Kwangsi [gwäŋ′sē′]
a former transliteration of GUANGXI

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▪ autonomous area, China
in full  Chuang Autonomous Region of Kwangsi,  Chinese (Wade-Giles)  Kuang-hsi Chuang-tsu Tzu-chih-ch'ü,  (Pinyin)  Guangxi Zhuangzu Zizhiqu,  

      autonomous region located in southern China. It is bounded by the Chinese provinces of Yunnan on the west, Kweichow on the north, Hunan on the northeast, and Kwangtung on the southeast, and by Vietnam and the Gulf of Tonkin on the southwest. It covers an area of 85,100 square miles (220,400 square kilometres). Nan-ning (Nanning), the capital, is about 75 miles (121 kilometres) southwest of the region's geographic centre. The name Kwangsi dates to the Sung dynasty (960–1279), when the region was known as Kuang-nan Hsi-lu, or “Wide South, Western Route” (western half of all territory south of the Nan Mountains). The Yüan dynasty (Yuan dynasty) (1206–1368) contracted the name to Kwangsi when it created a province out of the western half. In 1958 the province was transformed into the Chuang Autonomous Region of Kwangsi—a step designed to help foster the cultural autonomy of the Chuang, or Chuang-chia, people, who constitute the largest minority living in the region.

Physical and human geography

The land
      Kwangsi forms a tableland that descends in elevation from the north and northwest to the south and southeast. Elevations between 3,000 and 6,000 feet (900 and 1,800 metres) above sea level are reached at the edge of the Yunnan–Kweichow plateau in the northwest, the Chiu-wan and Feng-huang mountains in the north, and the Yüeh-ch'eng Mountains in the northeast. The greater part of the region is composed of hilly country lying at a height of between 1,500 to 3,000 feet. In the west, the Tu-yang Mountains rise to 6,500 feet. In the southeast, lowlands are situated at a height of between 300 and 1,500 feet.

      The predominance of limestone gives many parts of Kwangsi a spectacular type of landscape known as karst, in which pinnacles and spires, caves and caverns, sinkholes, and subterranean streams abound. Picturesque rocky hills, spires of grotesque proportions, and strangely shaped caves with all types of stalactites and stalagmites are found in many parts of this region.

Drainage and soils
      The Ch'in and Nan-liu rivers flow into the Gulf of Tonkin. The headwaters of the Hsiang River flow into Hunan Province. The remainder of the region's numerous rivers—including the Hung-shui, Liu, Ch'ien, Yu, Tso, Yü, Hsün, and Kuei—follow the general southeastward slant of the terrain. They rise from a profusion of sources and flow into one another in a succession of convergences until they merge into one major river, the Hsi (Xi River system). This mighty river rises in Yunnan Province and cuts across the entire width of Kwangsi before emptying into the South China Sea near Canton in Kwangtung Province.

      The hilly areas are composed of red soil, while the lowlands are characterized by alluvial soil brought down by the many rivers.

      Throughout the region, temperatures are warm enough to assure agricultural production throughout the year. The summer, which lasts from April to October, is marked by enervating heat and high humidity. Winters are mild and snow is rare. July temperatures vary between 80° and 90° F (27° and 32° C), while January temperatures range between 40° and 60° F (4° and 16° C).

      Because of the influence of the rain-bearing monsoon wind, which blows from the south and southwest from late April to the end of September, precipitation is abundant. Drier areas are in the northwest, while the wetter areas are in the south and east. The average annual rainfall varies from 35 inches (890 millimetres) in the drier areas to 68 inches in the wetter zones. Most of the precipitation occurs in the period between May and August. In the extreme south, rain bursts caused by typhoons occur between November and February.

Plant and animal life
      Stands of fir, red pine, cedar, camphor, and rosewood are found in the north and west; oranges grow in profusion in the south; while the cassia tree, anise, and betel palm flourish in many parts of the region. In central and south Kwangsi, many denuded hillsides have been taken over by tall coarse grasses, which are used for fuel or as pasturage for young water buffalo. Prominent types of wildlife include the bison, boar, bear, gibbon (a kind of ape), hedgehog, and cockatoo.

Settlement patterns
      Almost 90 percent of Kwangsi's population lives in rural areas. The population density is unevenly distributed. Approximately two-thirds inhabit the eastern third of the region, while only one-third occupies the remainder of the territory to the west. The principal cities of the region are the capital city of Nan-ning (Nanning), the major city and industrial centre of the southwest; Liu-chou (Liuzhou) in the north, a hub of water and rail transport, the trading centre for the region's forest products, and a burgeoning industrial area; Kuei-lin (Guilin) in the northeast, which lies on the traditional trade route to central China and is a leading educational and commercial centre; Wu-chou (Wuzhou) in the southeast, the gateway to trade along the Hsi River; Pei-hai (Beihai) on the Gulf of Tonkin, one of China's designated “open” coastal cities; and P'ing-hsiang (Pingxiang) on the China–Vietnam border, which is a major centre of regional and international trade.

