/hooh"nahn"/, n.
1. Pinyin, Wade-Giles. a province in S China. 37,810,000; 81,274 sq. mi. (210,500 sq. km). Cap.: Changsha.
2. Also, Hunam /hooh"nahm"/. Chinese Cookery. a style of cooking from this province, characterized esp. by the use of hot peppers.

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or Hu-nan

Province (pop., 2000 est.: 64,400,000), central China.

It lies south of the Yangtze River (Chang Jiang) and is bordered by Guizhou, Sichuan, Hubei, Jiangxi, and Guangdong provinces, Chongqing municipality, and Guangxi autonomous region. It has an area of 81,300 sq mi (210,500 sq km), and its capital is Changsha. Part of the 3rd-century-BC kingdom of Chu, it passed to the Qin dynasty and became part of the Chinese empire during the Han dynasty (206 BC–AD 220). Hubei and Hunan were one province until split in the mid 17th century. Hunan was invaded in 1852 by Taiping rebels, and in 1934 Mao Zedong led the Long March from Hunan. The scene of bitter fighting during the Sino-Japanese War (1937–45), it became part of communist China in 1949. Much of the terrain is mountainous; Mount Heng, one of China's sacred mountains, is located there. The economy is basically agricultural. Hunan is one of China's great rice-producing regions.

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Chinese (Wade-Giles)  Hu-nan,  (Pinyin)  Hunan,  

      landlocked sheng (province) of China, covering an area of 81,300 square miles (210,500 square kilometres). A major rice-producing area, Hunan is situated to the south of the Yangtze River Basin. It is bounded by the provinces of Hupeh to the north, Kiangsi to the east, and Kwangtung to the southeast, by the Chuang Autonomous Region of Kwangsi to the southwest, and by the provinces of Kweichow and Szechwan to the west. The name Hunan is formed from the Chinese words hu (“lake”) and nan (“south”), meaning the land to the south of the lakes that reach from Sha-shih, Hupeh, to Chiu-chiang, Kiangsi. The capital and most important city of the province is Ch'ang-sha (Changsha), situated in the northeast, on the banks of the Hsiang River.

Physical and human geography

The land
      More than one-quarter of the terrain lies at a height of more than 1,640 feet (500 metres), and much of it is well over 3,000 feet above sea level. The highlands in the west run from northeast to southwest, forming the eastward edge of the Kweichow Plateau (Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau), whose extension, the Hsüeh-feng Mountains, lies in the heart of the province. These mountains are composed mainly of slate, quartzite, and sandstone, deeply incised by river valleys. The Nan Mountains in the south run from east to west at altitudes of between 500 and 3,300 feet, forming a broad mountain border between Hunan, Kwangtung, and Kwangsi. They are largely dome-shaped and granitic, although limestone and red clay are found in lower-lying areas. In the east the mountain ranges of Chu-kuang and Wu-kung form the border with Kiangsi. The Chu-kuang Mountains, in the extreme southeast of the province, rise to a height of 6,600 feet.

      The uplands of the west, south, and east fall steadily in altitude toward the plain of Tung-t'ing Lake in the north, which is contiguous with the Hupeh Plain and forms part of the floodplain of the Yangtze River. The part of the plain within the borders of Hunan has an area of 3,800 square miles; it has been formed by silt carried down from the mountains by the Yangtze and its right-bank tributaries. Tung-t'ing Lake is a broad and shallow seasonal lake, consisting of the remnants of a former inland sea that once filled the Yangtze Basin. Its area varies considerably between summer and winter, and the lake has dried up considerably since the 1950s.

      Hunan's entire river system drains into Tung-t'ing Lake, with the exception of the Lin Stream, which divides into two parts, with one distributary draining directly into the Yangtze River and the other into Tung-t'ing Lake. The western highlands are drained by the Yüan River (Yuan River) and by the Tzu and Li streams. The Yüan and Tzu are torrents in their upper courses; fast-flowing in summer, they run through deep gorges, broadening out to wider valleys in their lower courses. Hunan's largest river, the Hsiang (Xiang River), rises in the heart of the Nan Mountains, as do its tributaries. Many smaller rivers that rise in the mountains along the eastern border flow westward to join the Hsiang in its northward course.

