Henan also implies that the province has significantly suffered from almost all the major wars in China. Moreover, various floods linked to the Yellow River have caused a substantial negative impact on the province (Hudson 1972). For instance, Kaifeng, one of China’s major cities located in Henan, has been covered by silt from the River about seven times because of frequent flooding.

Bronze Age

The most recent Bronze Age culture has been contentiously identified with the Xia Dynasty, which is historically regarded as a legendary Chinese dynasty (Zhai, Guo & Liu 2005). The Xia dynasty, according to Zhai, Guo, and Liu (2005), was set up around the 21st Century BC. The Xia Dynasty covered the northern and central parts of Henan. The Dynasty fell during the 16th century BC after a conquest by the Shang Dynasty. Zhai, Guo & Liu (2005) have pointed out that the Shang Dynasty was adjacent to the Xia Dynasty; and it was located around the modern-day Shangqiu, in the east of Henan. The Shang Dynasty has been regarded as the first literate Chinese dynasty (Zhai, Guo & Liu 2005). The Zhou Dynasty overthrew the Shang Dynasty during the 11th century. Following this invasion, the capital of the Shang Dynasty was relocated Chang’an. The economic and political center was relocated from Henan for the first time. This period characterized what Kaplan (2013) referred to as the epoch of war and boundary making.

Modern-day Henan and the rest of China were subdivided into various small, independent states, which were continuously warring against each other in order to gain contrl of fertile plains (Hudson 1972). Regardless of the prolonged period of political instability, famous philosophers, including Confucius, emerged during this boundary making and war epoch (Mackinder 2004). Such philosophers offered crucial ideas concerning how states should be managed. The pioneer of Taoism, Laozi, was born in the north of China (Mackinder 2004). Eventually, because of the ideas of these philosophers, the warring states were substituted by seven powerful states during the war epoch. Henan was subdivided into 3 states: Chu being located to the south; Wei being situated to the north; and Han being situated in the middle. However, the war was not over; the Shaanxi forces conquered the other states, marking the end of the warfare (Zhai, Guo & Liu 2005). It resulted to the establishment of the Qin Dynasty, with the Emperor Ying Zheng as its leader. The empire eventually collapsed following the death of the leader.

Golden Age

The Han Dynasty replaced the Qin Dynasty in 206 BC with the capital in Chang’an. In the reaction to the coup in Chang’an, which created the transitory Xin Dynasty, the capital relocated to Luoyang (Mackinder 2004). The Han Dynasty in the east predicted the war between regional warlords. Xuchang, a regional warlord, eventually, succeeded in uniting the entire northern China, under the Jin Dynasty, with Luoyang as its capital. Luoyang began emerging as one of the prosperous cities in the world during this time (Zhai, Guo & Liu 2005). Following the collapse of the Jin Dynasty in the 4th centuries, the northern nomads invaded the north of China and set up several successive governments in the north, including Henan. Through the signification process, they became assimilated to the Chinese culture (Zhai, Guo & Liu 2005).

The Tang Dynasty succeeded the transitory Sui Dynasty. The Tang Dynasty had lived for three centuries before succumbing to the internal strife. During the Epoch of Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms following this process, Kaifeng emerged as a capital of the four Dynasties. Kaifeng became more prosperous than Luoyang (Kaplan 2013). The Kingdoms collapsed following the combined forces of the Song Dynasty and Mongol in 1234. According to the ROOO, the Mongols gained control and conquered the entire state of China in 1279 (Kaplan 2013). It resulted into the establishment of the Yuan Dynasty having the modern province of Henan with the borders extremely similar to the current ones. It was perhaps the boundary-making epoch of Henan province as described by Kaplan (2013). Henan remained significant in the both Ming and Qing dynasties, which preceded the Mongols. However, its economy declined because of frequent flooding (Zhai, Guo & Liu 2005).

