Hainan jyutping: literal meaning: "South of the Sea" is the smallest province of the People's Republic of China (PRC). Although the province comprises some two hundred islands scattered among three archipelagos off the southern coast, all but three percent of its land mass is on Hainan Island (Hainan Dao), from which the province takes its name. To say "Hainan" in China usually refers to Hainan Island itself. The PRC government claims Hainan's territories to extend to the southern Spratly Islands, Paracel Islands and other disputed marine territory. Hainan is also the largest Special Economic Zone laid out by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in the late 1980s.

Hainan Island is located in the South China Sea, separated from Guangdong's Leizhou Peninsula to the north by a shallow and narrow strait. It has an area of 33,920 square kilometers and is China's southernmost province. For centuries Hainan was part of Guangdong province, but in 1988 this resource-rich tropical island became a separate province. The capital is Haikou.

There are 8 major cities and 10 counties on Hainan and the Xisha Islands in the south of Sanya City. The major cities of Hainan Island are (going clockwise): Haikou, Wenchang, Qionghai, Wanning, Wuzhishan (or five finger Mountain), Sanya, Dongfang, Danzhou.

And its counties are (in clockwise order): Ding'an, Tunchang, Qiongzhong, Lingshui, Baoting, Ledong, Baisha, Changjiang, Lingao and Chengmai.

Hainan has a tropical moist monsoonal climate. Its annual temperature change is less than 15 degrees Celsius. The coldest months are January and February when the temperatures drop to 16 to 21 degrees Celsius; the hottest months are July and August, and the temperatures are 25 to 29 degrees Celsius. Except for the mountainous regions in the central part of the island, the daily average temperature in Hainan is above 10 degrees Celsius, and the integrated temperature during the growing season of the crops reaches eight thousand to nine thousand degree Celsius-days. The summer in the north is hot and, for more than 20 days in a year, the temperature can be higher than 35 degrees Celsius. The average annual precipitation is 1500 to 2000 mm and can be as high as 2400 mm in central and eastern areas, and as low as 900 mm in the coastal areas of the southwest. The eastern part of Hainan lies in the path of typhoons, and 70% of the annual precipitation is derived from typhoons and the summer rainy season. Major flooding occurs due to the typhoons and they can cause many problems for the local residents.

Hainan cuisine is said to be "lighter, with mild seasonings." A lot of local taste is mixed with the Han Chinese taste. Seafood predominates the menu, as shrimp, crab, fish and other sea life are widely available.

Wenchang Chicken is a dish known throughout the province of Hainan. Although there are many varieties of this dish, the name is usually used to define a type of large, free-range chicken from Wenchang city, located on the east coast of the province. As opposed to battery chickens, its meat has more texture and is somewhat drier.

Hainan chicken rice is a famous dish in Southeast Asia bearing the region's name. However, whilst many restaurants use chicken fat to quickly add flavour to the dish, the proper local method is to 'marinate' the rice with chicken soup to add a more full flavour.

Tourism

As Hainan Island is not heavily industrialised, its greenery, together with its beautiful beaches and clean air, make it a popular tourist attraction. The island is accessible through ferry links with Guangdong province, as well as air links. There are two airports, Meilan Airport in Haikou, and Phoenix Airport in Sanya.

In December 2004, the Guangdong-Hainan passenger railway link opened, connecting Guangzhou in Guangdong province on the mainland to Hainan Island. The complete trip, which includes crossing the Qiongzhou Strait by ferry, takes a total of 12 hours. The project cost $583 million US and is expected to greatly enhance Hainan's tourism and economic development. This is important because Hainan currently lags well behind Shenzhen and Zhuhai special economic zones, which border Hong Kong and Macao, respectively.

Hainan Island is often divided into eight regions for tourism purposes: Haikou and area (Haikou, Qiongshan, Ding'an); the Northeast (Wenchang); the Central East Coast (Qionghai, Ding'an); the South East Coast; the South (Sanya); the West Coast (Ledong, Dongfang, Changjiang); the North West (Danzhou, Lingao, Chengmai); and the Central Highlands (Baisha, Qiongzhong, and Wuzhishan/Tongzha).

Haikou is the province's capital and contains interesting historic sites. Also known as Coconut City, Haikou is a major port. The Five Officials Temple consists of five traditional temples and halls that were built in honour of five officials of the Tang (618-907) and Song (960-1279) dynasties. These officials were banished to Hainan for periods ranging from 11 days to 11 years for speaking out against what they felt were wrong practices by the Emperors. (It is perhaps significant that the establishment of the Five Officials Temple in the late 19th century coincides with a time when China's territorial integrity was under threat, and that several of the officials honoured here were exiled for espousing aggressive policies on the recapture of the north of China from the Jurchens during the Southern Song dynasty.)

Xiuying Fort Barbette was built in 1891 to defend the southeastern corner of China during the Sino-French War. The Xiuying Fort Barbette covers about a third of an acre. Its five large cannons are still intact and viewable at the site.

The Tomb of Hai Rui is a key national cultural protection site. Hai Rui was a compassionate and popular official of Hainanese origins who lived during the Ming Dynasty. He was famous for his lifelong honesty and his willingness to speak out on behalf of local people. In later life, Hai Rui was persecuted and fell out of favour with the emperor. His admirers built the Hai Rui Tomb after his death to commemorate his great works. Construction of the tomb began in 1589.

sanya, a popular tourist destination located in Lingshui County, is a state-protected nature reserve for macaques.

Hainan Island has a number of beaches, hot springs. Some top scenic sites include Yalong bay National Resort; Dadonghai Tourist Resort; Qizhi Shan (Seven Finger Mountain), Guantang Hot Spring Resort, Shishan Volcanic Garden; Wanquan River, Baishi Ridge Scenic Zone and Baihua Ridge.

Other attractions in Hainan include:

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