      Much of the low-lying land around Tung-t'ing Lake is subject to flooding when the rivers come down in spate during the summer months. The system of dikes built to contain the floodwaters is supplemented by a vast network of electric pumping stations. These pumps drain the fields when waterlogged and irrigate them in times of drought. In the dry hill lands, numerous large and medium-sized water-control projects have been built. In these projects, valleys are dammed and “mountain pools” formed, from which channels are led to the arid land. One of these schemes—the Shao-shan Irrigation System—diverts some of the upper waters of the Lien Stream, thus irrigating the dry hill land, and also controls flooding in the river's lower reaches; the irrigated area has been converted from single-crop to double-crop rice land.

      The soils of the province are largely pedalferic (rich in alumina and iron) and are mainly lateritic (leached, iron-bearing) yellow earths or red clays. In the hilly regions of central and southern Hunan, the soils are for the most part lateritic clays that are strongly acidic and poor in organic material. The alluvial soils of the northern plains are less acidic and are used for growing rice.

      The north generally experiences more extreme weather conditions than does the south. In winter, occasional waves of cold air from Mongolia sweep southward, injuring tea bushes and fruit trees in northern Hunan. The average minimum winter temperature is 43° F (6° C). Summers are long and humid, the average maximum summer temperature being 86° F (30° C). The north has an average of 260 frostless days a year, while in the south the average is 300 days. Rainfall is ample, with the maximum precipitation occurring between spring and summer. The total annual rainfall of 56 inches (1,422 millimetres) decreases from south to north. Hunan lies in the path of cyclones that pass from west to east along the Yangtze Basin in summer, bringing with them at times long periods of heavy rain, resulting in extensive flooding of low-lying lands.

Plant life
      The natural vegetation of Hunan was originally dense deciduous and coniferous forest. Over the centuries, as the population has increased, all the lowlands and much of the highlands have been cleared to make way for cultivation. Despite this vast deforestation, however, large stands of pine, cedar, bamboo, and camphor are found in the western highlands. Other important trees and shrubs include tung (from which tung oil is obtained), tea (from which tea seed oil is obtained), and liquidambar. Bamboo groves planted along the roadsides are characteristic of Hunan and supply the province's craft industries. As elsewhere in central and southern China, groves of bamboo, camphor, and cedar are usually found around villages, contributing greatly to the charm of the countryside.

Settlement patterns
      Villages are usually small, and it is not unusual for an entire village to belong to one extended family, from which the settlement takes its name. Most of the farms on the plain south of Tung-t'ing Lake are built on islands of Yangtze alluvium, protected by dikes from summer flooding.

      Three of the largest cities, Ch'ang-sha, Hsiang-t'an (Xiangtan), and Chu-chou (Zhuzhou), lie close together at the intersection of road, rail, and river communications along the Hsiang River. Other large cities include Heng-yang (Hengyang), the economic and communications centre of southern Hunan, and Ch'ang-te (Changde), the marketing centre for the Yüan River Basin.

The people
      The overwhelming majority of the population is rural. The population is primarily concentrated on the Tung-t'ing Plain and in the main river valleys. Almost all of the people are Han (Chinese). In addition, some minority peoples, mainly of four tribes—the Miao, T'u-chia (Tujia), Tung (Dong), and Yao (Mien)—live in the western highlands. The way of life and economy of the Miao and the T'u-chia are similar, and much intermarriage has occurred between them. They live in the southwest, where their economy is based on the cultivation of terraced fields in the foothills and narrow valleys. The Tung inhabit their own autonomous counties in the extreme southwest, with their centres at T'ung-tao and Hsin-huang. Their language, economy, and way of life are similar to those of the Han. The Yao are widely scattered over the mountainous regions of the south and west. They practice dry farming and are known for their expertise in cedar tree culture. Much of their livelihood comes from forestry.

