/hoh"nan"/; Chin. /hue"nahn"/, n.
1. Wade-Giles. Henan.
2. (usually l.c.) Textiles.
a. a pongee fabric made from the filaments of the wild silkworm.
b. a lustrous fabric simulating pongee and woven from fibers other than silk.

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Chinese (Wade-Giles)  Ho-nan,  (Pinyin)  Henan,  
      sheng (province) of north-central China. It has an area of 64,700 square miles (167,700 square kilometres). The province stretches some 300 miles (500 kilometres) from north to south and 350 miles east to west at its widest point. It is bounded on the north by Shansi and Hopeh, on the east by Shantung and Anhwei, on the west by Shensi, and on the south by Hupeh. The Huang Ho (Huang He) (Yellow River) divides the province into two unequal parts—one-sixth north and five-sixths south of the river—and thus to some extent belies the name Honan (“South of the River”). K'ai-feng, the former capital, has been superseded by Cheng-chou, where the Peking–Han-k'ou railway crosses the Huang Ho and meets the Lung-hai Railway running from east to west.

Physical and human geography
The land
      Honan can be divided topographically into two parts, the western highlands and the eastern plain. In the northwest the rugged T'ai-hang (Taihang Mountains) and Chung-t'iao mountains form the steep eastern edge of the Shansi Plateau, rising in places above 5,000 feet (1,524 metres). They are part of the T'ai-hang fold system of Permian times and have a general northeast to southwest trend. They mark the northern border of the province.

      South of the Huang Ho there is a broad stretch of upland comprising a number of moderately high mountain basins, the main ranges being the Hsiung-erh and Fu-niu. These mountains, which have an east–west trend, are the eastern extension of the Tsinling Mountains (Qin Mountains) axis that divides China geologically and geographically into North and South. The T'ung-pai and Ta-pieh (Dabie Mountains) ranges form a further extension of this axis, running in a southeasterly direction and marking the border between Honan and Hupeh. The T'ung-pai range is separated from the Fu-niu by a gap some 75 to 100 miles wide cut by the T'ang and T'ao rivers, which are tributaries of the Han River. This gap gives easy access from the Honan Plain to the central basin of the Yangtze, a route much used from Han times onward in Chinese expansion southward.

      To the east lie the plains. Until fairly recent geological times the mountains in the west (the western extension of the present Po Hai [Gulf of Chihli] and Yellow Sea) formed the coast of a sea. That sea, now filled with silt brought down by the rivers and by the wind from the Loess Plateau, forms the North China Plain and the Huai Basin. It is part of the great Neo-Cathaysian Geosyncline (downward-sloping part of the Earth's crust), which extends from Heilungkiang to Kiangsi provinces. The floor of this geosyncline is sinking at a rate equal to that of deposition; it is estimated that the sediment of the plain is now 2,800 feet deep in places.

      Honan has three river systems: the Huang Ho in the north and northeast, the Huai River in the east and southeast, and the T'ang and T'ao rivers in the southwest. The Huang Ho—known in Chinese literature simply as the Ho (“River”)—immediately after its confluence with the Wei River, at the Shansi provincial border, turns eastward at T'ung-kuan to flow directly across the north of Honan. Near T'ung-kuan it enters the San-men Gorge (Sanmen Gorge) of some 80 miles, thence issuing onto the plain. It is remarkable that from T'ung-kuan to the sea, a distance of some 600 miles, the Huang Ho receives only two comparatively small tributaries: the right-bank Lo River, on which Lo-yang stands, and the left-bank Ch'in River (Qin River).

