Chinese Provinces in North China: Shanxi (山西) - Coal base of China

Updated:Sat, Jul 21, 2012 20:38 PM    Related:Chinese provinces

Chinese provinces

Shanxi(Chinese: 山西) province is located in North China. Its one-character abbreviation is Jin (晋). Shanxi is the coal base of China. Tourist resorts include Jinci Temple, The Twin Pagoda in Taiyuan, Wutai Moutain etc.


General information

Area: 156,600 square km

Population: 33.35 million (2006)

Capital City: Taiyuan

Nationalities: Han (99.7%), and Hui (0.3%).

Average temperature: -16oC to -2oC in January, 19oC to 28oC in July.

Mountains: the Taihang Range in eastern Shanxi includes Mount Wutai and Mount Hengshan; the Luliang Mountains are the watershed of the Yellow and Fenhe Rivers.

Rivers: Fenhe River, a tributary of the Yellow River.

Administrative divisions: 10 cities and 96 counties

Neighboring areas: Hebei, Henan, and Shaanxi Provinces; Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

Major cities: Taiyuan, Datong, Changzhi, Yuci, Yangquan, Linfen, Houma, Jiexiu

Tourist attractions: the ancient Yungang Grottoes near Datong; the Memorial Temple of Jin near Taiyuan

Shanxi(Chinese: 山西; pinyin: Shānxī) province is located in North China. Its one-character abbreviation is Jin (晋 pinyin jìn), after the state of Jin that existed here during the Spring and Autumn Period.

The name Shanxi literally means "mountain's west", which refers to the province's location west of the Taihang Mountains. Shanxi borders Hebei to the east, Henan to the south, Shaanxi to the west, and Inner Mongolia to the north.

Geography of Shanxi

Shanxi is located on a plateau made up of higher ground to the east (Taihang Mountains) and the west (Lüliang Mountains) and a series of valleys in the center through which the Fen River runs. The highest peak is Mount Wutai (Wutai Shan) in northeastern Shanxi with an altitude of 3058 m. The Great Wall of China forms most of the northern border with Inner Mongolia. The Zhongtiao Mountains run along part of the southern border and separate Shanxi from the east-west part of the Yellow River. Mount Hua is to the southwest.

The Huang He (Yellow River) forms the western border of Shanxi with Shaanxi. The Fen and Qin rivers, tributaries of the Huang He, run north-to-south through the province, and drain much of its area. The north of the province is drained by tributaries of the Hai River, such as Sanggan and Hutuo rivers. The largest natural lake in Shanxi is Xiechi Lake, a salt lake near Yuncheng in southwestern Shanxi.

Climate of Shaanxi

Shanxi has a continental monsoon climate, and is rather arid. Average January temperatures are below 0 °C, while average July temperatures are around 21 - 26 °C. Winters are long, dry, and cold, while summer is warm and humid. Spring is extremely dry and prone to dust storms. Shanxi is one of the sunniest parts of China; early summer heat waves are common. Annual precipitation averages around 350–700 mm, with 60% of it concentrated between June and August.

Economy of Shanxi

The GDP per capita of Shanxi is below national average. Important crops in Shanxi include wheat, maize, millet, legumes, and potatoes. Arid climate and dwindling water resources limits agriculture in Shanxi.

Shanxi possesses 260 billion metric tons of known coal deposits, about one third of China's total. As a result, Shanxi is a leading producer of coal in China, with annual production exceeding 300 million metric tonnes. The Datong (大同), Ningwu (宁武), Xishan (西山), Hedong (河东), Qinshui (沁水), and Huoxi (霍西) coalfields are some of the most important in Shanxi. Shanxi also contains about 500 million tonnes of bauxite deposits, about one third of total Chinese bauxite reserves.

Industry in Shanxi is centered around heavy industries such as coal and chemical production, power generation, and metal refining. Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre, one of China's three satellite launch centers, is located in the middle of Shanxi Province.

Shanxi's nominal GDP in 2009 was 736.57 billion yuan (US$100 billion), ranked eighteenth in China. Its per-capita GDP was 21,544 yuan (US$3,154).

