Prior to 1978, Linfen was famous for its spring water, greenery and rich agriculture and therefore nicknamed "The Modern Fruit and Flower Town". Since then it has been developing into a main industrial centre for coal mining, which has significantly damaged the city's environment, air quality, farming, health and its previous status as a green village.
Linfen is named for the Fen River. Its former names include Jin, Jinzhou, and Pingyang(平阳).
Chinese archeologists have claimed that Yao's capital was located in Linfen, a confirmation of local legend responsible for the name of the city's Yaodu District. So, Linfen city is the earliest capital of China.
The area was the center of the marchland and duchy of Jin, named for the Jin River (晋水). The duchy collapsed in the 4th century BC but gave its name to a Chinese princely title used as the dynastic name of the Sima clan. Jin Prefecture was centered on the town, which took its name as Jin and Jinzhou. Later, it was renamed Pingyang Commandery, which was also adapted as the name for its chief town. The Xiongnu Chanyu Liu Cong made Pingyang his residence in the fourth century. "He kept court at Pingyang in [Shanxi] and ruled over central and southern [Shanxi], over [Shaanxi] (except for the Han basin), northern [Henan] (except for Kaifeng), southern [Hebei], and northern [Shandong]." In the 10th century, the city's walls were considered "fortified beyond approach".
In the 1980s, Linfen was nicknamed "The Modern Fruit and Flower Town".
Linfen is located in the southwestern part of Shanxi, on the lower reaches of the Fen River, bounded by Changzhi and Jincheng to the east, the Yellow River to the west (which also forms the border with Shaanxi), Jinzhong and Lüliang to the north, and Yuncheng to the south. The prefecture ranges in latitude from 35° 23′ N to 36° 37′ N, spanning 170 kilometres (110 mi), and in longitude from 110° 22′ E to 112° 34′ E, spanning 200 km (120 mi). In all, the city's administrative area, at 20,275 square kilometres (7,828 sq mi), covers 13% of the province's area.
Within its borders Linfen City has a variety of topographical features. It ischaracterised as having a "U" shape, with its mountains, covering 29.2% of the prefectural area, on all four cardinal directions, a basin, the Linfen Basin (临汾盆地), covering 19.4%, in the middle, and intervening hills, covering 51.4%, in between. In the east, from north to south, are Mount Huo (霍山) and the Zhongtiao Mountains; in the west are the Lüliang Mountains, with elevations mostly above 1,000 metres (3,300 ft). The highest point in the prefecture is the main peak of Mount Huo, at 2,347 metres (7,700 ft), and the lowest is in Xiangning County, at 385 metres (1,263 ft). Important rivers in the area include the Yellow, Fen, Xinshui (昕水河), Qin (沁河), Hui (浍河), E (鄂河), and Qingshui Rivers (清水河).
The whole prefecture-level city features a great variety of terrain. The city itself sits in a basin, which aggravates the pollution.
Linfen has a continental, monsoon-influenced semi-arid climate (Köppen BSk), with moderately cold, but dry winters, and hot, somewhat humid summers. The monthly 24-hour average temperature ranges from −2.7 °C (27.1 °F) in January to 26.1 °C (79.0 °F) in July, and the annual mean is 12.6 °C (54.7 °F). The annual precipitation stands at 470 millimetres (18.5 in), with close to 70% of this total falling from June to September. The frost-free period lasts on average 190 days per year. Extreme temperatures have ranged from −22.5 °C (−8.5 °F) to 40.5 °C (104.9 °F).
China's rapid industrialization and urbanization beginning in the 1990s led to increased energy demand causing a dramatic increase in the price of coal. This led to a rapid expansion of loosely regulated private mines. Mining,cooking, smelting and other heavy industries which developed around the city have led to catastrophic environmental damage.
In 2006, the Blacksmith Institute included Linfen in its annual "10 worst" report, calling the city the most polluted city in China. It has also been listed as one of the world's ten dirtiest cities by the Popular Science website. The city has ranked at the bottom of the World Bank's air quality rankings.
From its low point, in 2004, with only fifteen days out of the year with an acceptable level of air pollution, the environmental situation has improved. After a series of negative reports on the extreme level of pollution in the city, efforts were made to clean up Linfen. Substandard mines were closed. Coal trucks were kept from entering the city, resulting in much less coal dust. The city has also switched much of its heating source from coal to gas. 197 large coal-fired boilers and more than 600 smaller, boilers were decommissioned. As of 2007, 85% of population uses natural gas rather than coal for their heating. The State Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) has forced many of the less-efficient smaller factories to close and enforced stricter standards for larger factories including mandating the installation of sulfur scrubbers.
Since 2006, the government has taken a series of measures to modify industrial structure and economic development mode. Relevant policies was issued such as emission threshold of industrial pollution. Over the last few years the Ministry of Environmental Protection has been closely monitoring Linfen's environment conditions. Now it has been listed as a model city for environmental protection in Shanxi Province. Linfen has paid a high cost for the improvement, the regional GDP dropped by RMB 36 billion and fiscal income decreased by RMB 7.2 billion. Compared with the shrinking economy, the environment in Linfen has improved dramatically. On February 23, 2014, Linfen was reported by China Youth Daily as a city experiencing the great change from the "most polluted city" to "model city of environmental protection".
The prefecture-level city of Linfen is divided in one district, two cities and fourteen counties. The information here presented uses the metric system and data from 2010 Census.
Linfen prefecture is home to several notable tourist attractions including the Hukou Waterfall which is the largest waterfall on the Yellow River and the second largest in China. Hukou Waterfall is located 150 km (93 mi) west of Linfen city in Jinshan Gorge.
Other attractions are mostly located in Hongtong county. Most notable among these is Guangsheng Temple, built in 147 CE. Located in the upper Guangsheng temple is the Feihong Pagoda, the largest and best preserved glazed Chinese pagoda. Also in Hongdong county is the Su San Prison (苏三监狱), a restored Ming dynasty prison made famous by the Peking opera titled Yu Tang Chun (玉堂春). It is China's oldest surviving prison. Dahuaishu Ancestor Memorial Garden is a shown for the mandatory population migration in early Ming Dynasty.
Linfen has rich mineral resources including coal, iron ore, copper, and lead. Hedong Coal Field, Huoxi Coal Field and Qinshui Coal Field together comprise 62.9 billion tons of coal reserves. Iron ore reserves exceed 420 million tons. Coal mining and dressing, coking, metallurgy, non-ferrous metal smelting, and chemicals are the principle industries. In 2007, the city’s GDP totaled $8.8 billion.
Linfen Qiaoli Airport, in Yaodu district, was built in 1958 and closed in 1965. The airport has been under renovation since September 2010 and started operation on January 2016.
Linfen Railway Station, in Yaodu district, was built in 1935. Important railway station in South Tongpu(Taiyuan to Puzhou) Railway.
Linfenxi Railway Station, in Yaodu district, was built in 2014. The station is a railway station in Daxi (Datong to Xi'an) High-speed Railway. From this station, passengers can go to Beijing, Xi'an, Taiyuan and Shijiazhuang directly.Shanxi Normal University