Henan is the 5th largest provincial economy of China and the largest among inland provinces. However, per capita GDP is low compared to other eastern and central provinces, and Henan is considered to be one of the less developed areas in China. The economy continues to depend on its dwindling aluminum and coal reserves, as well as agriculture, heavy industry, tourism, and retail. High-tech industry and service sector is underdeveloped and is concentrated around Zhengzhou and Luoyang.
Widely regarded as the Cradle of Chinese civilization along with Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces, Henan is known for its historical prosperity and periodic downturns. The economic prosperity resulted from its extensive fertile plains and its location at the heart of the country. However, its strategic location also means that it has suffered from nearly all of the major wars in China. In addition, the numerous floods of the Yellow River have caused significant damage from time to time. Kaifeng, in particular, has been buried by the Yellow River's silt seven times due to flooding.
Archaeological sites reveal that prehistoric cultures such as the Yangshao Culture and Longshan Culture were active in what is now northern Henan since the Neolithic Era. The more recent Erlitou culture has been controversially identified with the Xia Dynasty, the first and largely legendary Chinese dynasty that was established, roughly, in the 21st century BC. Virtually the entire kingdom existed within what is now north and central Henan.
The Xia Dynasty collapsed around the 16th century BC following the invasion of Shang, a neighboring vassal state centered around today's Shangqiu in eastern Henan. The Shang Dynasty (16th-11th centuries BC) was the first literate dynasty of China. Its many capitals are located at the modern cities of Shangqiu, Yanshi, and Zhengzhou. Their last and most important capital, Yin, located in modern Anyang, is where the first Chinese writing was created.
Shang Dynasty oracle bone script, the first form of Chinese writing
In the 11th century BC, the Zhou Dynasty of Shaanxi arrived from the west and overthrew the Shang Dynasty. The capital was moved to Chang'an, and the political and economical center was moved away from Henan for the first time. In 722 BC, when Chang'an was devastated by Xionites invasions, the capital was moved back east to Luoyang. This began the Spring and Autumn Period, a period of warfare and rivalry. What is now Henan and all of China was divided into a variety of small, independent states, constantly at war for control of the central plain. Although regarded formally as the ruler of China, the control that Zhou king in Luoyang exerted over the feudal kingdoms had virtually disappeared. Despite the prolonged period of instability, prominent philosophers such as Confucius emerged in this era and offered their ideas on how a state should be run. Laozi, the founder of Taoism, was born in northern Chu, part of modern-day Henan.
Later on, these states were replaced by seven large and powerful states during the Warring States period, and Henan was divided into three states, the Wei to the north, the Chu to the south, and the Han in the middle. In 221 BC, state of Qin forces from Shaanxi conquered all of the other six states, ending 800 years of warfare.
Ying Zheng, the leader of Qin, crowned himself (220 BCE) as the First Emperor. He abolished the feudal system and centralized all powers, establishing the Qin Dynasty and unified the core of the Han Chinese homeland for the first time. The empire quickly collapsed after the death (210 BCE) of Ying Zheng and was replaced by the Han Dynasty in 206 BC, with its capital at Chang'an. Thus began a golden age of Chinese culture, economy, and military power. The capital moved east to Luoyang in 25 AD, in response to a coup in Chang'an that created the short-lived Xin Dynasty. Luoyang quickly regained control of China, and the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220) began, extending the golden age for another two centuries.
The late Eastern Han Dynasty saw war and rivalry between regional warlords. Xuchang in central Henan was the power base of Cao Cao, who eventually succeeded in unifying all of northern China under the Kingdom of Wei. Wei then moved its capital to Luoyang, which remained the capital after the unification of China by the Western Jin Dynasty. During this period Luoyang became one of the largest and most prosperous cities in the world, despite being repeatedly damaged by warfare.
With the fall of the Western Jin Dynasty in the 4th and 5th centuries, nomadic peoples from the north invaded northern China and established many successive regimes in northern China, including Henan. These people were gradually assimilated into the Chinese culture in a process known as sinification.
The short-lived Sui Dynasty reunified China again in 589 with its capital back in Chang'an. It collapsed due to Sui Emperor Yang's costly attempt to relocate the capital from Chang'an to Luoyang and the construction of many extravagant palaces there. The succeeding Tang Dynasty (618-907) kept its capital in Chang'an, marking the beginning of China's second golden age, with Henan being one of the wealthiest places in the empire.