The people
      The population includes Han (Chinese), Chuang, Yao (Mien), Miao, and Tung (Dong). The Chuang are found largely in the western two-thirds of the region, while the Han are concentrated in the eastern third. Two distinct Chinese linguistic influences can be noted—Southwest Mandarin is spoken in the Kuei-lin district in the northeast as well as in the north, while Cantonese is spoken throughout the remainder of the region. The Yao, Miao, and Tung settlements are widely scattered.

      The Chuang, a Tai people, have inhabited Kwangsi since classical antiquity. Living on the plains and in the river valleys of the hilly west, they cultivate paddy rice and practice an economy that easily merges with that of the Chinese. They are often referred to as “water dwellers” because their settlements are close to water and their dwellings are constructed on piles or stilts. For two millennia the Chuang have coexisted with the Han. The Chuang have absorbed Chinese culture, speaking both their own dialects and Cantonese. A romanized Chuang alphabet has been created and is one of the four writing systems to be printed on Chinese bank notes.

      The origins of the Tung are not clear, but they are generally considered to be a branch of the Chuang, whom they resemble closely. They live in the high mountains close to the Kweichow border to the north. The Miao and the Yao, however, have long resisted the absorption of Chinese culture. They belong to a separate linguistic branch of the vast Sino–Tibetan language family. Neither the Miao nor the Yao dialects were written until alphabets based on adaptations of the Latin script were introduced in the late 1960s.

      Upland dwellers who suffer from a scarcity of arable land, the Miao and the Yao practice subsistence agriculture. Characteristically, the Miao–Yao settlements are removed from transportation routes and are walled for defense. Besides farming and lumbering, which form the basis of their economy, the Yao make charcoal and bamboo basketry.

The economy
      Since 1949 the region has made considerable progress in its economic development. Dams, canals, and reservoirs have been built to help irrigate dry lands; hydroelectric stations have been constructed and mineral resources exploited to stimulate modern industry; and rural industries have been developed in an effort to diversify village economy. Kwangsi has become self-sufficient in rice and, in fact, exports surplus rice to Kwangtung.

      The region has sufficient coal and iron deposits to support moderate industrial development. Coal is mined north of Kuei-lin and south of Liu-chou. Iron is mined in the area near the Kwangtung–Hunan border as well as in southeastern Kwangsi. Other exploited mineral resources include tin (of which Kwangsi is a major producer), tungsten, manganese, and antimony. Moderate amounts of bismuth, zinc, and lead are also produced.

      Only small areas of the region are under cultivation. Agriculture is concentrated in the river valleys and on the limestone plains. The hillsides are terraced wherever feasible. Since the 1950s the government has been seeking to bring new land under cultivation and to increase the yield of areas already cultivated by the use of irrigation and tractors. Major food crops include rice, corn (maize), wheat, and sweet potatoes. The leading commercial crop is sugarcane; other important commercial crops include peanuts (groundnuts), sesame, ramie (China grass), tobacco, tea, cotton, and indigo. Kwangsi is also a rich producer of a wide variety of fruits. The raising of livestock in Kwangsi is ancillary to farming. Water buffalo are used as draft animals in the paddy fields. Pigs, chickens, and ducks are raised on farms, and goats are raised in the hills. In many areas silkworms are also raised.

      Fishing is extensive. Both inshore and deep-sea fishing are carried on in the Gulf of Tonkin (Tonkin, Gulf of), which contains some of the world's richest fishing grounds. Catches include croaker (a fish that makes a croaking noise), herring, squid, prawns, eels, perch, mackerel, sharks, and sturgeon. The catching of fish fry in the region's many streams is characteristic of the freshwater fishing industry. Fish culture and the production of silkworms are complementary; the waste cocoons of silkworms are fed to the fish, and mud from fishponds is used as fertilizer for the mulberry bushes on which the silkworms feed.

      Kwangsi is an important producer of timber and forest products. In the north, large quantities of pine, fir, cedar, and giant bamboo are exploited. Red and black sandalwood are also produced in the west. More important, however, are sandarac (a resin used in making varnish and incense), star anise (Chinese anise), cassia bark (Chinese cinnamon), nutgall (a swelling on oak trees that produces tannin), and camphor. Tung oil, tea oil, and fennel oil are also produced. Some of these and other products are vital to traditional Chinese medicine.