Modern Era

In 1911, the Republic of China overthrew the Qing Dynasty. It marked the birth of China’s modern epoch. Under the Republic of China, Henan suffered significantly during the 2nd Sino-Japanese War (Zhai, Guo & Liu 2005). The government of the Republic China bombed the dam in Zhengzhou to avert the advancement of Japanese forces resulting in massive floods in Henan (Zhai, Guo & Liu 2005). The province was also hit by famine during 1942 that resulted from the combination of drought, destruction caused by war, and locusts. In the mid-1950s, the People’s Republic of China’s regime relocated Henan’s capital city to Zhengzhou from Kaifeng because of its economic significance (Zhai, Guo & Liu 2005).

Henan had continued experiencing catastrophes throughout the 1950s-1970s (Mackinder 2004). During the summer of 1950, the River Huai flooded prompting the development of dams along its tributaries (Zhai, Guo & Liu 2005). However, most of dams were incapable of withstanding high amounts of rainfall resulting from the Typhoons. About 62 dams collapsed leading to disastrous floods and causing thousands of deaths (Kaplan 2013). The floods have been regarded as one of the deadliest disasters linked to dams in the history of human beings (Kaplan 2013).

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Geography of Henan Province


Henan province can be topographically divided into two segments: the eastern plains and the western highlands. To the west of the province, the Zhongqiao and rocky Taihang mountains form a steep eastern edge of Shanxi Plateau, rising 1524 m above the sea level (Kaplan 2013). According to Mackinder (2004), the mountains are a part of the Taihang fold system of Permian times. They have the usual northeast-to-southwest trend.

The Xiong’er and Funiu mountain ranges occupy the South of Huang He establishing the comparatively high mountain basins. These mountain ranges portray the east-west trend. They also divide the PRC geographically and geologically into South and North (Kaplan 2013). The Dabie and Tongbai mountains further extend the subdivision by running in a southeastern direction, establishing a border between Hubei and Henan (Mackinder 2004).

The fertile plains, which were always the source of conflict during the bronze and gold age, lie to the east (Zhai, Guo & Liu 2005). The western mountains have formed the coast of the sea until recent geological times. The sea, mainly an extension of the Gulf of Chihli and now filled from silt from the Loess Plateau, forms the North China Plain (Mackinder 2004). It is approximated that the plain sediments are currently 850 meters deep in certain places, forming a subduction zone. This one spans from Heilongjiang to Jiangxi provinces (Kaplan 2013). Geologists have affirmed that the surface of the subduction zone is sinking at the equal rate with that of the deposition (Zhai, Guo & Liu 2005).


Three rivers form a drainage system of Henan province. They include the Yellow River (Huang He) to the northeastern part; Huai River to the eastern part; and Tang and Bai Rivers in the southwestern parts (Zhai, Guo & Liu 2005). The Yellow River forms a confluence with Wei River and turns eastward. It collects a lot of silt from the Loess Plateau, especially during summer. Prior to the construction of dams, the Yellow River caused disastrous floods upon entering the eastern plains (Mackinder 2004). In order to curb effectively the disasters, dikes have been built. The reegime of the PRC has constantly strengthened the dikes in order to divert the waters of the Yellow River to the Wei River (Mackinder 2004). The Huai River, as well as its tributaries, has its source in the mountains southwest of Henan. The Huai River enters the Anhui Plain resulting into catastrophic floods (Zhai, Guo & Liu 2005).


The soils of Henan province are significantly composed of lime. Due to the low levels of precipitation, there seems to be little leaching in Henan (Mackinder 2004). The soils in the western part are majorly mountain yellow-brown soil. They are well drained than the soils in the plain. According to Zhai, Guo & Liu (2005), civilization is linked to Henan because of fertile regions that border the plains. Yellow-gray, porous, and granular alluvium spans throughout the plain (Zhai, Guo & Liu 2005). Due to the riverbed of the Yellow River being above the bordering land, the bordering low-lying lands suffer from waterlogging. As a result, alkalinity and salinity have affected the entire area (Zhai, Guo & Liu 2005).