      The Han of the province speak a dialect—Hunanese—that approximates Mandarin quite closely. Radio broadcasting has had the effect of slowly reducing differences in local dialects, which can be considerable. The minority languages were unwritten until missionaries devised scripts for some of them, such as the Samuel Pollard script for the Miao language. Since 1949 these scripts have been revised, extended, or replaced by a phonetic script, based on the Latin alphabet, that is akin to the Pinyin script adopted for the Mandarin language of the Han. There is growing literacy among the Miao and Tung peoples. The interweaving of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism, as well as Islām and Christianity, are complicated.

The economy
      Although mining and industry have been developed since 1949, Hunan's economy remains mostly agricultural. Hunan ranks first among China's provinces in rice production. Most of Hunan's arable land is farmed using modern techniques, including mechanized irrigation and chemical fertilization. Most farms are small, however, and mechanization has been confined to the use of simple machines and tools, such as rice transplanters, foot-operated rice-threshing machines, and a tube water raiser that is replacing the old wooden trough and paddles.

      Hunan consistently ranks first nationally in rice output and exports a large surplus to other provinces. It is estimated that most of the province's cultivable land is devoted to paddies (paddy) (rice fields), a great many of which in the south produce two crops of rice per year and demand careful cultivation. The first crop is planted at the end of April and harvested at the end of July; the second crop is harvested in November. Autumn is the most difficult period, as decreasing rainfall and increasing evaporation necessitate continuous irrigation. With improved irrigation, a decreasing amount of rice is grown on fields where the crop relies totally on rainfall. Introduction of hybrid rice varieties has further increased production. Other food crops include sweet potatoes, corn (maize), barley, potatoes, kaoliang (a variety of grain sorghum), buckwheat, garden peas, millet, and horsebeans.

      Among the industrial crops, rape—an herb grown for its seeds—is cultivated mainly in the upper valleys of the Hsüeh-feng Mountains, while ramie (a shrub that yields a fibre used in textile manufacture), cotton, and jute are produced around Tung-t'ing Lake. Red and black tea are grown on the foothills of the Hsüeh-feng Mountains and on Mount Mu-fu on the eastern border. Peanut (groundnut) cultivation is widespread, and tung trees and tea seed shrubs are grown for their oils in the western and southern highlands. A variety of fruits is grown throughout the province, including citrus, pears, peaches, and chestnuts.

      During the early 20th century, heavy and wasteful cutting of Hunan's timber reserves occurred. Since then, stricter control of cutting has been enforced, and some reforestation has been carried out. Fish are taken in large quantities from lakes, rivers, and village ponds. The most common varieties are carp, silver carp, and “silver fish.” The full exploitation of fishpond culture was developed in the early 1970s. Cattle, including water buffalo, are used almost exclusively for draft purposes. Hogs are concentrated mainly in the central and eastern areas, where the population is densest. The swine industry is a significant source of rural cash income.

      Hunan's considerable mineral wealth includes ample coal reserves; iron ore, tin, and manganese deposits; rich deposits of antimony; and lead, zinc, tungsten, molybdenum, bismuth, niobium, and tantalum. More than half of the province's electric power is produced by hydroelectric power stations.

      The main coal measures are located in the south. Coal was little developed before 1949, but production rose substantially as a result of the opening of large mines north of Ch'en-hsien in the extreme south. These mines serve the ironworks and steelworks at Wu-han in Hupeh. Iron ore is widely distributed, and there is a long-established local industry that produces iron cookware. The main iron mines are located in the hills east and south of Ch'ang-sha and Hsiang-t'an. Development of the iron and steel industry is centred in the triangle formed by the three large cities of Ch'ang-sha, Hsiang-t'an, and Chu-chou. Antimony production is centred on Hsin-hua, northwest of Shao-yang. Hunan is one of China's largest producers of tungsten; it is chiefly mined in the hills between the Tzu and Yüan rivers around Yüan-ling.

