Shanxi province is an inland province of China, which is located on the east bank of the middle reaches of the Yellow River and the Loess Plateau in the west of Huabei Plain. It is surrounded by mountains and rivers and separated from the neighboring provinces by very distinctive natural borders. In the east it is next to Hebei province; in the west and south it is separated by the Yellow River from Shannxi province and Henan province respectively; in the north it neighbors Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region with the outer great wall as the border between them.
Figure 1: The position of Shanxi in China
Area and landform
The distance from the north to the south of Shanxi province is more than 680 km, and the distance from the east to the west is more than 380 km. The province covers 156000 square kilometers in total.
Shanxi province is a typical mountainous plateau covered by loess and the terrain of the east and north is higher than that of the west and south. There are many rivers and a variety of landforms including mountains, hills, platform lands and plains which make the plateau uneven. The mountains and hills cover 125000 square kilometers in total which accounts for about 80.1% of the area of the province. The plains and river valleys cover only 31000 square kilometers which accounts for 19.9% of the area of the province. The altitude of most parts of the province is above 1500 meters and the highest point is Beitai Peak (also called Yedou Peak) ---the main peak of Mount Wutai which is called “Ridge of North China”. The lowest point is the river rapid where Haoqing River joins the Yellow River in Yuanqu County and the altitude is only 180 meters. Compared with the large plain of North China which is only tens of meters in altitude, most parts of Shanxi province appears to be upheaval. In the central part of the plateau, sunken basins are en echelon arranged. The sunken basin in the central part divides Shanxi plateau into two parts, the east part of which is the mountainous area and the west part of which is the plateau area. Thus it makes the landform of Shanxi province appear to be the shape of the Chinese character “凹”(referring to “sunken” in English ).
Figure 2: Taihang Mountain
The main mountain ranges, rivers
Main mountains and rivers: Mount Taihang in the east, Mount Lvliang in the west, Mount Heng and Mount Wutai in the north, Mount Zhongtiao in the south and Mount Taiyue in the central part.
Main rivers: the rivers of Shanxi province start from the plateau and mountainous area in the east and west parts. The rivers which flow from the west to the south belong to the Yellow River system and the ones which flow towards the east belong to Haihe River. There are about more than 1000 rivers in the whole province, 250 rivers of which have covered more than 100 square kilometers. 142 rivers including Fen River, Qin River, Sushui River, Sanchuan River and Xinshui River belong to the Yellow River system, the flowing area of which accounts for 62% of the area of the province. 81 rivers including Sanggan River, Hutuo River and Zhang River belong to Haihe River system, the flowing area of which accounts for 38% of the area of the
Figure 3: the Yellow River
Shanxi province is covered with a variety of landforms which vary greatly in altitude, and therefore there are both latitude zonality climate and obvious vertical changes. Shanxi province is located in the middle latitude near the ocean, but it cannot be much influenced by the summer wind because of the mountains around, therefore the climate of Shanxi province belongs to warm temperate continental climate and mid-temperate continental climate. The annual average temperature is between -4° and 14°C. The temperature gradually decreases from the south to the north and from the plain to the mountainous area. The annual average temperature in the mountainous area of the north and middle parts is between 5℃ and 7℃ with the lowest -4℃ in Mount Wutai. The average temperature in most parts of the Yellow River valley, Taiyuan Basin and the southeast of Jinnan is between 8 and 10℃. The annual average temperature in Linfen and Yuncheng basins is between 12 and 14℃. In winter, the average temperature of the whole province is below 0℃ and in summer the temperature is generally high. In July, the temperature is between 21 and 26℃. The frost-free period in the south of Shanxi province is longer than that in the north. The frost-free period in the plain is longer than that in the mountainous area. 110 to 140 days in Datong Basin are frost-free while in Mount Wutai only 85 days are frost-free. In mountainous areas of the north and east of Xinzhou Basin, 135 days to 155 days are frost-free while in Linfen Basin and Yuncheng Basin, as long as 200 days to220 days are frost-free. The annual precipitation of the whole province is between 400mm and 650mm but the precipitation varies unevenly in different seasons. It rains a lot from June to August and the precipitation in this period accounts for more than 60% of the whole year. The precipitation of the province is greatly influenced by the landform which features more mountainous areas but fewer basins.
Shanxi province is located in the inland on the east coast of the mainland surrounded by mountains, which makes it hard to be influenced by the sea wind and therefore forms the strong continental climate. Meanwhile it is struck by the winter cold air from Inner Mongolia, so it is very cold in the north. Hence the climate features in Shanxi province are formed like this: winter is long, cold and dry with scarce rain and snow; summer is short, hot and rainy with prevailing southeast wind and rain focusing in rainy seasons from July to September when the precipitation accounts for 65%-80% of the whole year; the temperature varies greatly in during one day in spring and it is also windy, sandy and dry in spring with much evaporation; autumn is short, warm and sunny.