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Hainan (海南) is a province of the People's Republic of China, located at the southern end of the country. It consists of several islands, the largest of which is also called Hainan Island (Hainan Dao). And when speaking of "Hainan" in Chinese, it is usually the main Hainan Island that is referred to. To emphasize that the entire province is meant, one says Hainan Sheng ("Hainan Province"). Its capital city is Haikou.

Hǎinán Shěng
Province Abbreviation(s): 琼 qíong
Capital Haikou
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 28th
34,000 km²

 - Total (2000)

 - Density
Ranked 28th


Administration Type Province
Governor Wei Liucheng
Image:China provinces heinan.png


Hainan Island was called the Pearl Cliffs (珠崖 Zhu1 ya2), the Fine Jade Cliffs (瓊崖 Qiong2 ya2), and the Fine Jade Land (瓊州 Qiong2 zhou1), the latter two gave rise to the province's abbreviation, Qiong (琼 in Simplified Chinese), referring to the greenery cover on the island.

In Wu Kingdom of the Three Kingdoms Period, Hainan was the Zhuya Commandery (珠崖郡).

Hainan was one of the last areas of China controlled by the Chiang Kai-Shek's KMT. From March to May 1950, the Landing Operation on Hainan Island (海南島登陸戰役) captured the island for the Chinese communists.

During the mid-1980s (01.1984-03.1985), when Hainan was still part of the Guangdong Province, a 14-month episode of marketing zeal by Hainan Special District Administrator Lei Yu* (08.1982-03.1985) put Hainan’s pursuit of provincial status under a cloud. It involved the duty-free importation from Hongkong of 90,000 Japanese-made cars & trucks at a cost of C¥ 4.5 bn (US$ 1.5 bn), and exporting them - with the help of local naval units - to the mainland, making 150 % profits. By comparison, only 10,000 vehicles were imported into Hainan since 1950. In addition, it involved further consignments of 2.9 million TV sets, 252,000 videocassette recorders & 122,000 motorcycles. The money was taken from the 1983 central gov’t funds destined for the construction of the island’s transportation infrastructure (roads, railways, airports, harbours) over the next 10 years.

The central gov’t funds were deemed insufficient by the Hainan authorities for the construction of the island’s other infrastructures (water works, power stations, telecommunications, etc.) and had taken a very liberal interpretation of the economic and trade regulations for Hainan & 13 other coastal cities – the regulations did not mention on prohibiting the re-selling of second hand goods. Some of the proceeds, from unsold units, were later retrieved by the central gov’t to re-finance the special district.

[* Later, Vice Mayor of Shenzhen SEZ (05.1985–01.1988), Executive Vice Mayor of Guangzhou (01.1988–04.1992) & Vice Chairman of Guangxi AR (04.1992–01.1996).]


Hainan Province consists of:

  • 2 regional cities (地级市): Haikou and Sanya (三亚)
  • County-level:
    • 4 counties (县)
    • 7 county-level cities (县级市): Wanning
    • 1 office: the Office of West, South, and Central Sands Archipelagos (西、南、中沙群岛办事处) (the South China Sea Islands)
    • 6 nationality autonomous counties (民族自治县): all are for the Li, sometimes cohabited with the Miao
    • 5 municipal districts (市辖区)
  • Subcounty-level:
    • 2,000 townships (镇)
    • 97 regions (乡)
    • 2,533 villages (村)

Hainan was historically part of Guangdong Province and Guangxi Province, being as such, it was the Qiongya Circuit (瓊崖道) in 1912 (the establishment of the Republic of China). In 1921, it was planned to become a Special Administrative Region (瓊崖特別行政區); in 1944, it became Hainan Special Administrative Region with 16 counties containing the South China Sea Islands.

On May 1, 1950 (under the PRC), the Special Administrative Region became an Administrative Region Office (海南行政区公署), a branch of the Guangdong provincial government. On October 1, 1984, it became the Hainan Administrative Region (海南行政区), with a People's Government, and finally as province separate from Guangdong four years later.


Hainan is the second largest island of China (after Taiwan). Qiongzhou Strait (瓊州海峽) locates north of Hainan and separates it from the Leizhou Peninsula (雷州半島) of Guangdong. To the west is the Gulf of Tonkin.

In the official PRC territorial claim, Hainan Province includes not just one island, but also some 200 South China Sea Islands. The containment of the South China Sea Islands makes Hainan Province have a very large water body, but disproportionally small land area. James Shoal (曾母暗沙 Zengmu Ansha), which is presently marked by the PRC, signifies the country's southernmost border. But the Malaysians also claim it is on their continental shelf.


Since the 1980s, the Hainan province has been a Special Economic Zone of China. The province has a reputation for being a "Wild West" area.


There are 10,000 Buddhist Hainanese, and 6,500 Muslims. Because Hainan had been a point in the travel route of missionaries, there are many Christians: 35,000 Protestants and 4,100 Catholics.

Like in most eastern provinces, the majority (85% of the population) is Han Chinese. Most, if not all, of the 6,500 Muslim Hainanese mentioned above are Hui Chinese living near Sanya.

See also: Li Chinese


  • Qiong Opera (瓊劇)


  • Yalong Wan (牙龙湾 Crescent Dragon Bay), Sanya City, southern Hainan: 7-km beach.

The province has initiated a visa-upon-arrival policy for foreign tourist groups from 21 countries in 2000, in order to attract visitors. It received 380,000 overseas tourists in 2002.

Miscellaneous topics

Hainan is a sister province of Jeju island-province of South Korea.

External links

  • Official Provincial Website (in Simplified Chinese)
  • Official Website of the Office of East, South, and Central Sands Archipelagos (in Simplified Chinese)

Province-level divisions administered by the People's Republic of China

Flag of the People's Republic of China


Anhui | Fujian | Gansu | Guangdong | Guizhou | Hainan | Hebei | Heilongjiang | Henan | Hubei | Hunan | Jiangsu | Jiangxi | Jilin | Liaoning | Qinghai | Shaanxi | Shandong | Shanxi | Sichuan | Yunnan | Zhejiang

Autonomous Regions:

Guangxi | Inner Mongolia | Ningxia | Tibet | Xinjiang


Beijing | Chongqing | Shanghai | Tianjin

Special Administrative Regions:

Hong Kong | Macau

¹ See also: Political status of Taiwan

Last updated: 02-08-2005 08:06:00
Last updated: 05-03-2005 17:50:55