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Zhongyuan (), the Central Plains, also known as Zhongtu (, lit. 'central land') and Zhongzhou (, lit. 'central region'), commonly refers to the lower and middle reaches of the
Yellow River The Yellow River (Chinese: , Jin: uə xɔ Mandarin Mandarin may refer to: * Mandarin (bureaucrat), a bureaucrat of Imperial China (the original meaning of the word) ** by extension, any senior government bureaucrat A bureaucrat is ...
, centered on the region between
Luoyang Luoyang is a city located in the confluence area of Luo River and Yellow River The Yellow River (Chinese: , Jin Chinese, Jin: uə xɔ Standard Beijing Mandarin, Mandarin: ''Huáng hé'' ) is the second-longest river in China, afte ...

Luoyang
to
Kaifeng Kaifeng () is a prefecture-level city in east-central Henan province, China. It is one of the Historical capitals of China, Eight Ancient Capitals of China, having been the capital seven times in history, and is best known for being the Chinese ...

Kaifeng
. It has been perceived as the
birthplace of Chinese civilization
birthplace of Chinese civilization
. Historically, the
Han Chinese The Han Chinese (), or the Han people (), is an East Asian East Asia is the east East is one of the four cardinal direction The four cardinal directions, or cardinal points, are the directions north North is one of the four ...
viewed Zhongyuan as 'the center of the world'. Human activities in the Zhongyuan region can be traced back to the
Palaeolithic The Paleolithic or Palaeolithic or Palæolithic (), also called the Old Stone Age (from Greek wikt:παλαιός, palaios - old, wikt:λίθος, lithos - stone), is a period in prehistory distinguished by the original development of stone too ...
period. In prehistoric times,
Huaxia ''Huaxia'' is a historical concept representing the Chinese nation ''Zhonghua minzu'' (; "Chinese nation") is a key political term in modern Chinese nationalism related to the concepts of nation-building, ethnic group, ethnicity, and rac ...
, a confederation of tribes that later developed into the Han ethnic group in China, lived along the middle to lower reaches of the Yellow River. The term ‘Zhongguo’ (Central States) was used to distinguish themselves from the
Siyi The Siyi (Seiyap or Sze Yup in Cantonese Cantonese ( zh, t=廣東話, s=广东话, first=t; Yale romanization of Cantonese, Yale: ''Gwóngdūng wá'') is a language within the Varieties of Chinese, Chinese (Sinitic) branch of the Sino-Tibetan ...
tribe that was perceived as ‘barbaric’. In the pre-
Qing The Qing dynasty, officially the Great Qing (), was the last dynasty A dynasty (, ) is a sequence of rulers from the same family,''Oxford English Dictionary'', "dynasty, ''n''." Oxford University Press Oxford University Pr ...
era of ancient China, Zhongyuan had always been the political, economic, and cultural center of the country, as over 20 dynasties had established their regimes and located their capitals in this region. In the modern concept, the term ‘Central Plains Region’ is used to define the Zhongyuan area. In a narrow sense, it refers to the present-day
Henan Henan (; ; alternatively Honan) is a landlocked province of China The provincial level administrative divisions () are the highest-level administrative divisions of China. There are 34 such divisions claimed by the People's Republic of ...

Henan
Province in the central part of China. A broader interpretation of the Central Plains' measure would also include Henan’s neighborhood province,
Shaanxi Shaanxi (; , ; Chinese postal romanization, alternately Shensi) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China. Officially part of Northwest China, it borders the province-level divisions of Shanxi (NE, ...

Shaanxi
,
Hebei Hebei (; alternately Hopeh) is a coastal province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subnational entity, f ...
,
Shanxi Shanxi (; ; Chinese postal romanization, formerly romanised as Shansi) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China and is part of the North China region. The capital and largest city of the province is ...

Shanxi
, and
Shandong Shandong (; alternately romanized as Shantung) is a coastal province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdivision, administrative region, subn ...

Shandong
, as well as the northern part of
Anhui Anhui (; Postal romanization, formerly romanized as Anhwei) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China, part of the East China region. Its provincial capital and largest city is Hefei. The province is l ...

Anhui
and the northwestern part of
Jiangsu Jiangsu (; ; Postal romanization, formerly romanized Kiangsu) is an eastern-central coastal Provinces of the People's Republic of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China. It is one of the leading provinces in finance, education, ...

Jiangsu
.


