Province of eastern China, bounded to the north by Shandong, to the east by Jiangsu, to the southeast by Zhejiang, to the south by Jiangxi, to the southwest by Hubei, and to the northwest by Henan provinces; area 139,900 sq km/54,000 sq mi; population (2000 est) 62,370,000. The province consists mainly of alluvial lowlands, both of the Huai River in the north and the Chang Jiang in the south. It is intensively cultivated, with grain the most important crop. Its capital is Hefei, while important towns and cities include Anqing, Bengbu, Huainan, and Wuhu.
Anhui was part of the ancient state of Chu until annexed by China in the Qin dynasty (221-206 BC). In 1667 it became a separate province. Its name comes from the first few letters of the cities of Anqing and Huizhou. The Huang He River used to flow through the province until it changed course in 1851. In 1938 the course was rediverted to Anhui by the nationalist Guomindang government in the hope that the subsequent flooding would halt the Japanese invasion. Thousands of people lost their lives at this time before the river was returned to its previous course in 1946.
Notable features include the North China Plain, the Huangshan Mountains, and the Chang Jiang and Huai He rivers.
A well cultivated and heavily populated province, particularly in its southern parts where the winters are less severe and the rainfall more reliable, Anhui is one of the most important grain-producing provinces in China. Wheat is grown throughout the province in the winter, especially in the north, while in the south rice is an important summer crop. The hilly parts of the province south of the Chang Jiang are noted for the production of tea. Silk is also produced in the south. Other significant food crops are sorghum, barley, soybeans, and sweet potatoes. Cotton is an important crop in the north. Fish farming is also significant.
There is a large iron- and steel-manufacturing complex at Ma'anshan based on rich local deposits of iron ore. Tongling is a major copper-mining and refining centre. Light industries have also developed, but in the 1990s many small factories, particularly paper mills and leather tanneries, were closed down by government action because the pollution they released into the Huai He River had made its water unfit for any use. Anhui's washing-machine industry is the second largest in China (over 1.5 million machines were produced in 1996).
Anhui has cool winters with January average temperatures ranging from −1°C/30°F in the north, to 4°C/39°F in the south. Summers are hot, with July average temperatures around 28°C/82°F. Rainfall is concentrated in the spring and summer months, and varies from 700 mm/30 in a year in the north of the province, to 2,000 mm/80 in in the Huangshan in the south.
In the past large parts of Anhui, particularly in the north, suffered from frequent flooding of the Huai He River and its tributaries. Starting in the 1950s large-scale programmes of engineering works, covering the whole Huai He basin, have reduced flood risks. Over 4,000 dams were built, together with dykes and channels for drainage and flood diversion, providing both irrigation water and hydroelectric power. As a result, the area of irrigated farmland has been greatly extended. In the summer of 1991 prolonged torrential rains brought more precipitation than the river system could drain away. In the resulting floods, almost three-quarters of Anhui's cropland was flooded, 337 people were killed, and nearly a million houses destroyed. However, none of the dams and dykes were broken and the government initiated a programme of dredging river and drainage channels to increase their carrying capacity.
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