The Tang Dynasty lasted for three centuries before it eventually succumbed to internal strife. In the Period of Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (907-960) that followed, Kaifeng in eastern Henan became the capital of four dynasties. The Song Dynasty that reunified China in 982 also had its capital at Kaifeng. Under Song rule, China entered another era of culture and prosperity, and Kaifeng overtook Luoyang and Chang'an as the largest city in China and in the world. In 1127, however, the Song Dynasty succumbed to Jurchen (Jin Dynasty) invaders from the north in the Jin–Song war, and in 1142 ceded all of northern China, including Henan. The Song government moved its capital to Hangzhou in Southern China, which, under the Southern Song Dynasty (1127–1279) continued to enjoy relative economic and culture prosperity. A prolonged period of peace and cultural and economic prosperity in the Yangtze River delta Jiangnan region (modern southern Jiangsu, northern Zhejiang, and Shanghai) made this the new center of Chinese culture and economy.
Kaifeng served as the Jurchen's "southern capital" from 1157 (other sources say 1161) and was reconstructed during this time. But the Jurchen kept their main capital further north, until 1214, when they were forced to move the imperial court southwards to Kaifeng in order to flee the Mongol onslaught. In 1234 they succumbed to combined Mongol and Song Dynasty forces. Mongols took control, and in 1279 they conquered all of China, establishing the Yuan Dynasty and set up the equivalent of modern Henan province, with borders very similar to the modern ones. Neither its territories nor its role in the economy changed under later dynasties. Henan remained important in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) that followed, though its economy slowly deteriorated due to frequent natural disasters.
The Qing Dynasty was overthrown by the Republic of China in 1911, marking the beginning of China's modern era. The construction and extension of the Pinghan Railway and Longhai Railway had turned Zhengzhou, a minor county town at the time, into a major transportation hub. Despite the rise of Zhengzhou, Henan's overall economy repeatedly stumbled as it was the hardest hit by the many disasters that struck China in its modern era.
Henan suffered greatly during the Second Sino-Japanese War. In 1938, when the Imperial Japanese Army captured Kaifeng, the government led by Chiang Kai-shek bombed the Huayuankou dam in Zhengzhou in order to prevent the Japanese forces from advancing further. However, this caused massive flooding in Henan, Anhui, and Jiangsu resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths. In 1942 Henan was hit by a great famine resulting from a mix of drought, locusts and destruction caused by the war. Grain requisition policies were continued by Chinese and Japanese authorities despite the shortage of food, making the death toll far greater than it might have been otherwise.
In 1954, the new government of the People's Republic of China moved the capital of Henan from Kaifeng to Zhengzhou, as a result of its economic importance. The PRC had earlier established a short-lived Pingyuan Province consisting of what is now northern Henan and western Shandong with Xinxiang as its capital. This province was abolished in 1952.
A destructive flooding of the Huai River in the summer of 1950 prompted large-scale construction of dams on its tributaries in central and southern Henan. Unfortunately, many of the dams were not able to withstand the extraordinarily high levels of rainfall caused by Typhoon Nina in August 1975. Sixty-two dams, the largest of which was the Banqiao Dam in Biyang County collapsed; catastrophic flooding, spread over several counties throughout Zhumadian Prefecture and further downstream, killed at least 26,000 people. Unofficial human life loss estimates, including deaths from the ensuing epidemics and famine, range as high as 85,600, 171,000 or even 230 000. This is considered the most deadly dam-related disaster in human history.
By the early 1970s, China was one of the poorest countries in the world, and Henan was one of the poorest provinces in China. In 1978, however, when the communist leader Deng Xiaoping initiated the open door policy and embraced capitalism, China entered an economic boom that continues today. The boom did not reach inland provinces such as Henan initially, but by the 1990s Henan's economy was expanding at an even faster rate than that of China overall.
Henan has still not, however, entirely shed its reputation as an economic backwater. In recent years the prevalence of "selling blood" (blood donations for payment) among poor villagers has put Henan in the national spotlight. It was exposed that AIDS villages, where most of the population is HIV positive, exist in Henan. In many rural areas of China during the 1990s, particularly in the province of Henan, tens to hundreds of thousands of farmers and peasants were infected with HIV through participation in state-run blood collection programs in which contaminated equipment was reused. The initial cover up of the crisis by local officials, followed by the national exposure, has put Henan in a somewhat negative spotlight.
In November 2004, martial law was declared in Zhongmou County, Henan, to quell deadly ethnic clashes between Han Chinese and the Muslim Hui Chinese.  The reported number of deaths ranged between 7 and 148.
