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Henan: the Chinese “bread basket” of 100 million people

Henan is a province of central China, one of the cradles of Chinese civilization together with Shaanxi and Shanxi.
While being part of China since the early beginning, Henan did not benefit much of its central position. The convenient positioning was, in fact, often location of internal strife. Furthermore, periodic floods (due to the Yellow River) endangered the inhabitants.
Today the province has around 100 million inhabitants, and the capital, Zhengzhou, hosts around 10 million within its administrative area. Other big cities are Kaifeng, Luoyang, Nanyang and Zhoukou.

Map of China’s provinces, municipalities, autonomous regions and special administrative regions. Source: chokkicx / Getty Images

As it has been the home of Chinese civilization for millennia, almost all its population is Han, but there are some Manchu and Mongol minorities.

Henan: a land of great rivers and plains

Henan means “South of the River”, opposed to Hebei which is “North of the river”. Its southern main river, Huai, is used to divide Northern China from Southern China. The mountains in Henan do not prevent agriculture from being successful, thanks to its wide plains and the presence of great rivers. The climate is temperate, with the raining season happening during summer. The north of the province is generally more dry and the south more humid, due to the action of monsoons.
henan's capital, zhengzhou
Henan is one of the biggest provinces by population size. Since many decide to migrate to richer provinces, it is estimated that the real population coming from Henan is actually bigger than any other province in China, with the exception of Shandong.

A recovering economy

Henan has been backwards for a long time, compared with other provinces in the area. Primary sector is important, thanks to the agriculture and mining businesses. Henan is among the top producers wheat, sesame and rice in China, as well as beef, pork and cotton. Henan has also big reserves of tungsten, molybdenum (second worldwide) and limestone. The second sector has a strong tradition in food processing, due to its huge production of raw materials. In the past twenty years Henan started developing metallurgy, chemicals, machinery and electronics.
The tertiary sector is not as developed, although software development and tourism business are both growing steadily.
Infrastructure in Henan is well developed, aiding people and goods moving quickly from, to and through the province.

Shaolin Temples and possible remains of Xia dynasty

Henan hosts the Shaolin Temple, famous (even in the West) for its 1500 years-old tradition. Shaolin monks experienced a recent success worldwide and founded schools in many cities around the planet. Both the Shaolin Temple and the Longmen Grottoes are examples of Buddhist culture in China as well as world heritage sites. Luoyang, Kaifen and Yinxu (in Anyang) are also important sites, as they were ancient capitals of China. There are even remains of an ancient civilization, which potentially could be the almost-legendary Xia dynasty, the first Chinese dynasty from more than 4000 years ago.
Henan's Shaolin Temple

Henan’s geography defines its reliance on agriculture and related business, but as a province with around 100 million people, it is mandatory to have tertiary businesses develop as well. Its growth in the past twenty years was fairly above average and, if steady, will narrow the distance with its neighbors. Even if it won’t, Henan will still be an important province, due to the sheer size of the population and its status of “bread basket” of China.

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