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Henan Travel Guide

Henan Province lies entirely north of the 31st parallel north (north of the equator) and entirely west of the 116th meridian east (i.e., 116 degrees longitude east of the universal mean-time point, Greenwich, in the UK). To get a fix on where Henan Province is located relative to the internal geography of China, one can compare the location of the province within China to the location of a corresponding state within the 48 contiguous US states: if a map of the 48 contiguous US states were made to fit over China, then Henan Province would lie roughly where the US state of Iowa lies, or just northeast of an imaginary crosshair that divides China into quadrants along north-south and east-west lines, precisely where the same crosshair over the US would place the state of Iowa.

Another way of describing the location of Henan Province is to say that most of the province lies south of the famous Yellow River, which runs almost due eastward through the province, after having changed its course almost 90 degrees from due south to due east at the point where Henan Province, Shaanxi Province and Shanxi Province all meet. Indeed, the name Henan means "south of the Yellow River". The Yellow River twists its way for 700 kilometers through Henan Province, where it passes Sanmen and Xiaolangdi Gorges as well as the province's capital, Zhengzhou.

In Chinese terms, Henan Province might be termed "Middle Earth"; in fact, it is alternately known as "Middle Zhou" (Middle Kingdom), "the Central Plain of China", and "the cradle of Han Chinese civilization". In support of this claim, one might point out that three of the oldest human cultures in China, the Peiligang (BCE 7000-5000) Culture, the Yangshao (BCE 5000-3000) Culture and the Longshan (BCE 3000-2000) Culture all have their roots in the province, and no less than three of the Seven Ancient Capitals of China - Anyang, Kaifeng, and Luoyang - all lie within Henan Province. Henan is also the most populous province in China, though not the most densely populated region in China, as that distinction is claimed by a political-administrative entity not belonging to a province, namely, Chongqing Municipality, which lies southwest of Henan Province, across the expanse of land where Shaanxi and Hubei Provinces meet, Shaanxi lying west and southwest of Henan and Hubei lying southwest and south of Henan.

Some of the most prominent attractions in Henan Province include: Longmen Grottoes, Baima ("White Horse") Temple, and Guanlin Monastery, all located in the vicinity of the ancient city of Luoyang; Shaolin Temple at the foot of Shaoshi Mountain, about 80 kilometers southwest of Zhengzhou; Baogong Ancestral Temple and Qingming Riverside Landscape Garden - aka Millennium City Park - in Kaifeng (Kaifeng was believed to also have had a thriving Jewish community for about seven centuries, from the late 12th century to the mid 19th century, though some scholars have cast doubt on the extent to which these "Jews" would be termed Jews in any meaningful present-day sense).

With its highlands to the west and its flat plains in the east, Henan Province offers much topographical diversity. There are also a large number of reservoirs in the province, making water a central theme. Besides being home to many old cities and many ancient cultural sites, the province boasts a capital city that is modern and progressive, yet with many nearby ancient attractions to lure the tourist. Zhengzhou also has one of the best cultural-historical museums in all of China, and is THE place to go if you are looking to discover evidence of the claim that Henan Province is "the cradle of Han Chinese civilization".

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