Definition

The concept of Zhongyuan had often been changing in different historical periods, under different contexts. The term ''Zhongyuan'' first appeared in the
Classic of Poetry The ''Classic of Poetry'', also ''Shijing'' or ''Shih-ching'' (), translated variously as the ''Book of Songs'', ''Book of Odes'' or simply known as the ''Odes'' or ''Poetry'' (), is the oldest existing collection of Chinese poetry Chinese po ...
, meaning ‘in the middle of wildness’, not specifying any exact geographic locations. It was during the
Spring and Autumn Period #REDIRECT Spring and Autumn period#REDIRECT Spring and Autumn period The Spring and Autumn period was a period in Chinese history The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dyna ...
(770-476 BC) that the word came to denote the Central Plains region. Only until the
Northern and Southern dynasties The Northern and Southern dynasties () was a period in the history of China The earliest known written records of the history of China date from as early as 1250 BC, from the Shang dynasty (c. 1600–1046 BC), during the king Wu Ding ...
(420-589 AD) onward, the term ‘Zhongyuan’ were widely accepted as a geographical concept. The geographical view of Zhongyuan may depict different regions. It usually refers to the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River, but sometimes also encompasses the reaches along the
Yangtze The Yangtze or Yangzi ( or ) is the longest river in Asia, the third-longest in the world and the longest in the world to flow entirely within one country. It rises at Jari Hill in the Tanggula Mountains The Tanggula ( Chinese:  ...
and
Huai River The Huai River (), formerly romanized Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken ...
, and even the whole North China Plain. Apart from being a geographical location, the term 'Zhongyuan' is also used as a historical and cultural concept that represents the dominance of the Han ethnicity.


Geography

The north, west, and south sides of Zhongyuan are encircled by mountains, predominantly the
Taihang Mountains The Taihang Mountains () are a Chinese mountain A mountain is an elevated portion of the Earth's crust, generally with steep sides that show significant exposed bedrock. A mountain differs from a plateau in having a limited summit area, ...
from the northwestern side, Funiu and
Xionger Mountains
Xionger Mountains
to the west. The central and eastern areas of Zhongyuan form part of the
North China Plain 200px, The North China Plain is shown in dark. The Yellow River is shown as "Río Amarillo". The North China Plain () is a large-scale downfaulted rift basin formed in the late Paleogene The Paleogene ( ; also spelled Palaeogene or Palæogene; ...
. The Yellow River flows through the region from west to east. The Huai River and
Hai River The Hai River (海河, lit. "Sea River"), also Also or ALSO may refer to: *Advanced Life Support in Obstetrics Advanced Life Support in Obstetrics (ALSO) is a program that was developed by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). This ...
, as well as Tributaries of the Yangtze River, also pass through Zhongyuan. Since ancient times, Zhongyuan has been a strategically important site of China, regarded as ‘The center and hub of the world’. The
alluvial Alluvium (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power ...
deposits of the Yellow River formed the vast plains of Zhongyuan in the Palaeozoic period. The region has sufficient water resources for plant growth, making it the center of the Chinese agrarian civilization, known as the ‘Breadbasket of China’. Zhongyuan has a
temperate monsoon
temperate monsoon
climate with distinct seasons. It is usually hot and humid during the summer, cold and dry in the winter.


History

The history of Zhongyuan can be dated back to prehistoric times. There were traces of human activities in Zhongyuan about half a million years ago. Archaeological studies have shown that as far back as 80,000 to 100,000 years ago, the ancient people of Zhongyuan were using stone tools. The excavation of painted pottery and stone tools found from relics of
Yangshao culture The Yangshao culture was a Neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age The Stone Age was a broad prehistoric Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history Human hi ...
(5000 to 3000 BC) and
Longshan culture The Longshan (or Lung-shan) culture, also sometimes referred to as the Black Pottery Culture, was a late Neolithic The Neolithic period is the final division of the Stone Age The Stone Age was a broad prehistoric Prehistory, also ...
(3000 to 1900 BC) prove that Zhongyuan was in the forefront of Chinese civilization throughout the
Stone Age The Stone Age was a broad prehistoric Prehistory, also known as pre-literary history, is the period of human history Human history, also known as world history, is the description of humanity's past. It is informed by archaeology ...

Stone Age
. After the rise of
Erlitou culture The Erlitou culture was an early Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric that was characterized by the use of , in some areas , and other early features of urban . The Bronze Age is the second principal period of the , as proposed in ...
(1900 to 1500 BC), Zhongyuan entered the Bronze Age. The emergence of private ownership and social classes led to the formation of the first dynasty in Chinese history, the Xia dynasty. The Xia dynasty established its regime centered on Zhongyuan, setting the tone for later dynasties to make Zhongyuan the central region. From the rise of the
Xia Xia (Hsia in Wade–Giles) may refer to: Chinese history * Xia dynasty (夏) (c. 2070 – c. 1600 BC) * Xia (Sixteen Kingdoms) (夏) (407–431), a Xiongnu state * Xia (夏) (617–621), a state founded by Dou Jiande near the end of the Sui dynast ...

