/hoh"pay"/; Chin. /hu"bay"/, n.
Older Spelling. Hebei.
Also, Wade-Giles, Hopei.

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Chinese (Wade-Giles)  Ho-pei,  (Pinyin)  Hebei,  
      sheng (province) of northern China, located on the Po Hai (Gulf of Chihli) of the Yellow Sea. It is bounded on the northwest by China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and by the provinces of Liaoning on the northeast, Shantung on the southeast, Honan on the south, and Shansi on the west. Hopeh means “North of the (Yellow) River.” Hopeh has an area of 72,500 square miles (187,700 square kilometres). The provincial capital was at Pao-ting until 1958, when it was transferred first to Tientsin and then, in 1967, to Shih-chia-chuang, 160 miles (260 kilometres) southwest of Peking. The present capital is at the junction of three railways: the Peking–Canton line, China's north–south trunk line, and lines to Shansi and to Shantung. The large municipalities of Peking, the national capital, and of Tientsin lie within Hopeh Province but are independent of the provincial administration. Culturally and economically, Hopeh is the most advanced province in northern China.

Physical and human geography
The land
      Hopeh Province consists of two almost equal sections: the northern part of the North China Plain and the mountain ranges along the northern and western frontiers. The former is sometimes called the Hopeh Plain. It is formed largely by the alluvial deposits of the five principal tributaries of the Hai River, which flows past Tientsin to the sea. Two of them, the Yung-ting and the Pai, flow down from the northern highlands. The other three have their sources in the western part of Hopeh: the Ta-ch'ing and Tzu-ya rivers and the Southern Grand Canal (Nan-yün Ho).

      The Hopeh Plain slopes gently from west to east. It is bounded by the Yen Mountains on the north, the T'ai-hang Mountains to the west, and the Po Hai to the east. The mountains have at their base a string of alluvial fans. This inner belt of the Hopeh Plain is generally well drained. The groundwater level is usually less than 33 feet (10 metres) from the surface and is easily tapped for domestic water and irrigation.

      The Yen Mountains form the northern rim of the North China Plain, displaying to the traveler an endless sea of rounded hills, with peaks averaging 4,900 feet above sea level. The Great Wall of China zigzags along its crests. Beyond these mountains the Mongolian Plateau stretches from the northernmost part of Hopeh Province to the Mongolian People's Republic. This part of Hopeh was incorporated into the province in 1952, when Hopeh's boundaries were extended beyond the North China Plain for the first time. The rim of the plateau has an average elevation of 3,900 to 4,900 feet and is rugged and inhospitable to human settlement. Between the Yen Mountains are large basin plains, cultivated and well inhabited. Coal and iron are mined in the northern mountains.

      To the west of the North China Plain sprawls the lofty north–south range of the T'ai-hang Mountains (Taihang Mountains), separating the Hopeh Plain from the Shansi Plateau, its highest peak rising more than 9,000 feet. The range is pierced by a number of west–east streams whose narrow valleys (the famous “Eight Gorges” of T'ai-hang) are the routes of highways and railroads between the Hopeh Plain and the Shansi Plateau.

Drainage and soils
      The major Hopeh rivers flow down from the loess-covered T'ai-hang Mountains and the Shansi Plateau. They carry a heavy load of silt after the summer downpours, depositing it in the shallow channels downstream on the plain, gradually silting them up and causing widespread floods in low-lying areas. Since 1949 vigorous measures for water control and soil conservation have been carried out together with reforestation in the upland areas. Numerous dams, generally small to medium-size, have been built upstream and in the tributaries to conserve the water for irrigation and other uses; flood-retention basins and storage reservoirs have been built downstream. The Tu-liu-chien River, connecting the Ta-ch'ing to the sea, helps to drain the extremely low-lying tract around the large Pai-yang Lake and the Wen-an Marsh. Water from the streams is used to wash away excess salt in the alkaline soil and to make it arable. Similar chien-ho (“reducing streams”) have been completed for the Southern Grand Canal.

      The Hai River (Hai River system) is only 35 miles long, from the city of Tientsin to the sea, but the drainage basin of its five tributaries covers two-thirds of the province. A number of flood-control and power-generation projects have been developed in the Hai Basin, including reservoirs to the northeast and northwest of Peking. Another major river is the Luan (Luan River), which drains northeastern Hopeh. A major project of the 1980s was the construction of a diversion channel carrying water from the Luan to Tientsin. All the major Hopeh rivers empty into the Po Hai (Bo Hai), a shallow sea with an average depth of only 100 feet. The water and nutrient matter brought down by the rivers nourish a rich marine fauna. In winter the surface water along the coast is frozen, but navigation is possible with the use of icebreakers. There are three important ports: Tientsin, which is about 35 miles up the Hai, T'ang-ku, and the major coal-handling and oil-shipping port of Ch'in-huang-tao.

