South China Sea Map

Area: 34,380sq.km/13,274sq. miles Population: 6,740,000. Capital: Haikou

Surrounded by the South China Sea, the province of Hainan, the southernmost island of China, lies between 108°34′ and 111 °02’E and 18°16′ and 20°13’N, 48km/30 miles off the coast of Guangdong.

Known as “China’s Hawaii”, the island measures 260km/160 miles from east to west and 210km/130 miles from north to south, and has enjoyed an enormous increase in tourism in recent years. After the Han, the major population group is the Li. In addition, there are some 60,000 Miao and 5000 Moslem Hui.

Two-thirds ofthe island is flat. Contrary to most Chinese mountain ranges, the mountains stretch from north-eastto south-west and none is more than 2000m/6600ft high. The highest peak is Five Finger Mountain (Wuzhishan), which is 1879m/6166ft.

Until the 1950s almost a third of Hainan was covered in tropical rain forest, but apart from some 2400sq.km/930sq. miles it was then all cut down to provide agricultural land. Since then attempts have been made to make good the damage through a re-afforestation programme. Three nature reserves have been set up to protect wild life.

The subtropical and tropical climate produces high average temperatures and high rainfall; in the south ofthe island the annual rainfall can be as high as 2000mm/80in.

During the Tang and Song period (7th13th c.) undesirable officials and intellectuals were sent into exile on the island. In the 15th c. the Li, the original inhabitants, were driven into the hills and forests in the south by Han Chinese immigrants from the mainland. In 1939 the Japanese occupied the island. Hainan became a province in its own right in 1988; prior to that it had formed part of Guangdong.

In 1988 the province was declared a Special Economic Zone. Its economy is based on rubber production, iron-ore mining and – with 50% of the area being used for agriculture – on the cultivation of tropical fruits such as bananas and pineapples. In addition, coal and non-ferrous metals are mined and oil is extracted off the coast. Fishing is also of importance. Economy

In addition to the provincial capital Haikou the town of Sanya (see entries) is of interest to tourists.

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