Hainan first enters written Chinese history in 110 BC, when the Han Dynasty established a military garrison there. Settlement by mainlanders was slow however and from early on the island was considered to be fit only for exiles. It was in this period that the Li people arrived from Guangxi Province and displaced the island’s aboriginal Austronesian-speaking peoples.
Under the Song Dynasty, Hainan came under the control of Guangxi Province, and for the first time large numbers of Han Chinese arrived, settling mostly in the north. Under the Yuan Dynasty , it became an independent province, but was placed under Guangdong Province during the Ming Dynasty in 1370. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, large numbers of Han from Fujian and Guangdong began migrating to Hainan, pushing the Li into the highlands in the southern half of the island. In the eighteenth century, the Li rebelled against the government, which responded by bringing in mercenaries from the Miao people regions of Guizhou Province. Many of the Miao settled on the island and their descendants live in the western highlands to this day.
Hainan was occupied by the Japanese in 1939 – 45, after which it reverted back to China. In 1988, Hainan became a separate province again and was designated a Special Economic Zone by the central government in an effort to increase investment.
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