      The Ho is subject to very great changes in summer and winter flow. In time of maximum flow (summer) the river carries an enormous load of silt, gathered mainly in its course through the Loess Plateau of Shensi and Shansi provinces. There is a Chinese saying that “if you fall into the Huang Ho you never get clean again.” While the river is fast flowing in the San-men Gorge, it is able to carry its load of silt, but when it issues onto the plain its pace is checked. It can no longer carry the silt, and flooding occurs. Throughout historical times this menace has been met by building levees to contain the waters. Generally these dikes were built five to eight miles apart, parallel to the river's banks, to give the river plenty of room in time of spate (flooding), but instead the load of silt has been slowly spread, building up the riverbed through the centuries, until today it lies above the surrounding countryside. Dikes have been built higher and higher, and when they failed to hold—as has happened in some part of the province almost every year—the river descended onto the plain, causing disastrous floods, the waters of which could not return to the high streambed when the river's flow slackened. The result was waterlogging of the soil, crop destruction, and famine. Because the watershed between the Huang and Huai rivers is almost imperceptible, the Huang Ho has radically changed its course several times in the last three millennia, flowing to the sea, first south, then north, of the Shantung Peninsula. The diversion has always been in northern Honan between Cheng-chou and K'ai-feng. In 1938 in an attempt to arrest the advance of the invading Japanese Army, the Huang Ho was deliberately diverted by blowing up the dikes near Cheng-chou and flooding 21,000 square miles of land, at an estimated cost of 900,000 lives. The river was restored to its former northern course in 1947. Under the People's Republic, work along the river has included continued strengthening of the dikes and construction of the 30-mile-long People's Victory Canal, which diverts Huang Ho water to the Wei River. A dam near the city of San-men-hsia near the Shansi border was begun in 1956 as part of an extensive flood-control and hydroelectric project. After completion of the dam in the 1970s, silt accumulation cut its generating capacity to one-quarter of planned output, hampering much of the province's industrial development, but the dam proved valuable in taming the flood stages of the river.

      The Huai itself and all its major left-bank tributaries have their sources in the mountains of western Honan. They flow eastward onto the Anhwei Plain, subjecting it to disastrous floods. In 1949 the Huai Basin became the Communist regime's first large water-conservancy program. Six dams were quickly built in the upper reaches of Huai tributaries in Honan. Since 1957 three very large dams at Lung-shan, Mei-shan, and Fo-tzu-ling have been built. Dikes were strengthened, with the result that no serious disaster has since occurred.

      Honan's soils are made up mainly of calcium carbonate (lime) in hardened layers of alluvium. Because of the comparatively low rainfall, there is little leaching. The higher land of the west is mainly mountain yellow-brown earth, better drained than the plains. The more fertile areas fringing the plain were the sites of early civilization. Alluvium is spread throughout the plain; it is yellowish and gray, porous, granular, and poor in organic matter. Since the bed of the Huang Ho lies above the surrounding land, much of the low-lying land on either side is waterlogged. Consequently, soil salinity and alkalinity affect the whole area. There are large areas of bleak, white saline sands. Since 1949 there has been much experimentation aimed at bringing these alkaline lands into production. Between 1954 and 1964 one-fourth of the saline land between K'ai-feng and Cheng-chou reportedly was transformed into fertile farmland, and reclamation of saline and alkaline land has continued.

      Climatically, Honan lies in a transitional zone between the North China Plain and the Yangtze Valley. Although protected in some degree from the Mongolian winds by the T'ai-hang Mountains, Honan has very cold winters; summers are hot and humid. Average January temperature in the north is 28° F (−2° C) and in the south 36° F (2° C). Average July temperature over the lowlands is 82° F (28° C), while in the western mountains it is a degree or two lower. There are 210 frostless days annually in the north and 250 in the south.

      Rainfall is distributed more evenly throughout the year than it is in the rest of North China, although there is a marked spring–summer maximum. K'ai-feng has an average rainfall of 23 inches (580 millimetres), of which only three inches fall in the autumn and winter months. There is a steady decrease in total rainfall from southeast to northwest and a marked increase in variability. Honan is therefore more subject to years of alternating heavy rain and drought than the provinces of the Yangtze Valley. In the past it has suffered from severe famine. It also experiences spring cloudbursts and occasional hailstorms, both of which can be very destructive. In times of drought, summer dust storms are worse even than those of winter.

Plant life
      The natural vegetation of Honan is deciduous forest and woodland over the plains, and deciduous and coniferous forest in the western highlands. Intensive settlement of the plains has long since led to the clearance of the trees to make way for cultivation. The mountains, however, retain some of their woodland. Since 1949 major efforts have been made in planting trees for shelter, timber, and other uses.

