Hebei is a northern province that surrounds the national capital, Beijing, and features the eastern extension of the Great Wall. It is about the size of the state of Nebraska. The province’s agriculture supplies Beijing with wheat, corn, vegetables, and fruit. In 1976 an earthquake devastated the eastern city of Tangshan.

Hebei (Ho-pei, Hopeh) Province in northern China covers an area of 190,000 square kilometers. It borders in the west on Shanxi Province, in the north on Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and Liaoning Province, in the east on the Bohai Gulf—an arm of the Yellow Sea—and Shandong Province, and in the south on Henan Province. The province (not to be confused with Hubei Province in central China) surrounds the self-governed municipalities of Beijing and Beijing’s seaport, Tianjin. To the west the Taihang mountain range, with peaks up to 2,870 meters above sea level, forms a physical barrier between Hebei and Shanxi, and in the north the Yanshan range, rising to 1,500 meters, constitutes the traditional frontier between China and the nomads in the north. It is here that the eastern extension of the Great Wall is located. Southern Hebei, covering about 78,000 square kilometers, is part of the North China plain, most of which is lowlands less than 50 meters above sea level.

The province has a temperate, continental, monsoon climate. Winters are cold and dry, and in January temperatures may drop to ?21° C in the north (a low of ?42.9° C has been recorded). The climate is less cold in the south. The rainy season stretches from June through August, and temperatures in July average 18° to 27° C, but most regions have recorded temperatures above 40° C. The capital, Shijiazhuang (estimated 2007 population 9.55 million) is situated in the southern lowlands, which are also where the majority of Hebei’s people live.

Hebei is divided into 10 regions, 142 counties, and 2 autonomous counties between Beijing and Tianjin that are inhabited by the Hui Muslims, which is the largest minority group in the province. Manchu and Mongolian people also live in the northeast, but the Han Chinese make up 98 percent of the population. Traces of agriculture date back to 4000 BCE, but the marshy lowlands of southern Hebei were first drained and settled during the Han dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE), and for centuries this densely populated area was one of the most productive in the empire. During the Tang dynasty (618–907 CE) the area declined as the Yangzi (Chang) River valley was developed. Hebei was incorporated into a number of foreign dynasties, including the Liao (916–1125) and the Jurchen Jin (1125–1234). Beijing became the capital of the Yuan empire (1279–1368), and with brief interruptions Beijing has remained the capital of China.

The economy of Hebei Province has for centuries been dependent on Beijing, and the intensive agriculture in the lowlands has supplied the capital with wheat, corn, vegetables, and fruit. Light industry is distributed over the province, with major textile centers in Shijiazhuang (the provincial capital, with an estimated 2007 population of 9.55 million) and Handan (estimated 2007 population 8.96 million).

In 1976 a major earthquake (7.8 on the Richter scale) devastated the city of Tangshan in eastern Hebei. The earthquake is considered to be the most devastating of the twentieth century. Estimates vary widely, but it is thought that as many as 750,000 people lost their lives. After a ten-year project the city was entirely rebuilt.

Further Reading

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

Li Zongmin. (1993). Changes in the role of rural women under the household responsibility system: A case study of the impact of agrarian reform and rural industrialization in Dongyao Village, Hebei Province, north China. Madison, WI: Land Tenure Center.

Myers, R. H. (1970). The Chinese peasant economy: Agricultural development in Hopei and Shantung, 1890–1949. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Pomeranz, K. (1993). The making of a hinterland: State, society, and economy in inland north China, 1853–1937. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.

Source: Nielsen, Bent. (2009). Hebei Province. In Linsun Cheng, et al. (Eds.), Berkshire Encyclopedia of China, pp. 1015–1016. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing.

Hebei Province (Héb?i Sh?ng ???)|Héb?i Sh?ng ??? (Hebei Province)

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