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[west of the mountain passes], province (2010 pop. 37,327,378), c.76,000 sq mi (196,840 sq km), N central China. Xi'an is the capital. From north to south Shaanxi has four main regions—the loess plateau, fertile but dry; the Wei River valley,
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a province in Northwest China. Area, 190,000 sq km. Population, 21.7 million (1975). The capital is the city of Sian.
The northern part of Shensi lies on the Loess Plateau and has an average elevation of approximately 1,500 m; the southern part is occupied by the Tsinling Shan, which rises to an elevation of 3,666 m. The northern and southern parts of the province are separated by the valley of the Wei Ho. Shensi’s monsoon climate is temperate north of the Tsinling Shan and subtropical south of it. Annual precipitation ranges from 300 mm in the northwest to 1,000 mm in the southeast. The principal rivers are the Huang Ho, its tributary the Wei Ho, and the Han Shui, a tributary of the Yangtze. Forests occupy less than 9 percent of the province.
Shensi is an ancient agricultural region. Most of the population engages in agriculture, which is dominated by the cultivation of a wide variety of crops. The leading food crop is wheat, most of which is grown in the Wei Ho valley; the considerable plantings of millet are found chiefly on the Loess Plateau. Other crops include rice, kaoliang, and maize. The valleys of the Wei Ho and the Han Shui produce China’s finest varieties of cotton, accounting for 7 percent of the country’s total output. Oil-bearing plants and sugar beets are also cultivated. Animal husbandry, which is of secondary importance, is devoted to the raising of sheep, goats, cattle, and donkeys.
Industry underwent development after the formation of the People’s Republic of China. Coal, small amounts of petroleum, and iron ore are mined. The Weipei coalfield produces more than 4 million tons of coal annually; the Yench’ang oil fields—the oldest in China—began operating in 1906. The main manufacturing centers are Sian and Paochi. Well-developed industries include ferrous metallurgy, the chemical industry, and the machine-building industry, which produces power-engineering equipment, machine tools, locomotives, railroad cars, and machinery for the textile industry and agriculture. There is a cement plant in Yaohsien and petroleum refineries in Yench’ang and Yenan. The cotton industry is represented by large factories in Sian and Hsienyang.
I. M. FEDOROV
Traces of the Yangshao Neolithic culture have been found in Shensi. From the sixth to fourth centuries B.C. part of the province belonged to the Ch’in state, whose ruling dynasty unified ancient China at the end of the third century B.C. Between the 11th century B.C. and the tenth century A.D. the capital of China was several times located in Shensi: at Haoching, Hsienyang, and Ch’angan (now Sian). The region was given its present name in the ninth century.
In antiquity, the Middle Ages, and modern times Shensi has witnessed numerous large popular uprisings, notably the peasant rebellion led by Ch’en Sheng and Wu Kuang in 209 and 208 B.C, the peasant wars of 874–901 and 1628–45, the rebellion of the Pai Lien Chiao (White Lotus Sect) of 1796–1805, and the Dungan Rebellion of 1862–77. After the Hsinhai Revolution of 1911–13, Shensi was controlled by the Peiyang (northern) warlords.
Several peasant rebellions led by the Chinese Communists took place between 1928 and 1932, and in 1932 and 1933 two revolutionary bases of the soviet movement—Shensi-Szechwan and Shensi-Kansu—were established at the border of Shensi and two neighboring provinces (seeSOVIETS IN CHINA). After the main forces of the Chinese Red Army moved from central and southern China between 1934 and 1936, the Shensi-Kansu-Ningsia border area was created from the Shensi-Kansu base. The province of Shensi was freed from Kuomintang rule by the People’s Liberation Army of China in July 1949.
V. P. ILIUSHECHKIN