Situated in the Bohai Rim Economic Development Zone in north China, Shanxi covers an area of 156,000 square km, with forests constituting 20 percent, or about 3.44 million hectares.
Shanxi abounds in mineral resources. Of the more than 120 kinds of underground minerals so far discovered in the province, 53 have verified reserves. Of them, reserves of coal, bauxite, pearlite, gallium and zeolite rank first in the nation. The province is especially noted as the “kingdom of coal,” with verified reserves amounting to 261.2 billion tons, accounting for one-third of the nation’s total.
Shanxi has about 1,700 species of known seed plants in 134 families, including more than 480 kinds of woody plants. In terms of flora resource distribution, the southern and southeastern parts of the province are richest in diversity of vegetation types and plant species. They include broadleaved deciduous forests, estival (summer) broadleaved forests composed chiefly of secondary deciduous shrubs, and mixed coniferous and broadleaved forests. The central part has vaster expanses of forests, mainly composed of coniferous forests, mesophytic deciduous scrub forests and estival broadleaved forests. The northern and northwestern parts are rich in temperate bushes and semiarid grassland, but have fewer forests. Dominant plants there include Chinese silver grass, xeric wormwood, caragana microphylla and sea-buckthorn. Relatively speaking, Shanxi lacks forest resources, being .one of China’s most deficient provinces.
However, it abounds in wild plants. Of the more than 1,000 species so far discovered, there are over 90 species of wild medicinal plants widely distributed in hilly areas. Famous ones include Codonopsis pilosola, Astragalus membranaceus, liquorice and weeping golden bell. Major wild fiber plants include nilghiri nettle, splendid achnatherum, Chinese small iris, kudzu vines, chaste trees and Chinese alpine rush.
There are more than 400 species of terrestrial wild animals in Shanxi, including some 70 species of rare animals under state protection. The 14 species under first-class protection include white stork, black stork, golden eagle, sea eagle, vulture, brown pheasant, red-crowned crane, great bustard, leopard, tiger and sika deer. The 56 species under second-class protection comprise 40 kinds of birds, two kinds amphibians and 14 kinds of beasts. In addition, there are more than 20 species of fur-bearing animals, including otter, Marten foina, raccoon-dog, leopard cat, yellow weasel, badger and fox. Table animals include hare, wild boar, ring-necked pheasant, rock partridge and partridge. There are also more than 70 species of medicinal-supplying animals.
Water resources total 15.24 billion cubic meters.
The province is deficient in surface water, but the available resources are evenly distributed. There are eight rivers, each with a length of over 150 km. The total volume of river water runoff stands at 11.4 billion cubic meters, a figure, slightly more than that in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, ranking last but one nationally.
Generally originating from eastern and western mountainous areas, all rivers in Shanxi are outflow ones, belonging to either the Yellow or Haihe river systems. Generally speaking, rivers running west and south belong to the Yellow River system, while those flowing east belong to the Haihe River system. The Yellow River drainage area totals 97,503 square km, accounting for 62.2 percent of Shanxi’s total land area. The Haihe River drainage area covers 59,320 square km, constituting 37.8 percent of the total land area. Shanxi has 1,214.6 billion cubic meters of underground water resources, but only 45 percent of them are recoverable. They are mainly distributed on the fringe of basins and in provincial border areas.
Shanxi abounds in tourism resources. Famous spots include the Yunguang Caves at Datong City in the north, Wutai Mountain, a sacred place of Buddhism in the central part, and the falls at Hukou in the south, the only waterfall on the Yellow River.
The province also encompasses the country’s largest temple of martial valor -- the Guan Yu Shrine at Xiezhou -- and one of the four large whispering buildings in China, the Yingying Pagoda of Pujiu Temple in Yongji County.
Statistics show that Shanxi now preserves a total of 31,401 unmovable cultural relics of different kinds. They comprise 2,639 ruins of ancient monuments, 1,666 ancient graves, 18,118 old buildings and memorial structures of historic interest, 300 grottoes and temples, 360 sites bearing ancient vertebrate fossils, 6,852 sites with stone inscriptions and 1,466 old revolutionary sites and memorial buildings.
There are 12,345 painted sculptures in these old buildings and memorial structures of historic interest and 26,751 square meters of murals in old temples. Therefore, the province has broad prospects for developing tourism based on its rich cultural relics to make it a pillar sector of the economy.
Shanxi has abundant electric power resources, possessing the largest number of power plants each with an installed capacity of over 1 million kw. The combined installed generating capacity of the province now totals 8.475 million kw, with annual power production reaching 41.78 billion kwh. Over the past 15 years, the province has built six 500-kv UHV transmission lines, with a transformer capacity of 1 million KVA, and 69 229-kv transmission lines, with a transformer capacity of 6.036 million KVA. Shanxi plays a key role in the North China Power Grid. At present, nearly 2,000 townships and towns in the province have access to electricity and during power consumption time, more than 95 percent of rural households can be guaranteed access, both figures being higher than the national average. Shanxi is also a major electricity exporter; providing, for example, a quarter of the power consumed in Beijing.