The people
      Honan is China's second most populous province, with the overwhelming majority of the population living in rural areas. The greatest concentration of rural population is in the eastern plain. Nearly as great densities are found in the I and Lo river basins and in the plain around Nan-yang, but in the more mountainous west and south they are considerably less. On the eastern plain, villages are fairly close together, usually about one mile apart. In the mountains they are smaller and more widely dispersed. Houses are made mainly of mud-plastered walls and thatched roofs. There was considerable movement of rural people of the plains to towns in the west in 1958–59, during agricultural collectivization and the Great Leap Forward.

      The vast majority of the people of Honan is Han (Chinese). There are no autonomous minority groups such as are found in the western provinces, the small number of Hui (Chinese Muslims) being integrated into the broader population. Mongol and Manchu invaders were absorbed and Sinicized. In the 12th century, when K'ai-feng was the Imperial capital of the Sung dynasty, Jews, originally from India or Persia, became an important part of the community. They retained their identity until the 19th century but have since been absorbed.

The economy
      Honan's economy is essentially agricultural. Most of the total cultivated area lies in the plains to the east of the Peking–Han-k'ou railway. The only idle land is found in the mountains and in the saline lands of the northeast. Main food crops include winter wheat, millet, kaoliang (a variety of grain sorghum), soybeans, barley, corn (maize), sweet potatoes, rice, and green lentils. Wheat is by far the most important, in both acreage and production, Honan ranking first in China's output. Rice occupies only a small percentage of the crop area; its yield per acre, however, is almost three times as great as that of wheat. Fruit growing has received considerable impetus in recent years, partly for its own sake and partly for soil conservation, particularly in the idle sandy lands of the northeast and on mountain slopes. Dates, persimmons, apples, and pears are the main fruits, with walnuts and chestnuts also grown. Honan produces draft animals of good quality, particularly yellow oxen and donkeys. Hogs are the most important food animals, and goats and sheep are raised in the western mountains.

      The chief industrial crops are cotton, tobacco, vegetable oils, and silk. Cotton is widely grown on about half the acreage, with its main concentration north of the Huang Ho around An-yang and Hsin-hsiang. Tobacco growing, introduced in Honan in 1916, increased enormously after 1949; within 40 years Honan became China's largest tobacco producer. Vegetable oils are important, with Honan one of China's largest producers of sesame, grown mainly in the east and south. Ramie, the most important of the leafy fibres, is grown in east Honan in the Huai Valley. Honan is one of the oldest centres of sericulture (silkworm raising) in China. The industry dates back to the Tung (Eastern) Han dynasty (AD 25–220). Both mulberry-leaf culture and oak-tree culture for silkworms flourished between the two world wars until suffering severely during the Sino-Japanese War. After 1949 there was a revival on the slopes of the Fu-niu Mountains, and the province became an important exporter of silk.

      Honan suffers very severely at times from locusts, which winter in the arid, sandy alkaline soils beside the Huang Ho. Extended and improved cultivation in these areas has helped control the pest.

      Although before 1949 there was little industrial development in Honan, subsequent industrialization was both rapid and extensive. Much of the development tapped Honan's rich coal seams in the northwest. Both bituminous and anthracite coal are found along the slopes of the T'ai-hang Mountains (Taihang Mountains), and big reserves of good coking coal in thick, easily mined seams are found in the Fu-niu Mountains between Hsü-ch'ang and P'ing-ting-shan. Iron ore is found at Ju-yang on the Ju River in the Hsiung-erh Mountains, as well as some pyrite, bauxite, and mica. Large coal mines at Chiao-tso supply the fast-growing industries of Lo-yang, Cheng-chou, K'ai-feng, and Hsin-hsiang but are still inadequate. The vast coalfield at P'ing-ting-shan has been worked since 1964.