History of Shanxi

Shanxi, the territory of state of Jin during the Spring and Autumn Period (722 BC - 403 BC), underwent a three-way split into the states of Han, Zhao and Wei in 403 BC, the traditional date taken as the start of the Warring States Period (403 BC - 221 BC). By 221 BC all of these states had fallen to the state of Qin, which established the Qin Dynasty (221 BC - 206 BC).

Shanxi only gained its present name and approximate borders in the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644). During the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911), Shanxi extended northwards beyond the Great Wall to include parts of Inner Mongolia, including what is now the city of Hohhot, and overlapped with the jurisdiction of the Eight Banners and the Guihua Tümed banner in that area.

During most of the Republic of China's period of rule over mainland China (1912–1949), the warlord Yen Hsi-shan held Shanxi, regardless of the frequent political upheavals shaking the rest of China. During the Second Sino-Japanese War, Japan occupied much of the province after defeating China in the Battle of Taiyuan.

After the defeat of Japan, much of the Shanxi countryside became important bases for the communist People's Liberation Army in the ensuing Chinese Civil War.

For centuries Shanxi served as the center of trade and banking, with the term "Shanxi Merchant" (晋商 jìnshāng) once synonymous with wealth. The well-preserved city of Pingyao in Shanxi also shows many signs of its former dominance as a center of trade and banking. Due to Shanxi's geographic location in the Great China and its natural environment, Shanxi was the richest province in Zhongyuan or Center China. In the Qing Dynasty, Pingyao served as the centre of Chinese banking industry. This county, in contemporary time, is famous for its UNESCO ancient city walls and ancient China's Wall Street for its financial importance in history. In modern times, coal mining is important in Shanxi's economy, but severe critics have complained of deplorable mine conditions.

Administrative divisions

Shanxi is divided into eleven prefecture-level divisions, all of them prefecture-level cities:

# Name Hanzi Hanyu Pinyin Administrative Seat

Shanxi prfc map.png

— Prefecture-level city —

1 Taiyuan 太原市 Tàiyuán Shì Xinghualing District

2 Changzhi 长治市 Chángzhì Shì Chengqu District

3 Datong 大同市 Dàtóng Shì Chengqu District

4 Jincheng 晋城市 Jìnchéng Shì Chengqu District

5 Jinzhong 晋中市 Jìnzhōng Shì Yuci District

6 Linfen 临汾市 Línfén Shì Yaodu District

7 Lüliang 吕梁市 Lǚliáng Shì Lishi District

8 Shuozhou 朔州市 Shuòzhōu Shì Shuocheng District

9 Xinzhou 忻州市 Xīnzhōu Shì Xinfu District, Xinzhou

10 Yangquan 阳泉市 Yángquán Shì Chengqu District

11 Yuncheng 运城市 Yùnchéng Shì Yanhu District

Places of Interests and Tourist Attractions of Shanxi

Having 35 key historical relics under nationwide protection and 284 under provincial protection, the province of Shanxi can be called the Ancient Chinese Artistic Museum. National key scenic areas in this province include the Wutai Mountain, the Heng Mountain, and the Waterfalls at Hukou along the Yellow River. Its famous Chinese historical and cultural cities include Datong City, Pingyao City, Xinjiang City, Dai County, and Qi County. The Jin Ancestral Hall, the Huayan Temple, the Yongle Palace, the Xuankong Temple, ancient pagodas, and grottoes - especially the Yungang Grottoes - are also very famous.

The Yungang Grottoes

China has four famous ancient grottoes which house Buddhist sculptures and carvings. The Yungang Grottoes is one of them and is located at the southern foot of the Wuzhou Mountain, 10 kilometers west of Datong city. The first grottoes were created in 453 A.D. and later extended to one full kilometer in length. Still extant today are 53 caves which house over 51,000 stone carvings. The largest Buddha statue is over 17 meters tall while the smallest one is only a few centimeters. All of the statues are delicate in sculpture and vivid and true to life, differing with each other in postures and facial expressions. It is the art and grandeur of the whole scene that makes Yungang so famous. The costumes and crowns, architectural designs, musical and dance performance episodes, and decorative patterns retained in the grottoes provide rich and valuable subjects for the study of the ancient Chinese culture and art.

