Taiyuan has a special geographical position and plays the unique role bestowed by its natural environment. First of all, Taiyuan is located in the heart of the Shanxi section of China's Loess Plateau, an early cradle of Chinese civilization. Surrounded by martial barriers and strategic passes, it can be a vital military position that is easy to defend but difficult to attack. Secondly, Taiyuan was for a long time in the center of China's political power as Chinese civilization evolved and different regimes came and went. It had long been in line with the Chinese political center, each relying on the other, and coexisting with the capital in "death and rebirth". It directly or indirectly affects the political structure of China. Thirdly, Taiyuan had long been in the transitional zone where farming civilization and grassland civilization confront and integrate with each other; people there have embraced two different ways of production and life. The interaction between the two civilizations has to varying degrees affected the rise and fall and the governance of the Central Plains dynasties and the northern nomadic regimes.
From the perspective of economic geography, Taiyuan, a city rich in both natural resources and economic strength, can be regarded as one of the most important economic development regions in ancient China. Firstly, it has been an important agricultural area in China since ancient times. The Taiyuan Basin is situated inside the Fenhe Valley in the middle reaches of the Yellow River, the second largest river in Asia, with flat terrain and fertile soil. The area is very suitable for agricultural production as the Fenhe River and Jinshui River flow through it, which facilitates irrigation. Secondly, Taiyuan is seated in an alternative area for agriculture and grassland farming, and the animal husbandry industry is also very developed. The mountainous and hilly areas on the east, west and north sides of the Taiyuan Basin provide an ideal pasture with flourishing ancient vegetation and abundant water and grass. Thirdly, the Taiyuan Basin, rich in natural mineral resources, was the base of the handicraft industry in ancient China. As early as the Spring and Autumn Period (BC770-476), the copper smelting industry in Taiyuan was very developed, as were the manufacturing industries like jade and bone artifacts and horse carriage making. Taiyuan played a vital strategic and political role in ancient times because of its solid material foundation, which stemmed from proper measures simultaneously promoting agriculture, animal husbandry and fisheries as well as its favorable economic geographical environment supportive of handicrafts and business.
Culture and history
Taiyuan is a city with a long history and profound cultural heritage. Since ancient times, literati have gathered there. In the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420), there was a painter called Wang Ji and novelist Guo Chengzhi. In the Tang Dynasty (618-907), there emerged famous poets Wang Han, Wang Zhihuan and Bai Juyi. In the Song Dynasty (960-1279), Taiyuan was home to artist Wang Duan, Wang Shen, Mi Fu and Mi Youren, who played important roles in the history of Chinese painting.
There was also a famous poet called Li Fen born in the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234) and a protagonist named Qiao Ji living in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). Taiyuan was also the hometown of the great novelist Luo Guanzhong, who wrote The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the first two of the "Four Great Classical Novels" of Chinese literature. Luo lived at the end of the Yuan Dynasty and the beginning of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).
In this ancient land of Taiyuan, there are rich historical and cultural relics above and beneath the ground, examples of the Taiyuan people's brilliant and splendid culture and art works in music, dance, painting, calligraphy, sculpture, and drama from many dynasties of Chinese history. Some of the cultural relics unearthed are the chimes and stone bells from the Spring and Autumn Period, the dance figurines from the Tang Dynasty, and the tomb murals from the Northern Qi Dynasty (550-577).
Taiyuan has preserved many historic sites including the Tianlongshan Grottoes built during the Eastern Wei Dynasty (534-550), and the Longshan Grottoes, which are China's largest Taoist grottoes and were built during the Yuan Dynasty. The painted sculptures and the iron man statue built during the Song Dynasty in the Jin Memorial Hall, the painted sculptures built during the Ming Dynasty in the Chongshan Temple, the Ming Dynasty mural transcripts, the "Baoxiantang Model of Calligraphy" inherited from the Ming Dynasty and the ancient theaters scattered in downtown and suburban Taiyuan are all valuable cultural heritages of the city.
Taiyuan has abundant mineral deposits of metal ores such as iron, manganese, copper, aluminum, lead and zinc, and non-metallic minerals of coal, sulfur, gypsum, vanadium, saltpeter, refractory clay, quartz, limestone, dolomite and Shimei sand. Taiyuan is seated in the middle of China's "coal sea", a nickname for North China's Shanxi province that is rich in coal resources. The coal deposit in Taiyuan, geologically known as Taiyuan coal, is a major component of Shanxi's coal resources; its reserves rank seventh in the province. Iron ore reserves in Taiyuan are also abundant and widely distributed; although the city's ferrous manganese ore reserves are relatively small. Gypsum ranks third in Taiyuan's mineral products, and is well known for its texture.
The Taiyuan flora contains seed plants, ferns, mosses, lichens, algae and fungi. It is characterized by abundant plant resources, ancient plant origins, and a large number of monotypic genus plants.
Taiyuan has plenty of wild animal resources. There are 16 animal species, 37 families and 173 species of birds in Taiyuan. Four of the bird groups are protected at the national level, 27 are protected at the national secondary level and eight are protected at the Shanxi provincial level. There are 80 kinds of migratory birds protected by China and Japan. There is one animal species protected at the national level, five kinds of national secondary protected animals, and three groups of animals mainly protected at the provincial level.
Taiyuan was one of the important industrial bases in the early days of China's founding. During the "First Five-Year Plan" period (1953-1957), Taiyuan, a key industrial center of North China along with Beijing and Tianjin at that time, made great contributions to China's economic construction. Since the end of the 20th century, Taiyuan, as a capital city, has insisted on the road to new industrialization and shouldered the arduous responsibility of taking the lead in the adjustment and upgrading of industry structure as Shanxi province built new energy and industrial bases. The advantageous industries represented by the stainless steel production base, the new equipment manufacturing industrial base and the magnalium processing and manufacturing base have been developing well.
After more than 50 years of construction, Taiyuan has formed a complete industrial system with energy, metallurgy, machinery and chemical industry as the pillars, and support from textiles, light industry, medicine, electronics, food, building materials and precision instruments industries. Taiyuan is an academic center with many scientific research institutions, colleges and universities, and also has the advantage of being a commercial material supply center. Its national economy maintains rapid, coordinated and healthy development.
Suburban-modeled rural economy has developed rapidly in Taiyuan, where agricultural production has been continuously transformed into a new type with high yield, high quality and high efficiency. In recent years, Taiyuan has made major breakthroughs in agricultural industrialization and a number of leading enterprises have continued to grow there. New rural construction has started well, and the rural economy is experiencing comprehensive development with a good momentum.