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Anhui Province


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Basic Information:
Area: 139,000 sq. km
Capital: Hefei
Population: Approximately 58.17 Million
Language: Mandarin and local dilect.


    Anhui, with a population of over 59 million, is an inland province in Southeast China. It stretches over the Yangtze River and Huai River, and is adjacent to six provinces of Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Hubei, Henan and Shandong. Hefei City, the capital of the province, has many attractions as a result of its 2,000 years of history.

  Anhui has a complex physical topography. It is crossed in the north by the Huaihe River and in the south by the Chang Jiang (Yangzi River), with alternating areas of plains, hills, mountains, and lakes and low-lying areas. Most of the inhabitants live on the plains near the Huai River in northern Anhui, and behind dykes on right bank of the Chang Jiang (Yangzi River). The Huang Mountains (Huang Shan) in southeast Anhui are favored by poets and artists for their great beauty.

Anhui's biological resources consist of abundant aquatic products and forests, which are especially noted for having many kinds of traditional Chinese herbs. Among the protected wild animals in Anhui are the Chinese (or Yangzi) alligator, Baiji (Yangzi River dolphin), south China tiger, and rhesus monkey.

Anhui was the first region of southern China settled by Han Chinese, who moved south in the 3rd century BC. Although rich in agricultural potential, Anhui was economically backward in the past because of frequent floods and droughts. History records 8,614 natural disasters from AD 960 to 1949, including flood, drought, insects, wind, frost, and hail.

Today Anhui is one of the most important agricultural provinces in China. The major staple crops are rice, wheat, beans, maize, sorghum and sweet potatoes. Cash crops include cotton, tobacco, peanuts, sesame, rapeseed, tea, hemp, silk, fruits, tung oil, and raw lacquer.

Anhui's industries have been built almost from scratch since the Communist revolution. From 1949 to 1980, the government reported an annual average growth in industrial output of 12.2 percent per year. Despite this growth, the industrial base is considered weak because of the predominance of small-scale enterprises. The long-term plans for Anhui's industries emphasize development based on its mineral resources, along the lines of the Ruhr Valley in Germany.

Ironically, considering Anhui residents' reputation (see Folklore below), Time magazine on April 11, 1994 reported that a 1993 anti-corruption campaign in Anhui found over 300,000 civil servants to be guilty of stealing about US$140 million in public funds. It required 10,000 inspectors to discover the wrong-doers, who used the money for such things as building private housing and paying for children's' school fees. More than 90% of the misappropriated funds were returned, and many of the perpetrators returned to their jobs afterwards.

Most natives of Anhui Province speak one of the Mandarin Chinese dialects. Inhabitants of extreme southeast Anhui and northwest Zhejiang Province speak Huizhou, previously considered to be part of the Lower Yangzi family of Mandarin dialects but now considered to be a separate major variety of Chinese. The dialects of Huizhou are said to differ greatly from each other.

The cultural traits of Anhui date back to the time of the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279), and are said to be marked by conservatism of language and art forms.

The Huizhou people of the mountains of southern Anhui are known for their commercial and clan traditions, and some linguists consider the Huizhou dialect to be a separate Chinese language, distinct from the Mandarin and Wu language spoken to the north and south.

Local specialties and handicrafts of the province include Gujinggong, Mingguang, and Suixi liquors, Xiaoxian wine, the "four treasures" of scholars (Anhui ink sticks, Shexian ink slabs, Xuan paper and Xuan brushes), as well as the wrought-iron pictures of Wuhu.

Two popular performing arts in Anhui are Huangmei Opera and Fengyang Flower Drum Opera, which originated in the folk traditions of the towns of Huangmei, Hubei Province, and Fengyang, Anhui Province, respectively.

One of the three famous cuisines of Anhui Province is called Wannan. Its dishes are stewed or braised to exact temperatures, and are described as being "greasy but generous in portions." One of the noted dishes is Salted Fresh Trout.

The people of Anhui are considered to be very honest, and also very smart.

The legendary Fenghuang (Chinese phoenix) is said to have made its most recent appearance in Anhui, in 1368 at the grave of the father of Hong Wu, founder of the Ming Dynasty.

  Covering an area of 130,000 square kilometers (50,200 square miles), Anhui boasts of abundant tourism resources, and is a top tourist attraction among many in the Southeast, such as: the amazing Mount Huangshan, famous for its towering pines, precipitous stones, wonderland cloud-sea and hot springs; Mount Jiuhua, one of the four famous Buddhist Mountains in China; Mount Tian Zhu, also a well-known scenic spot. The magnificence of these peaks is simply stupendous. Standing on top of any one of these peaks would overwhelm most trekkers with a sight to behold. In addition to the beautiful mountain scenery, the well-preserved ancient villages in Southern Anhui are derived from the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368 - 1911). The most impressive ones are in Xidi and Hongcun in Yixian County near Mount Huangshan. It is really a sight worth seeing and a must for visitors who are keen to learn more about life during those years. Shexian County, reputed as Town of Arches, is also a must for each visitor who wants to experience fine examples of residential architecture from the Ming and Qing Dynasties and the unique Tangyue Memorial Archway.