      Honan is a significant producer of energy, with thermal plants in Cheng-chou, Lo-yang, K'ai-feng, and Hsin-hsiang linked by a power line. An ultrahigh-voltage transmission system, one of the largest in China, began transporting electricity from the P'ing-ting-shan coal-mining area to Wu-ch'ang in the early 1980s. There are large proven reserves of low-sulfur petroleum and natural gas at the Chung-yüan complex of oil fields.

       Lo-yang was chosen as the site for China's first tractor factory, opened in 1958. Since then its output has burgeoned, and Lo-yang has become a heavy-industry centre. Cheng-chou lies in the heart of the cotton-growing area and is now the centre of the textile industry. K'ai-feng, Imperial capital of the Sung emperors, declined after the 11th century—especially when the Huang Ho dikes were broken and the region was ruined in 1642. A large chemical-fertilizer works and a tractor-accessories plant have led to its revival. Hsin-hsiang, the most important city of north Honan, is the centre of the railway network of the area. Emphasis has shifted over the years from development of heavy to development of light industry. Thus, there has been a growth in the production of consumer goods such as cigarettes, electronic products, bicycles, household appliances, textiles, and tableware. Tourism is a major earner of foreign exchange.

      Although the Huang Ho flows through north Honan, it serves it poorly as a line of communication. Within the province it was navigable only in the San-men Gorge until the construction of the dam there. Even now it is useful over the plain only for small rivercraft. The Huai and its tributaries flowing down from the western mountains are rapid in their upper courses and silted in their lower, so that they, too, serve only small craft. The Wei, flowing north into the Hai system, has been joined by the People's Victory Canal to the Huang Ho. In 1964–65 it was successfully dredged in an experiment aimed at deepening the riverbed and so increasing flow and reducing waterlogging. Cheng-chou is the junction of China's two greatest trunk railways, the Peking–Han-k'ou–Canton line and the Lung-hai line, which runs from the east coast to Sinkiang, in the far west. Local railroads have also been developed, and most of the province's goods are now carried by rail. The first modern roads in Honan date from the famine of 1920–21, when the American Red Cross built earth tracks to bring relief to the stricken provinces. Since 1959 the great bulk of road building has been done with little modern technology; some roads penetrate the more remote mountain region, as, for example, a road in the T'ai-hang Mountains between Hui-hsien and Ling-ch'uan. Most of the highways have all-weather surfaces.

Administration and social conditions
      On the victory of the Communists in 1949. Honan, together with Hupeh, Hunan, Kiangsi, Kwangtung, and Kwangsi, formed the Central South greater administrative region. In 1954 provincial government was established, and for local governmental purposes Honan has been subsequently divided into eight prefectures (ti-ch'ü) and nine prefecture-level municipalities (shih). Below this level the province is divided into counties (hsien) and county-level municipalities (shih). The province was badly affected by political conflict during the Cultural Revolution. During much of that time it was governed by a provincial Revolutionary Committee, which consisted of 11 members, nine of whom were selected from the People's Liberation Army, one from the “revolutionary cadres,” and one from the “revolutionary masses.” The Revolutionary Committee was replaced in 1980 by the People's Government, which is the administrative arm of the People's Congress. The People's Congress, acting largely through its Standing Committee, is an organ of the state, and its powers include enacting legislation, implementing state policies, and approving provincial economic plans and budgets. Its members are elected by the People's Congress at the next lower administrative level, and it in turn elects the members of the People's Government.

      Since its Imperial days K'ai-feng has remained the cultural and educational centre of Honan, although it has come to share that role with Cheng-chou. The first impact of Western learning came, as in the rest of China, through the primary and middle schools of Christian missions. Little real progress was made in the turbulent years between 1911 and 1949, and the vast mass of the people remained illiterate. Successful efforts were made by the government in the first years after 1949 to overcome illiteracy, and a real attempt at universal primary education was launched. Education is now based on six years of primary schooling and six years of secondary schooling. Honan has more than 30 institutes of higher learning.

