Guizhou Province is situated on the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau in southwestern China. It borders Sichuan Province to the north, Guangxi Province to the south, Hunan Province to the east, and Yunnan Province to the west. Spanning some 509 kilometers from north to south and some 595 kilometers from east to west, Guizhou Province covers an area of roughly 176,000 square kilometers, and accounts for about 2% of China's total area.
The average height above sea level - albeit, perhaps a meaningless concept in a mountainous region - of Guizhou Province is 1100 meters, circa. Roughly speaking, the terrain of Guizhou Province descends from west to east, suddenly sloping precipitously from the mid-point of the province in a northward, an eastward, and a southward direction. The province's highest elevation point is 2900 meters above sea level, its lowest point a mere 148 meters.
The terrain of Guizhou Province is made up of three basic land types: highlands, hills and basins, of which highlands and hills account for 92.5%. There are accordingly many mountains in Guizhou Province: Dalou Mountain Range to the north; Wumeng Mountain Range to the west; Miaoling Mountain Range to the south - whose highest peak, Leigong, reaches 2178 meters; and Wuling Mountain Range to the northeast, whose highest peak, Fanjing, reaches 2572 meters.
Much of the landmass of Guizhou Province is characterized by a karst landscape, which results in caves, sinkholes, and bizarrely-shaped - if not grotesquely-shaped - stone formations, due to the sandstone bedrock which erodes erratically and unpredictably. Guizhou Province's karst landscape covers an area of roughly 109,000 square kilometers, making up slightly more than 62% of the province's total area.
Guizhou Province, though mountainous, is blessed with fertile land. The province is also endowed with vast natural resources, offering the potential for extensive economic development. Before the 1950s, Guizhou Province was a somewhat backward, agricultural backwater without any modern industry to speak of, and with very little transportation infrastructure that could attract modern industry. After the Chinese government began to focus on the province during the 1950s, including developing an extensive transportation infrastructure for the region, a number of key industries began to emerge in Guizhou Province, including coal- and water-based power generation industries, a nonferrous metallurgy industry, a machine-fabrication industry, and a cigarette-making industry. In addition, the agriculture of the province was intensified, and would include such important crops as rape (used primarily to produce vegetable oil), tea, and tobacco, all of which grow well on mountain slopes.
Guizhou Province has a population exceeding 39 million individuals, distributed across 49 ethnic groups. Of these ethnic groups, the Bai, Buyi, Dong, Han, Hui, Miao, Molao, Shui, Tujia, and the Yi each number over 100,000 individuals. The various ethnic minorities, seen in the nationwide perspective, of Guizhou Province make up roughly 38% of the province's total population.
Guizhou Province abounds in energy resources, including coal- and water-based power-generation resources. The province's water-based power-generation resources produce some 19 million kilowatts of electricity yearly, making Guizhou Province the sixth-largest provider of electric power in the country. The province's coal deposits are estimated to be in the neighborhood of 242 billion tons, the fifth-largest estimated coal deposit in China, and China's premier source of coal south of the Yangtze River.
The revenue generated by the province's coal- and water-based power-generation resources alone have laid the foundation for the establishment of Guizhou Province as a regional economic powerhouse that benefits not only Guizhou Province, but also neighboring provinces - and indeed, it contributes to the wealth generation of all of southern China.
Mineral resources are widely distributed throughout Guizhou Province. 110 different types of minerals have been discovered here, and 76 types are currently being exploited commercially. The province's most important minerals, from an economic standpoint, are: coal, phosphorus, aluminum, manganese, mercury and gold. The province's phosphorus reserves, which make up 44% of the nation's total, rank first in China. The province's mercury reserves - and their output - also rank first in the country. The province's total reserves of gold are currently estimated to be at 150 tons, though this figure may increase as the gold mines are exploited.
Flora & Fauna
Guizhou Province boasts a plethora of flora and fauna. There are more than 3800 varieties of wild plants in the province, of which the thorny pear and the Chinese gooseberry are high in vitamin C, the agarics and other comestible mushrooms are high in protein, and the Chinese sumac (Rhus chinensis) is host to numerous plant galls (i.e., a lump - sometimes called a nut, eg. a gallnut - or outgrowth on the bark of a plant, caused either by fungi, insects, or parasites) that are rich in resins and tannic acid, which are used in the manufacture of ink, dyes, and ointments, much of which is exported. More galls are found on the plants of Guizhou Province, per square meter of area, than in any other province in China.
Medicinal plants in Guizhou Province total some 3700 varieties, accounting for 80% of the nation's total. The most famous such plants are duzhong (eucommia bark), tianma (elevated gastrodia tuber), zhuyu (evodia fruit), shihu (dendrobium), and huanglian (goldthread rhizome). There are 70 varieties of rare and precious plants in Guizhou Province, of which the silver China fir, the dove tree, the bare China fir and the spindle tree fir all are under the strictest of state protection.
In addition, there are over 1000 different species of wild animals roaming freely in Guizhou Province, 83 of which belong to an endangered-species class that enjoys state protection, including the golden monkey, the black-leaf monkey, the south-China tiger and the black-neck crane.
Guizhou Province is an increasingly popular tourist destination, not least because of its agreeable climate, its unique karst landscape, its rich cultural heritage as home to a string of Chinese ethnic minorities - chief among these the Miao - and its stormy history during the Ming (CE 1368-1644) and Qing (CE 1644-1911) Dynasties, when the area, which hitherto had been dominated by the Miao, was suddenly flooded with other ethnic groups following the area's elevation to the status of a province. However, much of the original architectural simplicity of the villages of the area, not to speak of the mystery that enshrouded the unique customs of the many and diverse ethnic minorities that inhabited the area, remains intact to this day, and continue to provide added value to a visit to Guizhou Province.