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Hubei, which lies in the middle Yangtze River valley, derived its name from its location north of the Dongting Lake. It is also known as the "thoroughfare of nine provinces": with the Yangtze River flowing from west to east and the Beijing-Guangzhou Railway running from north to south, Hubei is located right in the middle of the country's main water and land transport artery. It has an area of 185,900 sq km and a population of 56,540,000. The provincial capital is Wuhan.
By the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC - 476 BC), Hubei was home to the powerful state of Chu. Chu was nominally a tributary state of the Zhou Dynasty, and it was itself an extension of the Chinese civilization that had emerged some centuries before in the north; but it was also culturally unique, and was a powerful state that held onto much of the middle and lower Yangtze River, with power extending northwards into the North China Plain.
The Jianghan Plain takes up most of central and eastern Hubei, while the west and the peripheries are more mountainous, with ranges such as the Wudang Mountains, the Jingshan Mountains, the Daba Mountains, and the Wushan Mountains (in rough north-to-south order).
Hubei has a sub-tropical monsoonal climate, with distinct contrast between the eastern plain and the western mountainous area. It has a mean annual temperature of 15－17C. and sticky weather in the height of summer. With its absolute maximum temperature exceeding 40C, Wuhan is one of the hottest places in China. The mean annual precipitation increases from 800 mm in the northwest to 1,500 mm or more in the southeast.
Perhaps the most celebrated element of Hubei cuisine is the Wuchang fish, a freshwater bream that is commonly steamed.
Types of traditional Chinese opera popular in Hubei include Hanju and Chuju.The Shennongjia area is the alleged home of the Yeren, a wild undiscovered hominid that lives in the forested hills.
The people of Hubei are given the uncomplimentary nickname "Nine Headed Birds" by other Chinese, from a mythological creature said to be very aggressive and hard to kill. "In the sky live nine-headed birds. On the earth live wise Hubei people."
Hubei plays an important role in China's transportation industry. Situated on the Yangtze and Hanshui Rivers, which are important waterways, Hubei also enjoys the convenience of railways linking Beijing to Guangzhou, Beijing to Kowloon, Shanghai to Wuhan, Wuhan to Chengdu, and Zhicheng to Liuzhou, and of the airports in Wuhan, Yichang, Sanxia, Xiangfan and Shashi. National and provincial highways also contribute to Hubei's economic development.