SHAN-SI, a northern province of China, bounded N. by Mongolia, E. by Chih-li, S. by Ho-nan, and W. by Shen-si. Estimates of its area vary from 66,000 to 81,000 sq. m. and it has besides its capital, Tai-yuen Fu (pop. 230,000), eight prefectural cities. The population is returned as 12,200,000. It includes, in the northern districts, about 500,000 Mongols. The configuration of Shan-si is noteworthy, forming, from its southern frontier as far north as Ning-wu Fu an area of about 30,000. sq. m. a plateau 2600 to 6000 ft. above the level of the sea, the whole of which is one vast coal-field. North and west the plateau is bounded by high mountain ranges trending south-west and northeast. Down the central line of the province from north to south lies a series of deep depressions, all of which are ancient lake basins. But though forming a series these lakes were not formerly connected with each other, some being separated from those next adjoining by high ridges, and being drained by different rivers and in different directions. The Ffin-ho, the largest river in Shan-si, with a general S.S.W. direction, and the Chin-ho, also a considerable stream, are both tributaries of the Yellow river.
Shan-si is one of the most remarkable coal and iron regions in the world, a veritable second Pennsylvania, and Baron von Richtho- fen gave it as his opinion that the world, at the present Tfl la rateofconsumptionofcoal.couldbesuppliedforthousands of years from Shan-si alone. In the south the neighbourhood of Tsi-chow Fu abounds in both coal and iron, and has probably, partly through being within reach of the populous plain of Hwai-king Fu, of the Yellow river, of Tao-kow Chin and Sew-wu Hien (the shipping places for Tientsin and the Grand Canal) and of Ho-nan Fu, furnished more iron to the Chinese than any other region of a similar extent in the empire. The iron is of great purity and easily fusible, while clay and sand for crucibles, moulds, etc., and a superior anthracite coal, lie ready to hand. The coal is of two kinds, bituminous and anthracite, the line of demarcation between the two being formed by the hills which are the continuation of the Ho-shan range, the fields of bituminous coal being west of these hills, and those of anthracite east. In the neighbourhood of P'ing-ting Chow the extent of the coal-field is incalculable; and speaking of the whole plateau, Baron von Richthofen says: " These extraordinary conditions, for which I know no parallel on the globe, will eventually give rise to some curious features in mining. It may be predicted that, if a railway should ever be built from the plain to this region, . . . branches of it will be constructed within the body of one or other of these beds of anthracite, which are among the thickest and most valuable known anywhere, and continue for miles underneath the hills west of the present coal-belt of P'ing-ting Chow. Such a tunnel would allow of putting the produce of the various coal-beds immediately on rail- road carts destined for distant places." These mines are worked by the Peking Syndicate, who have gained a concession to develop them, and have a railway to connect their workings with the LuHan trunk line, which traverses the east of the province.
Salt is produced in the. prefecture of P'ing-yang in the south of the province, both from a salt lake and from the alluvial soil in the neighbourhood of the Fen-ho. Shan-si produces cereals, tobacco, cotton and sometimes rice, but in agricultural products the province is poor; the means of transport are rude and insufficient. The people of Shan-si are great traders, and nearly all the commerce of southern Mongolia is in their hands. A railway connecting the capital with Pekin was opened in 1908. The only wagon road leading into and through Shan-si is the great highway from Peking to Si-gan Fu, which enters Shan-si west of Cheng-ting Fu, and leaves the province at Tung-kwan at the great bend of the Hwang-ho. Transport is chiefly on the backs of camels, mules and asses. The province suffered from a terrible famine in 1878-1879, about which time Protestant missionaries began work in the capital. In the north, beyond the Great Wall, is the city of Kwei-hwa-Cheng (pop. about 200,000), formerly the residence of the grand Lama of Mongolia; it has many Lama monasteries.
Shan-si university, one of the best equipped in China, owes its existence to the Boxer rising. Certain Protestant missionary bodies in the province refused to accept the compensation awarded them for damage to their property, and at their request the money was devoted to the foundation of a university, the missionaries being guaranteed for ten years the control of the western side of the education given therein.
See Richard's Comprehensive Geography of the Chinese Empire (Shanghai, 1908), I, ch. iii. and the authorities there cited.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)