Health and welfare
      Modern Western medicine, like education, was introduced by Christian missions but made very little impact on the vast area of Honan. On attaining power in 1949, the People's government concentrated attention on public hygiene and preventive medicine. A doctor's training was cut from six to three years, and teams were dispersed throughout the province to teach hygiene, vaccinate, inoculate, and advise. Although a doctor's training has now reverted to six years, emphasis remains on the “barefoot doctor,” midwife, and health worker. With the great development of coal mining in Honan, attention has been focused on silicosis prevention, which is being achieved mainly by improving working conditions. Kala-azar, the debilitating disease carried by sand flies, is also receiving special attention. As elsewhere in the country, traditional Chinese medicine has gained status.

Cultural life
      In an essentially agricultural province such as Honan, cultural life is centred in the rural community. While families, for the most part, retain and own their own homes, cultural life is focused in the community centre, with its reading room, library, and teahouses, in which the old tradition of storytelling has continued and is very popular. Loudspeaker radio is used to ensure communication. Traditional local music forms—such as the chui-tzu ballad and yu-chü opera—are popular, as are the performances of the province's many art troupes.

      Honan abounds in prehistorical and early historical interest. Some of the most important evidences of the Neolithic (Neolithic Period) beginnings of Chinese civilization are found in the northern part of the province. It was at Yang-shao in north Honan that a Swedish geologist and archaeologist, Johan Gunnar Andersson (Andersson, Johan Gunnar), in 1921 discovered an assemblage of Neolithic painted pottery that, together with many later finds, marked the presence of a well-established primitive farming culture, which has been named Yang-shao. The early farmers occupied the lands at the confluence of the Huang, Wei, and Fen rivers, the cradle of Chinese civilization. The other main Honan sites of the culture are at Miao-ti-kou, Lin-shan-chai, P'an Nan, and Hsi Yin. The early farmers, who were also part-time hunters and fishermen, lived in sunken circular or rectangular dwellings, sometimes of considerable dimensions. They grew foxtail millet, broomcorn millet, and kaoliang and had domesticated dogs and pigs. Cultivation with their primitive stone tools was comparatively easy in the easily worked loess (wind-borne) soil.

      Immediately to the east, at Lung-shan in Shantung Province, a different culture was discovered, known as the Black Pottery culture (Lung-shan culture), as distinct from the slightly earlier Painted Pottery culture (Yang-shao culture). It was on these Yang-shao–Lung-shan foundations that the early civilization of the Shang (Yin (Shang Dynasty)) dynasty arose (18th–12th century BC) in north and west Honan, south Hopeh, and west Shantung. Excavations near An-yang and in Cheng-chou and Hsing-t'ai, Hopeh, revealed an advanced culture, having a hierarchical class structure, advanced buildings, and elaborate ritual in which beautiful bronze vessels were used. Based on the dating of oracle bone inscriptions, the Shang king P'an K'eng moved his capital to a site near An-yang in 1384 BC.

      When the Shang kingdom fell to the Chou dynasty (1111–255 BC), An-yang lost its status as a capital. When the Chou capital, Hao (near modern Sian in Shensi Province), was destroyed in 771 BC by western tribes, Lo-yang (then known as Lo-i) took its place. During the period 771 BC to AD 938, the distinction of being the capital was shared alternately by Lo-yang and Ch'ang-an (modern Sian). Lo-yang was the capital during the following dynasties—the Tung (Eastern) Chou (771–256/255 BC), Tung Han (AD 25–220), Wei (220–265/266), Hsi (Western) Chin (265–311), Wei (386–534/535), and Hou (Later) T'ang (923–936/937). With the fall of the T'ang dynasty in 936/937, K'ai-feng, then called Pien (K'ai-feng), became the nation's capital and remained so until the Pei (Northern) Sung dynasty was overthrown by the Juchen invaders in 1126. After the sack of K'ai-feng in 1127, the Honan region continued to be the chief source of grain for Imperial storehouses. Both Lo-yang and K'ai-feng remained important because of their strategic locations in the gateway leading from the North China Plain into the Huai Basin, thence into the Yangtze Basin. Cheng-chou became important in the early 20th century as a railway junction and was made the provincial capital in 1954.

Thomas R. Tregear Victor C. Falkenheim

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Universalium. 2010.

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