      Plants producing iron and steel, processed foods, and electrical equipment are located in Hsiang-t'an (Xiangtan), while Chu-chou (Zhuzhou) is the centre of large-scale heavy industry and hog exports. Ch'ang-sha is Hunan's centre for light industry, which includes rice milling, food processing, aluminum smelting, and the manufacture of machine tools, bearings, and textiles. It is also famous for its handicrafts, which include hsiang (border) embroideries, duck-down quilts, umbrellas, and leather goods. I-yang (Yiyang)—known as “the Bamboo Town”—is typical of many of the smaller towns specializing in one particular handicraft. Nearly everything required in domestic life—from beds to scrubbing brushes—is made from bamboo.

      There are several famous pottery kilns in the province that date back to the T'ang dynasty (618–907). Situated at Yüeh-yang (Yueyang) (Yoyang), Hsiang-yin, and near Ch'ang-sha, these kilns have at different epochs produced all sorts of wares, according to the market of the period. Their fortunes have fluctuated through the centuries. More recently, they have increased their output, especially in the Hsiang-yin kilns, which produce large quantities of crockery for the general market.

      Hunan stands at the crossroads of China's historical lines of communication—the great waterway of the Yangtze River, which flows from Szechwan Province to the sea, and the Imperial Highway, running from Canton northward to Peking.

      Railway construction began in 1912, and the first line was between Wu-han and Chu-chou; it was eventually extended south to Canton and is now part of the major Peking–Canton trunk line. There is a junction at Heng-yang leading to Kwangsi, from where the line continues south to Hanoi. From Chu-chou, the Che–Kan Railway runs east to Kiangsi Province and also to Chekiang and Fukien on the east coast. Another railway runs from Hsiang-t'an westward to Kweichow Province, opening up the hitherto remote western lands, and a second north–south line has been built through western Hunan.

      Shipping is another important means of transportation, as about one-fourth of Hunan's goods are moved by water. Traffic on the Hsiang River is the most important. Tung-t'ing Lake has innumerable shallow waterways connecting four main rivers. Yüeh-yang in the northeast corner of the lake is the collecting centre for the timber rafts that sail the Yangtze River to Wu-han. One main trunk road runs from north to south, following the Peking–Canton railway into Kwangsi. Three other main routes run from east to west and are of growing importance because they open up areas not served by the railways.

Administration and social conditions
      From 1950 to 1954 Hunan was part of the South Central China greater administrative region, which extended from Hupeh in the north to Kwangtung and Kwangsi in the south. In 1954 provincial (sheng) government throughout the country was made directly subordinate to the national government. Since then the province's administrative structure has gone through several changes. It is now divided into eight prefectures (ti-ch'ü), six prefecture-level municipalities (shih), and one autonomous prefecture (tzu-chih-chou). Below that level are counties (hsien) and county-level municipalities (shih).

Health and welfare
      Emphasis is laid on preventive medicine. After 1949, public health teams were sent into the country to vaccinate and inoculate and to advise on and supervise public hygiene. Debilitating diseases such as malaria and schistosomiasis—a disease of the blood and tissues that is spread by larvae in the droppings of animals in the rice fields—have been attacked, and since 1949 there has been a marked fall in infant mortality and an increase in life expectancy.

Cultural life
      Although the aim of the government is to promote linguistic uniformity, Hunanese—which was Mao Zedong's (Mao Tse-tung's) own dialect and is fairly akin to Mandarin—persists.

      Before the revolution, Western learning was largely acquired through Christian missionary or other Western-style schools, and most of the population remained illiterate. Since 1949 a countrywide literacy drive has been pursued with vigour and enthusiasm and a large measure of success. By the 1980s Hunan had one of the lowest illiteracy rates in the country. Ch'ang-sha has retained its historic role as the province's cultural and educational centre and is the location of technical institutes, teacher-training colleges, and institutes for minorities.

      From 350 to 221 BC Hunan formed the southernmost extension of the state of Ch'u (Chu), which nominally was ruled by the Chou dynasty. From 221 to 206 BC Hunan was ruled by the Ch'in dynasty (Qin dynasty), which subdued contending feudal states and joined them into the first unified state of China, of which Hunan formed part of the central area. Most of Hunan at this time was covered with dense primeval forest that was sparsely inhabited by tribes who engaged in hunting, fishing, and clearing land by burning or cutting for temporary cultivation. These tribes also mined the copper and tin that were used in the north for making bronze.

