Tropical island off the southern coast of China. Also known as Qiong and seperated from the mainland by the Qiongzhou strait (about 20km wide). Dubbed China's Hawaii due its large tourist industry and the two islands being on roughly the same line of latitude.

There are about 8 million residents comprising the Han, Li, Miao and Hai ethnic groups.

The Li were the original inhabitants some 6000 years ago. The Li people still perform the traditional bamboo dance. Hainan became part of the Chinese empire in about 200BC. Its became the place of exile for many officials who had fallen out of favour at the imperial court. At the capital, Haikou, one may find the tomb of the Ming mandarin, Hai Rui (1514-1587), who famously brought a coffin with him when pleading his case before the emperor.

The island's tropical forest is home to many rare plant and animal species, among them rhesus monkeys and Hainan deer. There are 340 varieties of bird on the island. Coconut, rubber and lemongrass flourish here. The Yinggehai and Beibu oilfields are off the coast of Hainan and are the largest in the south china sea. The area has been designated a 'special economic zone' to encourage foreign investment and trade. The southern tip of the island also marks of the southern tip of Chinese territory and is known as 'the edge of the sky, the corner of the sea'.

In 2001 a collision between a US and Chinese plane near Hainan island provoked a diplomatic crisis between the two nations.