Henan has a diverse landscape with floodplains in the east and mountains in the west. Much of the province forms part the densely populated North China Plain, an area known as the "breadbasket of China". The Taihang Mountains intrude partially into Henan's northwestern borders from Shanxi, forming the eastern edge of Loess Plateau. To the west the Xionger and Funiu Mountains form an extensive network of mountain ranges and plateaus, supporting one of the few remaining temperate deciduous forests which once covered all of Henan. The renowned Mount Song and its Shaolin Temple is located in the far east of the region, near the capital city Zhengzhou. To the far south, the Dabie Mountains divides Hubei from Henan. The Nanyang Basin, separated from North China Plain by these mountains, is another important agricultural and population center, with culture and history distinct from the rest of Henan and closer to that of Hubei's. Unlike the rest of northern China, desertification is not a problem in Henan, though sandstorms are common in cities near the Yellow River due to the large amount of sand present in the river.
The Yellow River passes through central Henan. It enters from the northwest, via the Sanmenxia Reservoir. After it passes Luoyang, the mountains gave way to plains. Excessive amount of sediments are formed due to the silt it picks up from the Loess Plateau, raising the riverbed and causing frequent floods which shaped the habitat of the region. More recently however, construction of dams and levees, as well as the depletion of water resources have ended the floods. The Huai River in southern Henan is another important river, and has been recognized as part of the boundary dividing northern and southern Chinese climate and culture.
Henan shares borders with six other provinces. It is bordered to the west by Shaanxi, to the south by Hubei, and to the north by Shanxi (northwest) and Hebei (northeast). To the east lie Shandong (northeast) and Anhui (southeast), whose borders meet at a narrow strip of land which separates Henan from Jiangsu to the east.
Henan has a temperate climate that is humid subtropical (KöppenCwa or Cfa) to the south of the Yellow River and bordering on humid continental (Köppen Dwa) to the north. It has a distinct seasonal climate characterised by hot, humid summers due to the East Asian monsoon, and generally cool to cold, windy, dry winters that reflect the influence of the vast Siberiananticyclone. Temperatures average around the freezing mark in January and 27 to 28 °C in July. A great majority of the annual rainfall occurs during the summer.
With a population of approximately 93.6 million, Henan is the third most populous Chinese province after Guangdong and Shandong. It is also the fifth most populous sub-national division in the world. If it were a country by itself, it would be the twelfth most populous in the world, just behind Mexico and ahead of the Philippines. However, the hukou system shows Henan as the most populous province in China with over 103 million people, as it counts the migrant Henanese laborers as residents of Henan, instead of the province they currently reside in. On the other hand, Guangdong is shown as having only 81 million people, though the actual population is 95 million due to the influx of migrants from other provinces.
The population is highly homogeneous with 98.8% of the population being Han. Small populations of Mongols and Manchus exists in scattered rural communities as well as major urban centers. Along with Jiangxi, Henan has one of the most unbalanced gender ratios in China. As a result of the Chinese government's one-child policy (many parents do not want the only child to be female and abort the fetus), the gender ratio was 118.46 males for 100 females in 2000. Subsequently, aborting fetuses due to their female sex was banned in Henan and heavy fines are issued for those who violate the law. In addition, daughter-only families receive an annual allowance from the government. Despite these efforts the problem seems to have become far worse. Based on a 2009 British Medical Journal study, the ratio is over 140 boys for every 100 girls in the 1-4 age group; this might be a strong exaggeration, as many families with more than one child do not register their daughters to the hukou in order to escape fines.
Henan has also the largest Christian population by numbers and percentage of any province of China, 6.1% of the province's population as of 2012, corresponding to approximately 7 million Christians, despite a significant decline from 9.33% as of 2009.
The Government of Henan is structured in a dual party-government system like all other governing institutions in mainland China.
The Governor of Henan is the highest-ranking official in the People's Government of Henan. However, in the province's dual party-government governing system, the Governor has less power than the Henan Communist Party of China Provincial Committee Secretary, colloquially termed the "Henan CPC Party Chief".
Henan has seen rapid development in its economy over the past two decades, and its economy has expanded at an even faster rate than the national average of 10%. This rapid growth has transformed Henan from one of the poorest provinces to one that matches other central provinces, though still relatively impoverished on a national scale. In 2011, Henan's nominal GDP was 3.20 trillion RMB (US$427 billion), making it the fifth largest economy in China, although it ranks nineteenth in terms of GDP per capita.