      After the downfall of the Ch'in dynasty, the area became quickly incorporated into the Chinese empire ruled by the Han dynasty from 206 BC to AD 220. During this period persistent waves of migrant Han (Chinese) from the North occupied the land, and the indigenous Miao, T'u-chia, Tung, and Yao were pushed west and southwest into the hills, which they still occupy. By the end of the Hsi (Western) Chin dynasty in AD 316/317, the Tung-t'ing floodplain to the north and the Hsiang Valley in the east were relatively well populated. Han migration from the North continued under subsequent dynasties, with migrants fleeing first from Mongol and then from Manchu invasions. Those who went farther south, crossing the Nan Mountains in the southern part of the province to enter Kwangtung, have since considered themselves T'ang-jen, or southern Chinese, but the Hunanese have remained Han in both culture and speech.

      Population pressures on the land increased markedly in the 19th century during the latter part of the Ch'ing (Qing dynasty), or Manchu, dynasty (1644–1911/12), leading to increased peasant unrest, particularly among the non-Chinese tribes. When the Taiping Rebellion broke out in Kwangsi in 1850, it spread northward into Hunan. Hunan, together with other provinces on the lower Yangtze Basin, was desolated in the subsequent fighting, although the city of Ch'ang-sha withstood a Taiping siege in the mid-1850s. It was a Hunanese, Tseng Kuo-fan (Zeng Guofan), who ultimately was responsible for crushing the rebellion.

      Hunan was not opened to foreign trade until 1904, following the conclusion of the Treaty of Shanghai between China and Japan. A foreign settlement was established at Ch'ang-sha, and British and Japanese firms built warehouses. Hunan became a centre of revolutionary activity: the first uprisings against Yüan Shih-k'ai's (Yuan Shikai) attempted regency over the Chinese empire occurred in the province in 1910, although the more widespread revolution that finally overthrew the tottering Manchu dynasty and established the Republic of China did not occur until the following year. Thereafter, Hunan remained in a state of unrest from which it had little respite until 1949, when the People's Republic of China was established. Many important Chinese Communist leaders—including Mao Zedong, who was born in Shao-shan, near the border with Kiangsi, and Liu Shaoqi (Liu Shao-ch'i), chairman of the People's Republic (1959–68)—were from Hunan. Mao was largely responsible for encouraging the peasants and miners to make the abortive Autumn Harvest Uprising of 1927. He subsequently held the Communist forces together in the Ching-kang Mountains, where they withstood repeated attacks by the forces of Chiang Kai-shek, the Chinese Nationalist leader. In 1934 Mao set out from the Hunan–Kiangsi border region, leading his forces westward in the difficult northward retreat that later came to be known as the Long March.

      During the Sino-Japanese War Hunan was the scene of bitter fighting between 1939 and 1941. After the fall of Hunan to the Japanese, the Nationalist general Hsüeh Yüeh continued to successfully defend Ch'ang-sha (Changsha) against the Japanese invaders, until it too fell in 1944. Between 1946 and 1949 the province was relatively peaceful. In 1949, despite damage to bridges and communications, the province experienced comparatively little destruction when the Nationalist forces retreated rapidly southward before the advancing Communist armies.

      Provincial leaders from Hunan have played an important national role since 1949. Hunan's provincial party leader was purged in 1958 for opposing the economic policies of the Great Leap Forward (1958–60) and was replaced by supporters of Mao Zedong's more ambitious and radical policies. One of Mao's rising provincial supporters, Hua Guofeng (Hua Kuo-feng), was Communist Party chairman (1976–81) after Mao's death.

      Hunan supported many of the policies of Mao's Cultural Revolution (1966–76), and it was slower than other provinces at implementing the economic and political reform programs instituted by the post-Mao leadership. Gradually, however, the provincial leadership has been replaced by more technically proficient and younger leaders, who are taking over from the revolutionary generation.

Thomas R. Tregear Victor C. Falkenheim

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Universalium. 2010.

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