Handan (Chinese: 邯郸) is a prefecture-level city located in the southwestern part of Hebei province, China. It borders Xingtai on the north, and the provinces of Shanxi on the west, Henan on the south and Shandong on the east. At the 2010 census, its population was 9,174,683 inhabitants whom 2,845,790 lived in the built-up (or metro) area made of 3 urban districts, Handan and Yangyan counties, and Shahe City in Xintai municipality, largely being conurbated now.
The city of Handan was the capital of the State of Zhao during the Warring States period (475−221 BCE), after the capital moved from Zhongmu. It has held the name "Handan" since at least the 1st millennium BCE. King Wuling of Zhao turned Zhao into one of the Qin state's most stalwart foes, pioneering the use of walls to secure new frontiers (which would inspire the eventual construction of the Great Wall of China). The city was conquered by the State of Qin after the virtual annexation of Zhao by Qin except for the Dai Commandery. The first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang was born in Handan, the child of a statesman from the state of Qin and after successfully conquering Zhao he ordered all enemies of his mother to be buried alive. The conquest of Zhao, particularly the Qin siege of Handan, is featured extensively in Chen Kaige's classic film, The Emperor and the Assassin.
Handan was still regarded as a cultural and commercial centre during the Western and Eastern Han dynasties (206 BCE−220 CE). It slowly declined, perhaps because of the numerous battles that ravaged northern China following the Han Dynasty, but maintained a reputation for its fine Cizhou ware well into the Qing dynasty (1644–1911). It was also the birthplace in the 19th century of Yang-style t'ai chi ch'uan, one of the five major schools of tai chi in China.
Though much of Handan's ancient history is no longer visible, it still has some attractions, most derived from Zhao folklore such as the road into which Lin Xiangru, courier of the precious jade He Shi Bi, backed in order to let his nemesis Lian Po pass first, as well as the location in which Lian Po begged for Lin Xiangru's forgiveness. Modern-day Congtai Park is located on the site of the historical Zhao court. Next to Congtai Park is the legendary "Xuebu Qiao" (学步桥), or "Learning to Walk Bridge". Legend has it that a noble from the state of Yan heard of a particularly elegant manner of walking unique to Handan. Arriving in Handan, he spent weeks trying to master the Handan style of walking on a bridge, only to fail. In the process, however, he had forgotten how to walk normally and had to crawl back to Yan. This story inspired the Chinese expression, 邯郸学步, which means learning something difficult too intensely, thereby forgetting the basics in the process.
The nearby Xiangtangshan Caves contain massive Buddha statues carved into the mountainside, some dating to the 6th century. Many of these statues were severely vandalised by occupying Japanese forces during World War II. Handan was prized by the Japanese invaders for its coal reserves.
Handan has a cold semi-arid climate (Köppen BSk)