Henan provinces is briefly named Yu, with Zhengzhou as its provincial seat. The name Henan means "south of the Yellow River".
With nearly 100 million people, Henan is the most populous province of China by residency. It borders Hebei to the north, Shandong to the northeast, Anhui to the southeast, Hubei to the south, Shaanxi to the west, and Shanxi to the northwest.
Henan is often called Zhongyuan or Zhongzhou, literally "central plains" or "midland"; this name is also broadly applied to the entire North China Plain. Henan is traditionally regarded as the cradle of Chinese civilization.
Henan is flat in the east and mountainous in the west and extreme south. The eastern and central parts of the province form part of the North China Plain. To the northwest the Taihang Mountains intrude partially into Henan's borders; to the west the Qinling Mountains enter Henan from the west and end about halfway across Henan, with branches extending northwards and southwards. To the far south, the Dabie Mountains separate Henan from neighbouring Hubei province.
The Yellow River passes through northern Henan. It enters from the northwest, via the Sanmenxia Reservoir. After it passes Luoyang, the Yellow River divides the Hai He watershed to the north and the Huai He watershed to the south. The Huai He itself originates in southern Henan. The southwestern corner of Henan, around Nanyang, is part of the drainage basin of Han Shui River across the border in Hubei.
There are many reservoirs in Henan. Major ones include the Danjiangkou Reservoir on the border with Hubei, the Sanmenxia Reservoir, the Suyahu Reservoir, the Baiguishan Reservoir, the Nanwan Reservoir, and the Banqiao Reservoir.
Henan has a temperate continental climate, with most rainfall in summer. Temperatures average about 0°C in January, and 27 to 28°C in July.
Henan is divided into 17 prefecture-level cities, 50 sub-municipal districts.
Henan opera (Yuju) is the local form of Chinese opera; it is also famous and popular across the rest of China. Henan Quju and Henan Yuediao are also important local opera forms.
Henan cuisine is the local cuisine, with traditions such as the Luoyang Shuixi (Luoyang "Water Table", consisting entirely of various soups, etc.); Xinyang Duncai (Xinyang brewed vegetables), and the traditional cuisine of Kaifeng.