      The most common soil in the Hopeh Plain is dark-brown earth developed on loessial alluvium, modified by cultivation over several millennia. It is extremely fertile—the famous “good earth”—yielding crops with little fertilization for thousands of years. New alluvium is distributed in the areas along the rivers by frequent flooding. In the mountains the soils vary: the upland hills have leached dark-brown soils, the more humid mountainous areas of the Yen and T'ai-hang ranges have brown forest soils suited to fruit trees, and the northernmost Chang-pei plateau has light-chestnut zonal soils.

      The province has a continental climate. The January mean temperatures range from 25° F (−4° C) in the south to 14° F (−10° C) north of the Great Wall. The average July temperature is about 77° F (25° C) in the North China Plain, and 73° to 77° F (23° to 25° C) in the northern and western highlands. The annual precipitation (rain and snow) is more than 20 inches (500 millimetres) in most parts of the province. The summer months of June, July, and August are the rainy season.

Plant and animal life
      The natural vegetation of the greater part of the province is broad-leaved deciduous forest, but, after many centuries of human settlement, cultivation, and deforestation, little of the original vegetation remains except in the high mountains and other inaccessible areas. Annual afforestation projects have seeded millions of acres in an effort to develop the forest upland economy.

      The northernmost Chang-pei plateau has steppe grass of the Mongolian Plateau type. The higher mountains have coniferous forests. In the saline areas along the coast and in the low-lying depressions, plants that flourish in a salty environment dominate. There is a conspicuous absence of forests in the lowlands and lower hills. The flora is predominantly of a northern character. It includes the willow, elm, poplar, Chinese scholar tree (Sophora japonica), tree of heaven (Ailanthus), and drought-resistant shrubs.

      The present fauna includes elements of the temperate forest (such as the forest cat Felis euptilus) and of the cold-winter steppe (such as the camel), as well as some tropical elements from the Indo-Malay region (such as the tiger and monkey). The domestication of animals such as the dog, sheep, goat, cow, horse, donkey, mule, camel, and cat has led to the extinction or near-extinction of many wild species. The smaller mammals are better preserved, including moles, bats, rabbits and hares, rats, mice, and squirrels. Birds include the Mandarin duck (Aix galericulata), native to China. The Hopeh Plain was the home of Peking man, an extinct hominid of the species Homo erectus, who lived about 460,000 years ago and used tools and fire.

The people
      The ethnic composition of the population is almost entirely Han (Chinese). Minority groups include the Hui (Chinese Muslims) and a tiny percentage of Mongols. Since nearly one-half of Hopeh Province is mountainous, the density of population is really much higher than the average of about 750 persons per square mile (300 per square kilometre) suggests. The highest population densities in Hopeh are found at the foot of the T'ai-hang Mountains, in the belt of alluvial fans. This is a district settled since antiquity, on the ancient highway from the Chung-yüan, or “Middle Plain,” of the North China Plain to Peking and on to the regions north of the Great Wall. These piedmont plains have also been settled since ancient times. The rural settlement pattern is that of huge nucleated villages. Farther east and south of the alluvial-fan belt are the low-lying districts subject to flood, which have somewhat lower densities. The area north of the Great Wall and the remote mountainous areas have the lowest densities. Before 1949 there was substantial migration from northwestern Hopeh to Inner Mongolia. Peasants in southeastern Hopeh have also migrated in large numbers since the beginning of the 20th century to Inner Mongolia and China's northwest and the Northeast.

The economy
      Hopeh is important for its production of cotton, wheat, corn (maize), peanuts (groundnuts), and fruit. The widespread introduction of tube-well irrigation in the late 1960s and early '70s made Hopeh and Kiangsu among the leading provinces in irrigated acreage.

      Hopeh lies at the heart of one of two major industrial regions in China. The province developed a modest industrial base from the late 19th century onward, chiefly in coal, iron, textiles, and indigenous handicrafts. Tremendous industrial expansion took place during the 1950s: the spinning capacity of Hopeh's cotton belt was expanded considerably; a major coal belt, which stretches in a crescent through Hopeh and into northern Honan, provided the impetus for significant expansion of the coal-mining industry; and the incorporation into Hopeh (1952) of the Lung-yen iron-ore district of former Chahar Province speeded the development of the iron and steel industry. In the 1960s the emergence of the Hua-pei oil fields made Hopeh a major oil producer, and in 1983 China's first deep-horizon oil field, the Ma-hsi field, went into operation in the southern section of the Ta-kang oil field on the Po Hai coast, producing significant quantities of oil and natural gas.