Wutai Mountain

The Wutai Mountain has been venerated by Buddhists as one of China's four sacred sites since ancient times. Situated 230 kilometers from the provincial capital of Taiyuan in northern Shanxi, it consists of five towering peaks. Yedou, one of its peaks, is 3,058 meters above the sea level and is known as the "Roof of North China". With tall trees all over, it is a nice tourist summer resort. Inside the Taihuai Town, which is engulfed by Mount Wutai, are 47 splendid temples, including Foguang Temple, built between 471 and 499; Nanchan Temple, rebuilt in 782; Xiantong Temple, built between 58 and 75 A.D.; Luozhou Temple; and Pusading Temple. There is also a galaxy of Buddhist relics that represent both the Green and Yellow Sects in harmonious coexistence.

The Yingxian Pagoda

The Yingxian Wooden Pagoda was built in 1056 and is the World's oldest and tallest wooden Buddhist Pagoda. Located in Yingxian County, the pagoda stands 66.6 meters tall with a 30-meter diameter and weighs over 300 tons. Made up of at least 3,500 cubic metres of wood, the pagoda is octagonal in shape and contains nine floors. Built without the use of nails, the entire structure is solid, imposing, and elegant. It has weathered over 900 years of wind and storm, yet has remained intact despite many strong earthquakes. It is indeed a masterpiece of ancient Chinese architecture.

The Modair Pagoda

The Modair Wooden Pagoda was built during the later period of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534 A.D.) and is located in a canyon at the foot of the Hengshan Mountain. Hanging in mid-air, the pagoda is a rarity in terms of architecture. The existing 40-hall buildings made of wooden structures are scattered in different secluded spots. Built with mechanical principles, it stands propped up by hidden rocks and is based on flying beams with pillars and other beams in one integrated whole. Unique, difficult to access, and ingeniously built, it is as the local saying goes: "Hung by three horsetails suspended in mid-air." Inside the temple are 78 sculptured statues handed down from different dynasties.

The Jinci Temple

The Jinci Temple is located at the foot of Xuanweng Hill, 25 kilometers southwest of Taiyuan City. It is a famous Chinese architectural masterpiece in gardening with a history of over 1,400 years. With over 100 buildings, the Hall of Holy Mother, the Double Wooden Bridge of the Song Dynasty, and the Xiandian Hall of the Jin Dynasty occupy an important place in the history of ancient architecture. The beam rails and stone posts form a spectacular laced pattern. The carved dragons on the wooden pillars in front of the Hall of Holy Mother are the oldest among China's extant wood carvings. The Clay Statues of Maids from the Song Dynasty, the Ever-Gurgling Immortal Spring, and the Ageless Cypress are considered the "Three Rarities" of the Jinci Temple.

The Twin Pagoda

The Twin Pagoda Monastery is located southeast of the railway station in Taiyuan City. It is called the Twin Pagoda because it has two 53-meter-tall sister pagodas containing 13 floors each. Built in 1608, the pagodas are made of brick and stone and are structured with exquisite brick-sculptured brackets and glazed, flying eaves. In the monastery are two lilacs and peonies handed down from the Ming Dynasty. In the corridor are steles with inscriptions by ancient Chinese calligraphers of great popularity such as Wang Xizhi, Yan Zhenqing, Liu Gongquan, and Su Dongpo. The Twin Pagodas have become the symbol of Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi.

Shanxi Local Cuisine

Qingheyuan Restaurant of Taiyuan is known for its Tounao which is instant cooked mutton in Mongolian hot pot and the whole sheep meal.

Tounao is fat mutton, lotus roots and yam cooked with rice wine, the roots of membranous milk vetch (Astragalus membranceus). It is a popular food with a tonic effect. Shanxi is also praised for its rich variety of wheaten food which is made even more delicious when eatenwith famous vinegar of Shanxi.

There are altogether about 100 varieties of wheaten food prepared in six different ways: boiled, steamed, stuffed, fried, baked and deep-fired. The common ones are hand drawn noodles, fettuccine Shanxi style, "cat's ears" etc. Marinated beef from Pingyao is tender, soft, delicious and easy to keep.




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