View of Huangshan (Mount Huang) in Anhui Province. PHOTO BY JOAN LEBOLD COHEN.

Anhui is a small, land-locked province in eastern China about the size of the state of North Carolina. The province boasts a rich cultural history; many of China’s most important ancient philosophers and several types of traditional Chinese opera were born there.

Anhui was officially established as a province in 1667 during the Qing dynasty (1644–1912). The word “Anhui” is a portmanteau word derived from the Anqing and Huizhou prefectures. With Hefei as its capital city (with an estimated 2007 population of 4.79 million), Anhui Province has fifty-six counties with a total area of about 139,000 square kilometers (approximately the size of the state of North Carolina). It borders on Henan, Shandong, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Jiangxi, and Hubei provinces, and lies in the middle and lower valleys of the Yangzi (Chang) and Huai rivers.

Anhui is one of the more important agricultural provinces in China, with products ranging from rice, wheat, cotton, vegetable oil crops, tea, and silkworm cocoons. Its gross domestic product (GDP) for 2007 was 734.57 billion yuan, up 13.9 percent from the previous year, and per capital GDP reached 12,015 yuan.

Its population includes several ethnic minority groups: Hui, She, Manchu, Zhuang, and Miao. Han Chinese make up the vast majority of the population in the province; the She and Hui ethnic groups are the two largest minorities.

Anhui abounds in natural resources, with large mineral deposits of coal, iron ore, and copper ore. With two major rivers—the Huai River in the north and the Yangzi (Chang) River in the south, running through the province from west to east, Anhui is divided into three regions: Huaibei (north of Huai River), Jianghuai (between the two rivers), and Jiangnan (south of the Yangzi River). Lake Chaohu, in the center of the province, with an area of about 800 square kilometers, is one of the five largest freshwater lakes in China, although like many of China’s lakes it suffers from heavy pollution. Many lakes also cover the southeastern part of the province near the Yangzi River. The province enjoys a warm temperate, semi-humid monsoon climate, with annual temperatures averaging between 14–17 degrees centigrade. Annual rainfall ranges from about 800 to 1,800 millimeters.

In 1990, Huangshan (Mount Huang), known to poets and painters through history as one of the loveliest mountains in China, was added to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) World Heritage List (a list that seeks to identify, protect, and preserve examples of cultural and natural heritage around the world). In addition, two traditional villages of Yi County (Xidi and Hongcun) in Anhui Province were also added as cultural properties in 2000.

Historically, Anhui is the birthplace of much of China’s ancient culture, and it remained an important part of China’s cultural development for centuries. Scientists have discovered a historical site in Fanmao County where human activities more than 2 million years old can be traced. Moreover, along the Huai River basin, many philosophers, such as Laozi (credited as the founder of Daoism), Zhuang Zi, and Guan Zhong were born; their philosophies influenced more than 2,000 years of Chinese history. Operas in several forms have been developed in the province.

Anhui has a high concentration of traditional products related to calligraphy: Xuanzhou (today Xuancheng) and Huizhou (today Huangshan City) are revered for producing xuan paper (often called rice paper, but actually handmade from bark) and hui ink, respectively, which are traditionally considered the best types of paper and ink for Chinese calligraphy. She County is famous for the She Inkstone, one of the most preferred types of inkstones (a mortar-like stone used for grinding and holding ink) in the world.

Further Reading

China Internet Information Center (2008). Anhui. Retrieved November 25, 2008, from

Kirk, M. (Ed.). (2009). China by numbers 2009. Hong Kong: China Economic Review Publishing.

UNESCO. (2007). Mount Huangshan. Retrieved November 25, 2008, from

Source: The Editors. (2009). Anhui Province. In Linsun Cheng, et al. (Eds.), Berkshire Encyclopedia of China, pp. 61–63. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing.

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