The North China Plain (华北平原 Hua2bei3 Ping2yuan2) also called the Middle Plain (中原 Zhong1yuan2), is made of the deposits of the Huang He (Yellow River) and is the largest alluvial plain of eastern Asia. The plain is bordered on the north by the Yen Mountains, on the west by the Taihang Mountains. To the south it merges into the Yangtze Plain. From northeast to southeast it fronts the Bohai Gulf, the highlands of Shantung Peninsula, and the Yellow Sea. The Yellow River flows at the middle of the plain and into Bohai Gulf.
The plain covers an area of about 409,500 square km (158,000 square miles), most of which is less than 160 feet (50 m) above sea level. This flat yellow-soil plain is the main area of kaoliang, millet, maize, and cotton production in China. Wheat, sesame seed, peanuts and tobacco are also grown there. The plain is also one of the most densely populated region in the world.
Since the beginning of recorded history, it has been an important site within Chinese civilization. Beijing, the national capital, is located on the northeast edge of the plain, with Tianjin, an important industrial city and commercial port, near the northeast coast. Dagang Oilfield in Tianjin and Shengli Oilfield in Shandong are important petroleum bases in China.
The geography of the North China Plain has had profound cultural and political implications. Unlike southern China, the North China Plain is not divided by mountains or rivers and as a result communication by horse is rapid within the North China Plain. As a result the spoken language is relatively standard in contrast to the plethora of dialect in southern China. In addition the availability of rapid communication has meant that the political center of China has tended to be centered in the North China Plain.
In addition, the fertile soil of the North China Plain gradually merges with the steppes and deserts of Central Asia and there are no natural barriers between these two regions. As a result the North China Plain has been prone to invasion from Central Asia and Manchuria, resulting in the Great Wall of China.
Although the soil of the North China Plain is fertile, the weather in unpredictable being at the intersection of humid winds from the Pacific and dry winds from the interior. This makes the North China Plain prone to both flood and drought. Finally, the flatness of the North China Plain creates massive flooding when the river works are damaged. In the opinion of many historians these factor have encouraged the development of a centralized Chinese state to manage grainies, manage hydraulic works, and man fortifications against the steppe peoples.
See also: Geography of China