      Light industries produce textiles, paper, flour, silk, leather, matches, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals as well as sandarac gum, sugar, dyestuffs, and oils and fats. Pine resin is a particularly notable export of Wu-chou. Heavy industries include the ironworks and steelworks at Liu-chou and Lu-chai, machinery production at Nan-ning and Wu-chou, and the cement works at Liu-chou. The numerous handicraft products made in the region include cotton and ramie cloths, bamboo paper and rice paper, and bamboo combs. About one-tenth of the region's light industrial enterprises were granted autonomy in management in the late 1970s, and this restructured group accounted for nearly half of production and more than four-fifths of all industrial projects by the early 1980s. Tourism, especially oriented toward the city of Kuei-lin, has increased sharply and has become a significant source of income for the region.

      The elaborate system of waterways provides transportation throughout almost all of the region. A large proportion of the traffic is by junk, although portions of many rivers are navigable by motor launches and occasionally even by small steamers. The Hunan–Kwangsi railroad runs diagonally across the region from the northeast to the southwest. It forms a vital continental artery that connects with the Canton–Han-k'ou railroad and, south of P'ing-hsiang, with the Vietnamese railroad. The Kwangsi–Kweichow railroad links Liu-chou with Kuei-yang, Kweichow Province, and, along with the Liu-chou–Chih-chiang line, opened in 1983, is an impetus to the development of northern Kwangsi. The highway system has been substantially extended and improved since 1949. The highway network forms a central rectangle—with Nan-tan (in the northwest), Liu-chou, Nan-ning, and Pai-se (in the west) at its four corners—from which other roads radiate. Running almost due north and south, a trunk road connects Tu-yün in Kweichow Province, Nan-tan, and Nan-ning with the coast of the Gulf of Tonkin.

Administration and social conditions
      The region's administration is organized in a series of hierarchical levels. The top is the autonomous regional level, directly under the central government in Peking. At the second level there are five prefecture-level municipalities (shih) and eight prefectures (ti-ch'ü). Below these are county-level municipalities (shih), counties (hsien), and autonomous counties (tzu-chih-hsien). The lowest administrative units are the townships.

      A special educational feature in Kwangsi is the program for the education of national minorities. Minority languages are used for instruction in primary and middle schools, written scripts, such as that for Chuang, are developed for spoken minority languages wherever needed, minority teachers are trained, and government subsidies are provided for minority students. Instruction in the Chuang language is offered where the size of the Chuang population warrants it. The Institute for Minorities in Nan-ning trains both intellectuals and technical specialists of minority descent to work among the minority peoples below the county level. Institutions of higher education include the Kwangsi Normal College at Kuei-lin, as well as the Kwangsi Agricultural Institute and the Kwangsi Medical College, both at Nan-ning. The Kwangsi Provincial Museum and the Provincial Library of Kwangsi are located in Kuei-lin.

Health and welfare
      Since the 1950s Kwangsi has made significant progress in public health and medicine. Such widespread diseases as malaria, smallpox, measles, and schistosomiasis (a parasitic infestation of the bladder or intestines) have been brought under control. The addition of iodine to water has ended the once-frequent occurrences of goitre, and the liver-fluke disease has been overcome by filling in old canals that were sources of infection and digging new ones. There is also a mass program to combat leprosy. Traditional Chinese medicine has been promoted to compensate for the shortage of Western medicine.

      A basic social welfare system is available. Welfare funds guarantee care for the sick, disabled, and aged and provide relief in times of drought or flood. For industrial workers, there are accident prevention and insurance programs that provide for hospital treatment, sick leave, disability compensation, maternity leave, old-age benefits, and death benefits. Supplementary benefits are offered to those who participate in government programs such as birth control. The government has improved housing, expanded recreational facilities, and provided public-health centres.

Cultural life
      The primacy of Chinese culture is widely recognized. Because the minorities in Kwangsi possess neither a unified organization nor support by fraternal groups, their assimilation by the Chinese is far more advanced than in the other autonomous regions. The underlying causes of what appear to be the region's ethnic tensions are economic and geographic factors that have exerted a powerful influence on cultural trends.


Early history
      Kwangsi was known as the land of Pai-Yüeh (the Hundred Yüeh—referring to the aborigines of South China) during the Chan-kuo (Warring States period) of the Tung (Eastern) Chou dynasty (475–221 BC). A subgroup of the Tai people, known as the Chuang, inhabited the region and had an economy based on wet (irrigated) rice. Eastern Kwangsi was conquered by the Han people in 214 BC under the Ch'in dynasty, and the Ling Canal was dug to link the Hsiang and Kuei rivers to form a north–south waterway.

      An independent state known as Nan Yüeh (Southern Yüeh) was created by Gen. Chao T'o, with Chuang support, at the end of the Ch'in dynasty and existed until it was annexed in 112–111 BC by the Han dynasty (206 BC–AD 220). The Han rulers reduced the power of the Chuang people by consolidating their own control in the areas surrounding the cities of Kuei-lin, Wu-chou, and Yü-lin.