The province is located in a transitional climatic region between the Yangtze valley and the North China Plain. Despite the protection from the strong Mongolian winds by the Taihang Mountains, the province experiences cold winters, and hot, humid summers (Hudson 1972). In a year, there are 180 and 240 days that are free of frost in the north and south respectively. The average lowland temperatures in July are 28 degrees Celsius. The rainfall in Henan province is more evenly distributed throughout the year than other regions of China (Hudson 1972). The average rainfall is about 580mm. However, there seems to be a steady decline in rainfall from southeast to northwest. Consequently, the province is likely to experience alternating years of heavy rain and draught than the provinces located in the Yangtze valley. It explains the historical famines experienced by residents of Henan (Kaplan 2013).

Vegetation and Animal Life

The plains are covered with woodland vegetation, whereas coniferous and deciduous forests cover the western highlands (Kaplan 2013). However, the intense human settlements on the plains have led to the clearance of vegetation in order to create a room for crop cultivation. The province is a home for more than 400 species of land animals, of which most live in the highland forests (Zhai, Guo & Liu 2005).


Majority of residents of Henan are Chinese. Chinese census indicates there are no independent minority groups, unlike the case in the western province. The small numbers of Muslim Chinese have been integrated into a wider population (Kaplan 2013). As pointed out in the history, the Mongols and nomads formed the north underwent signification and became absorbed. Similarly, the Jews from India or Persia were also assimilated into the Chinese culture during the 12th century (Mackinder 2004).

The province emerged as most populous during the late 1990s (Kaplan 2013). However, most of residents are rural dwellers, with the majority residing in the eastern plain. There is a higher population density in the Yi and Luo River basins (Kaplan 2013). The rugged western landscape has a lower population density. During the Great Leap Forward, which took place in late 1950s, the majority of people living in the plains moved to urban centers (Zhai, Guo & Liu 2005). Since the Great Leap Forward, rural-urban migration has been occurring (Zhai, Guo & Liu 2005).

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Resources and Power

The province is opulent with various minerals, which have offered the foundation for the development of industries (Kaplan 2013). Some of mineral resources included coal, iron, pyrite, bauxite, and mica. Bituminous and anthracite coal are present on the slopes of Taihang Mountains. Cooking coal is also present in the Funiu Mountains. Iron is present in the Ru River in Xiong’er Mountains (Mackinder 2004). Henan has the largest coalfield in China located at Pingdishshan. Additionally, there are also petroleum and natural gas in the Zhongyuan oil fields in the northeastern part of the province (Mackinder 2004).


The economy of Henan significantly relies on agriculture, with the majority of cultivated land located in eastern plains (Kaplan 2013). The main crops cultivated include tobacco, silk, vegetable oil, and cotton. Cotton is mainly concentrated in the northern part of the Yellow River around Xinxiang. The province has been ranked as the largest producer of tobacco in China. Henan is also ranked as one of the largest producers of sesame, which is cultivated majorly in the east and south of the province. However, the agricultural sector of the province experiences several challenges: sandy alkaline soils and locust attacks (Kaplan 2013).

Politics and Governance

Henan, Jiangxi, Guangxi, and Guangdong established the central south administrative region in 1949 following the victory of communists in 1949 (Mackinder 2004). The provincial regime was formed in 1954. The province is currently subdivided into 17 regional level municipalities (Kaplan 2013). Below these levels, it further subdivided to form districts, counties, and county-level municipalities.

Politically, the political conflict during the Cultural Revolution, which took place between 1966 and 1976, negatively affected Henan province (Mackinder 2004). Between 1966 and 1976, the province had been governed by the Revolutionary Committee, which was later replaced by the People’s Government. According to Kaplan (2013), the People’s Government is an administrative body of the People’s Congress, which is an arm of the state.

Henan’s government is organized similarly to other governing bodies in the interior of China. The province has a twofold party-government. According to Zhai, Guo & Liu (2005), the governor of the province is the highest-ranking official in the People’s Government. Nevertheless, the governor has less authority compared to the Secretary of the Communist Party of China in Henan (Kaplan 2013).

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