Henan is a semi-industrialized economy with an underdeveloped service sector. In 2009, Henan's primary, secondary, and tertiary industries were worth 277 billion RMB (US$40 billion), 1.097 trillion RMB (US$160 billion), and 563 billion RMB (US$82 billion), respectively. Agriculture has traditionally been a pillar of its economy, with the nation's highest wheat and sesame output and second highest rice output, earning its reputation as the breadbasket of China. Henan is also an important producer of beef, cotton, maize, pork, animal oil, and corn. Food production and processing makes up more than 14% of the output from the province's secondary industry, and it is said that 90% of Chinese McDonald's and KFC ingredients comes from Henan.
Henan is actively trying to build its economy around the provincial capital of Zhengzhou, and it is hoped that the province may become an important transportation and manufacturing hub in the years to come. In 2008, the total trade volume (import and export) was US$17.5 billion, including US$10.7 billion for exports. Since 2002, 7,111 foreign enterprises have been approved, and foreign funds (FDI) of US$10.64 billion have been used in contracts with a realized FDI of US$5.3 billion. Foreign exchanges are increasing continuously. Friendly provincial relationships have been established with 16 states (districts) in the United States, Japan, Russia, France, Germany, and others. Some cities of Henan have established friendly relationships (sister city) with thirty-two foreign cities.
Henan's service sector is rather small and underdeveloped. Finance and commerce are largely concentrated in urban centers such as Zhengzhou and Luoyang, where the economy is fueled by a large and relatively affluent consumer base. In order to make the economy more knowledge and technology based, the government established a number of development zones in all of the major cities, promoting industries such as software, information technologies, new materials, bio-pharmaceutical and photo-machinery-electronics. Henan is a major destination for tourists, with places such as Shaolin Temple and Longmen Grottoes attracting millions of tourists each year.
Henan has some of the most advanced transportation system in China due to its flat terrain and its location at the heart of central China's construction boom. The Jingguang and Longhai Railway, the nation's two most important railways, run through much of the province and intersects at Zhengzhou. Other railway hubs such as Shangqiu, Xinxiang, and Luohe have also become important centers of trade and manufacturing as a result. A high-speed railway links Zhengzhou with Xi'an. Henan's expressway system is highly developed and the total length is approximately 5,000 km (3,100 mi), the highest total for any Chinese province. The state of air transport is less stellar, the only 3 public airports are located in Xinzheng (near Zhengzhou), Luoyang, and Nanyang.
Most of Henan speaks dialects of the Mandarin group of dialects spoken in northern and southwestern China. Linguists put these dialects into the category of "Zhongyuan Mandarin". The northwestern corner of Henan is an exception, where people speak Jin dialects instead. The dialects of Henan are collectively called "the Henan dialect" in popular usage, with easily identifiable stereotypical features.
Important traditional art and craft products include: Junci, a type of porcelain originating in Yuzhou noted for its unpredictable colour patterns; the jade carvings of Zhenping; and Luoyang's Tangsancai ("Tang Three Colours"), which are earthenware figurines made in the traditional style of the Tang Dynasty.
Henan is located in the Yellow River valley where ancient people lived. Intricate pottery, writing and musical instruments of the Peiligang Culture and Yangshao Culture arose during neolithic times. Three of the Seven Ancient Capitals of China are in Henan: Luoyang, Kaifeng and Anyang. Henan is one of the few provinces which has many historical relics in the country. There are 16 key national units of protecting historical relics and 267 provincial units of protecting historical relics. The over-ground historical relics are the second in China in number. Historical relics in museums take up one-eighth of those in China, and the underground historical relics are the first in China in number. In Henan Museum there are 120,000 historical relics, including over 40,000 rare ones.
Lie Yukou, (c. 4th century BC), Daoist philosopher
Li Pei Yun, Member of Henan Professional Wushu Team and winner of the won the gold medal every year from 1977 through 1982 in the Henan Province Kung-Fu competition in four different events; Nan Quan Style (empty hand form), Sword, Pairs and Long Stick.
Ding Jia, Member of Henan Professional Wushu Team and nine (9) time consecutive Chen Style Tai Chi Chinese National Champion.
^shi, Guo wu yuan ren kou pu cha ban gong; council, Guo jia tong ji ju ren kou he jiu ye tong ji si bian = Tabulation on the 2010 population census of the people's republic of China by township / compiled by Population census office under the state; population, Department of; statistics, employment statistics national bureau of (2012). Zhongguo 2010 nian ren kou pu cha fen xiang, zhen, jie dao zi liao (Di 1 ban. ed.). Beijing Shi: Zhongguo tong ji chu ban she. ISBN978-7-5037-6660-2.|access-date= requires |url= (help)