Xia
dynasty (c.2070–c.1600 BC) to the fall of the
Song A song is a musical composition Musical composition can refer to an piece or work of , either or , the of a musical piece or to the process of creating or writing a new piece of music. People who create new compositions are called s ...
dynasty (960–1279), most of the legitimate dynasties established their capitals within the Zhongyuan area, except for
Eastern Jin Eastern may refer to: Transportation *China Eastern Airlines China Eastern Airlines Corporation Limited (), also known as China Eastern, is an airline An airline is a company that provides air transport services for traveling passenge ...
and the
Southern Song The Song dynasty (; ; 960–1279) was an imperial dynasty of China that began in 960 and lasted until 1279. The dynasty was founded by Emperor Taizu of Song Emperor Taizu of Song (21 March 927 – 14 November 976), personal name Zhao Kua ...
. It was not until the Yuan (1271–1368) and
Ming The Ming dynasty (), officially the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644 following the collapse of the Mongol The Mongols ( mn, Монголчууд, , ''Mongolchuud'', ; russian: Монголы, ) are an eth ...

Ming
dynasties (1368–1644) that the political center of China re-located to North China, as the
Mongol Empire The Mongol Empire of the 13th and 14th centuries was the List of largest empires, largest contiguous land empire in history and the second largest empire by landmass, second only to the British Empire. Originating in Mongolia in East Asia, the ...
established the Yuan dynasty in Dadu (Khanbaliq, now Beijing). Later, Yongle Emperor of the Ming dynasty moved the capital at his power base in Beijing.


Language

Central Plains Mandarin start=72, A native of Tanghe County, Henan. Central Plains Mandarin, or ''Zhongyuan'' Mandarin (), is a variety of Mandarin Chinese Mandarin (; ) is a group of Sinitic (Chinese) languages spoken across most of northern and southwestern Chi ...
(or Zhongyuan Mandarin) is the major language and native tongue spoken in the Zhongyuan region. It is a variety of Mandarin Chinese, formed and developed gradually based on the standard pronunciations of Mandarin and its predecessor, Yayan. In the Yuan dynasty, the rime book ‘ Zhongyuan Yinyun’ (Rhymes of the Central Plains) written by Zhou Deqing reflected the standard pronunciation of Early Mandarin. Some linguists argue that the Early Mandarin recorded in ‘Zhongyuan Yinyun’ was based on the pronunciation standards derived from the Luoyang and Bianliang dialects of Zhongyuan, which had been prevalent in the Song dynasty. In modern China, Central Plains Mandarin is mainly used in Henan, Shandong, Anhui, Shanxi, Shaanxi, Gansu, and Hebei. The population of native Central Plains Mandarin speakers is approximately 124 million. In terms of tone, the key characteristics of modern Central Plains Mandarin are: The neutral and aspirated voiced initial consonants of entering tone in Early Mandarin are now pronounced as the first tone (high tone), and voiced initial consonants of entering tone in Early Mandarin are now pronounced as the second tone (rising tone).


See also

*
North China Plain 200px, The North China Plain is shown in dark. The Yellow River is shown as "Río Amarillo". The North China Plain () is a large-scale downfaulted rift basin formed in the late Paleogene The Paleogene ( ; also spelled Palaeogene or Palæogene; ...
*
Yangtze River Delta The Yangtze Delta or Yangtze River Delta (YRD, or simply ) is a triangle-shaped megalopolis A megalopolis (), sometimes called a megapolis; also megaregion, city cluster or supercity, is a group of two or more roughly adjacent metropolitan a ...

Yangtze River Delta
* Yellow River Delta and Bohai Sea *
Zhongyuan culture Zhongyuan culture () refers to the culture of (Central Plains) of , centered in much of and parts of nearby provinces like , , and . It is widely held to be one of the main cradles of Han ethnic, later modern . Historically, the region has sp ...
*
Central Plains Mandarin start=72, A native of Tanghe County, Henan. Central Plains Mandarin, or ''Zhongyuan'' Mandarin (), is a variety of Mandarin Chinese Mandarin (; ) is a group of Sinitic (Chinese) languages spoken across most of northern and southwestern Chi ...
*
Huaxia ''Huaxia'' is a historical concept representing the Chinese nation ''Zhonghua minzu'' (; "Chinese nation") is a key political term in modern Chinese nationalism related to the concepts of nation-building, ethnic group, ethnicity, and rac ...


References

{{Regions and cities of China Central China Han Chinese Landforms of Hebei Landforms of Henan Landforms of Shandong Landforms of Shanxi Landforms of Shaanxi North China Plain Plains of China
Regions of China {{Cat main, List of regions of China Geography of China Administrative divisions of China Regions of Asia by country, China ...
Yellow River