      In AD 42 an uprising in Tonkin was quelled by an army under Gen. Ma Yüan (Ma Yuan), who not only sought victory on the battlefield but also showed concern for the well-being of the people. He reorganized Kwangsi's local government, improved public works, dug canals, and reclaimed land to increase production. Temples erected to his memory can still be seen in many places.

      From the end of the Han to the beginning of the T'ang dynasty (618–907), the influx of Yao (Mien) tribes from Kiangsi and Hunan added to racial tensions in Kwangsi. Unlike the Chuang, the Yao resisted Chinese culture. The hill country of Kuei-p'ing, Chin-hsiu, and Hsiu-jen in central eastern Kwangsi (the Ta-yao-shan region) where they settled became a centre of chronic unrest. In subsequent dynasties there were further migrations of the Yao from Hunan and Kweichow provinces.

      Under the T'ang dynasty (Tang dynasty), Kwangsi became a part of the Ling-nan Tao (large province). The noted scholar Liu Tsung-yüan (Liu Zongyuan) was prefectural administrator at Liu-chou. Irked by Chinese expansion, however, the Chuang people moved to support the Tai kingdom of Nanchao in Yunnan. Kwangsi was then divided into an area of Chuang ascendancy west of a line from Kuei-lin to Nan-ning and an area of Chinese ascendancy east of the line. After the fall of the T'ang, an independent Chinese state of Nan (Southern) Han was created, but it was liquidated by the Sung dynasty (Song dynasty) in 971.

      The Sung governed Kwangsi from 971 to 1279 by the alternate use of force and appeasement—a policy that neither satisfied the aspirations of the Chuang nor ended the savage warfare waged by the Yao against the Chinese. In 1052 a Chuang leader, Nung Chih-kao, led a revolt and set up an independent kingdom in the southwest. The revolt was crushed a year later, but the region continued to seethe with discontent. The Yüan dynasty (Yuan dynasty) imposed direct rule and made Kwangsi a province, but relations between the government and the people did not improve. To further complicate race relations, another aboriginal people—the Miao—migrated from Kweichow, and more Chuang also came from Kiangsi and Hunan.

      Confronted with a complex situation, the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) actively promoted military colonization in an effort to undermine the tribal way of life. It governed the minority peoples through the hereditary t'u-ssu (tribal leaders serving as the agents of Chinese government). This led to some of the bloodiest battles in Kwangsi history—notably, the war with the Yao tribesmen at Giant Rattan Gorge, near Kuei-p'ing, in 1465.

      The Ch'ing (Manchu (Qing dynasty)) dynasty (1644–1911/12) placed the minorities under direct Imperial rule in 1726. This, however, did not bring peace. Following a Yao uprising in 1831, the great Taiping Rebellion broke out in 1850—again near Kuei-p'ing and under minority leadership—lasting for more than a decade.

      Meantime, the execution of a French missionary in western Kwangsi led to an Anglo-French War against China that was concluded by the humiliating treaties of Tientsin in 1858. Then, following the Sino-French War of 1883 to 1885, French supremacy in Vietnam exposed Kwangsi to foreign encroachment. Lung-chou was opened to foreign trade in 1889, Wu-chou in 1897, and Nan-ning in 1907; while in 1898 France obtained a sphere of influence that included Kwangsi.

The revolution
      Together with neighbouring Kwangtung, Kwangsi in the early years of the 20th century became the base of the nationalist revolution led by Sun Yat-sen. Between 1906 and 1916 the provincial leaders of Kwangsi supported the establishment of a republic, and during the following decade played an active role in the reorganization of the Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang). Following the rise of Chiang Kai-shek to power in 1927, the Kwangsi leaders (notably Li Tsung-jen and Li Chi-shen) formed the Kwangsi Clique in opposition to Chiang. The group did much to modernize Kwangsi but maintained a defiant posture against the central government. Although Chiang crushed their revolt in 1929, he was unable to end the semi-independent status of the region. The Chuang, on their part, formed a string of revolutionary soviets (elected Communist organizational units) between 1927 and 1931 that gave rise to new Communist leaders.

      During World War II Kwangsi was a major target of Japanese attack. The Japanese invaded southern Kwangsi in 1939 and occupied Nan-ning and Lung-chou. In this period Kuei-lin (Guilin) became the principal base for the Chinese and Allied air forces, as well as the home of the patriotic press, the National Salvation Daily News. In 1944 the Japanese made a determined drive into Kwangsi; although they briefly took Kuei-lin, Liu-chou, and Wu-chou, they were unable to maintain their position. Chinese forces subsequently recaptured the major cities. In the civil war that followed World War II, the Chinese Communist forces took Kuei-lin in November 1949, and Kwangsi became a province of the People's Republic; the autonomous region was created in 1958 in an effort to satisfy local aspirations.

Ping-chia Kuo Victor C. Falkenheim

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Universalium. 2010.

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