      These industries became the basis of the Peking–Tientsin industrial region, the largest and most important industrial centre in North China. Industrial production has diversified and expanded to include such key products as cement, agricultural equipment, and fertilizer. Light industries include textile and ceramics manufacture, food processing, and paper and flour milling. Tientsin, the region's second largest city, is the primary industrial and commercial centre of North China and the second most important trade centre in all China. Other major industrial cities of the region include T'ang-shan (largely rebuilt since an earthquake in 1976) and Ch'in-huang-tao, in eastern Hopeh; Pao-ting; Shih-chia-chuang, in western Hopeh; and Liu-li-ho, in Peking Municipality.

      Hopeh is well served by railroads. The province is at the centre of China's vast north–south railway network, and all of its major cities are connected by rail. Sea transport moves through Tientsin and Ch'in-huang-tao. The port of Ch'in-huang-tao was first opened to commercial activity in 1898; it is now one of China's “open” coastal cities, which play a key role in the country's foreign trade and investment. The port ranks third nationally after Lü-ta (formerly Dairen) and Shanghai in handling capacity.

Administration and social conditions
      Hopeh Province (sheng) is divided into nine 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 traditional subcounty administrative unit was the civil township, or rural district (hsiang), which was supplanted in 1958 by the commune. The communes were in turn replaced by the hsiang after the Cultural Revolution.

      Public education has made major strides since 1949. The great majority of adults are now literate, and well over half of the population has received at least a primary school education. With more than 30 institutions of higher education, the province has sought to upgrade the technical level of its citizens as part of a drive toward modernization. The emphasis on broadening opportunities for education has led to the establishment of television and radio universities for part-time and continuing study, while vocational secondary schools serve the needs of Hopeh's industry.

Cultural life
      Hopeh is linguistically and culturally part of the Northern Mandarin dialect area and shares many of the features of that regional culture. Living in the northernmost part of the Sinitic zone—historically subject to nomad incursions and political subjugation—Hopeh's people are traditionally depicted as orderly, submissive, and uncomplaining. Their cuisine features wheat cakes, mutton, and bean dishes. There are many local operatic and dramatic traditions, carried on by the province's numerous art and theatre troupes.

      Although the area of present Hopeh Province was settled very early, it lay for many centuries outside the sphere of most political and economic activity of the Chinese empire. Before incorporation into the Ch'in Empire in the 3rd century BC, the region was occupied by the states of Yen, Ch'i, and Chao.

      Hopeh has long been an area of strategic significance. To the rulers of the Han Dynasty (206 BC–AD 220), it was largely a frontier zone beyond which lay their main enemies, the Hsiung-nu people, and defense of the region with walls and permanent garrisons was therefore emphasized. To the expansionist emperors of the T'ang Dynasty, Hopeh served as a starting point for large campaigns aimed at the conquest of Korea. In AD 755, military forces stationed in the area were used to temporarily overthrow T'ang rule in a revolt led by An Lu-shan. Hopeh grew in importance under the rule of a series of northern-based dynasties, including the Liao, or Khitan (907–1125); the Chin, or Juchen (1115–1234); and the Yüan (Yüan Dynasty), or Mongol (1206–1368). Peking first became the capital of all China under the Yüan rulers, who also completed work begun by the Chin on the Grand Canal linking Hopeh to the rice-growing regions of southern China.

      During the Ch'ing (Ch'ing Dynasty), or Manchu, dynasty (1644–1911/12) Hopeh was called Chihli (“Directly Ruled”) Province and continued to be strategically important, especially as foreign imperialist pressure mounted during the 19th century. Li Huang-chang (Li Hung-chang), the foremost military and political leader of his time, served for many years as governor general of Chihli and was succeeded by Yüan Shih-k'ai, who became president of the Chinese republic in 1912. A period of domination by a succession of autonomous warlords in Hopeh followed Yüan's death in 1916. The warlord Yen Hsi-shan continued to govern independently in Hopeh until the Japanese invasion of 1937. After Japan's defeat the occupiers surrendered to the Chinese Nationalists in 1945. Chinese Communist forces took the province in January 1949, opening a new chapter in its long history.

Frederick Fu Hung Victor C. Falkenheim Ed.

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Universalium. 2010.

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