Henan, the heart of China

I haven’t posted on one of these in a while. Mostly because I don’t know what to say about Henan. Henan is where China began. As noted in Wikipedia four of the eight ancient capitals of China are located in this province, in the heart of the North China plain. Chineseness, as we understand it, coalesced in this province. The first historical dynasty, the Shang, had the core of their domains in Henan. Though we don’t have historical evidence of earlier legendary Chinese dynasties, many believe that they are likely recollections of the archaeological cultures which flourished in Henan before the Shang (e.g., the Eritlou culture as the Xia).

Originally a land of millet, Henan is China’s number one wheat producer. Whereas the staple of the south is rice, in the North China plain is it noodle.

The agricultural focus of Henan indicates its relative lack of development. In some ways, it resembles Bihar and eastern Uttar Pradesh in India, which were the core of South Asian polities at the dawn of recorded history, but are now backwaters. With 94 million people Henan is China’s third most populous province, but it turns out that more people in China have origins in Henan (103 million) than any other province. This reflects nearly 10 million migrants who work in other provinces, generally coastal ones.

Being the locus and origin of Han Chinese culture it is no surprise that the province is overwhelmingly ethnically Han. But curiously it also seems to have an overrepresentation of Christians compared to other Chinese provinces.

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  1. From Wikipedia:

    “Christians are especially concentrated in the three provinces of Henan, Anhui and Zhejiang.[122] The latter two provinces were in the area affected by the Taiping Rebellion, and Zhejiang along with Henan were hubs of the intense Protestant missionary activity in the 19th and early 20th century.”

    “The China Family Panel Studies’ findings for 2012 shew that Buddhists tended to be younger and better educated, while Christians were older and more likely to be illiterate.[149]:17–18 Furthermore, Buddhists were generally wealthy, while Christians most often belonged to the poorest parts of the population.[149]:20–21”

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