Henan is China's most populous province. It has long played a strategic role in Chinese history and in more recent decades has played a prominent part in the country's politics. In this paper we explore aspects of the history and political culture of Henan, particularly the collective memory or consciousness of its people, and trends in its recent political history. We focus in particular on specific cultural features and local patterns of socioeconomic development, both to highlight important features of provincial life and also to provide an interpretive strategy for approaching recent developments in the province. In identifying specific cultural features, we focus heavily on the egalitarian heritage of the province - in some cases bordering on communitarianism - and how this heritage relates to a deeply-rooted sense that Henan has lost its central role in China's national life. These two patterns converge, today, to produce a phenomenon of 'modelism' in Henan - a tendency to identify and promote apparently unique local social and political structures as though these provided models for the rest of the country to emulate .