Counties of China

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County-level divisions
China County-level divisions (PRC claim).png
Chinese name
Simplified Chinese 县级行政区
Traditional Chinese 縣級行政區
Alternative Chinese name
Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese
Tibetan name
Tibetan རྫོང་
(formerly 宗 in Chinese)
Zhuang name
Zhuang Yen
Korean name
Mongolian name
Mongolian script ᠰᠢᠶᠠᠨ
Uyghur name
Uyghur ناھىيە

Counties (simplified Chinese :; traditional Chinese :; pinyin :Xiàn), formally county-level divisions, are found in the third level of the administrative hierarchy in Provinces and Autonomous regions and the second level in municipalities and Hainan, a level that is known as "county level" and also contains autonomous counties, county-level cities, banners, autonomous banners and City districts. There are 1,355 counties in Mainland China out of a total of 2,851 county-level divisions.

The term xian is sometimes translated as "district" or "prefecture" when put in the context of Chinese history.


Xian have existed since the Warring States period and were set up nationwide by the Qin Dynasty. [1] [2] The number of counties in China proper gradually increased from dynasty to dynasty. As Qin Shi Huang reorganized the counties after his unification, there were about 1,000. Under the Eastern Han Dynasty, the number of counties increased to above 1,000. About 1400 existed when the Sui dynasty abolished the commandery level (郡 jùn), which was the level just above counties, and demoted some commanderies to counties. The current number of counties mostly resembled that of the later years of Qing Dynasty. Changes of location and names of counties in Chinese history have been a major field of research in Chinese historical geography, especially from the 1960s to the 1980s.[ citation needed ]

In Imperial China, the county was a significant administrative unit because it marked the lowest level of the imperial bureaucratic structure;[ citation needed ] in other words, it was the lowest level that the government reached. Government below the county level was often undertaken through informal non-bureaucratic means, varying between dynasties. The head of a county was the magistrate, who oversaw both the day-to-day operations of the county as well as civil and criminal cases.

Autonomous counties

Autonomous counties (自治县; zìzhìxiàn) are a special class of counties in Mainland China reserved for non-Han Chinese ethnic minorities. Autonomous counties are found all over China, and are given, by law, more legislative power than regular counties.

There are 117 autonomous counties in Mainland China.


As the Communist Party of China is central to directing government policy in Mainland China, every level of administrative division has a local CPC Committee. A county's is called the CPC County Committee (中共县委) and the head called the Secretary (中共县委书记), the de facto highest office of the county. Policies are carried out via the People's government of the county, and its head is called the County Governor (县长). The governor is often also one of the deputy secretaries in the CPC Committee.

See also

Related Research Articles

Due to China's large population and geographical area, the administrative divisions of China have consisted of several levels since ancient era. The constitution of China provides for three de jure levels of government. Currently, however, there are five practical levels of local government: the provincial, prefecture, county, township, and village.

Jiangxi Province of China

Jiangxi is a landlocked province in the east of the People's Republic of China. Its capital and largest city is Nanchang. Spanning from the banks of the Yangtze river in the north into hillier areas in the south and east, it shares a border with Anhui to the north, Zhejiang to the northeast, Fujian to the east, Guangdong to the south, Hunan to the west, and Hubei to the northwest.

Commandery (China)

A jùn (郡) was a historical administrative division of China from the Eastern Zhou until the early Tang dynasty. It is usually translated as a commandery.

Prefectures of China

Prefectures, formally a kind of prefecture-level divisions as a term in the context of China, are used to refer to several unrelated political divisions in both ancient and modern China. There are 333 prefecture-level divisions in China. They include 7 prefectures, 293 prefecture-level cities, 30 autonomous prefectures and 3 leagues. Other than provincial level divisions, prefectural level divisions are not mentioned in the Chinese constitution.

Wanzhou District District in Chongqing, Peoples Republic of China

Wanzhou District is Chongqing's second most populated urban core area on the upper reaches of the Three Gorges of the Yangtze River in China. It is currently governed as a district of Chongqing Municipality, bordering Sichuan to the northwest and Hubei to the southeast. It was formerly known as Wanxian or Wan County. Prior to Chongqing's formation as a direct-controlled municipality, Wanzhou was part of Sichuan province. The urban core of Wanzhou is 228 km (142 mi) away from Chongqing's city proper.

The history of the administrative divisions of the Imperial China is quite complex. Across history, what is called 'China' has taken many shapes, and many political organizations. For various reasons, both the borders and names of political divisions have changed—sometimes to follow topography, sometimes to weaken former states by dividing them, and sometimes to realize a philosophical or historical ideal. For recent times, the number of recorded tiny changes is quite large; by contrast, the lack of clear, trustworthy data for ancient times forces historians and geographers to draw approximate borders for respective divisions. But thanks to imperial records and geographic descriptions, political divisions may often be redrawn with some precision. Natural changes, such as changes in a river's course, or loss of data, still make this issue difficult for ancient times.

Banner is a type of administrative division, and may more specifically refer to:

Fuzhou, Jiangxi Prefecture-level city in Jiangxi, Peoples Republic of China

Fuzhou, also known as Gandong, is a prefecture-level city in the northeastern part of Jiangxi province, People's Republic of China.

Shilin Yi Autonomous County Autonomous County in Yunnan, Peoples Republic of China

Shilin Yi Autonomous County is an autonomous county, under the jurisdiction of Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, China.

Yuanyang County, Henan County in Henan, Peoples Republic of China

Yuanyang County is a county under the administration of the prefecture-level city of Xinxiang, in the north of Henan province, China.

Fang County County in Hubei, Peoples Republic of China

Fang County or Fangxian is a county of northwestern Hubei province, People's Republic of China. It is under the administration of Shiyan City.

Yunxi County County in Hubei, Peoples Republic of China

Yunxi County is a county in the northwest of Hubei province, China, bordering Shaanxi province to the north and the west. It is under the administration of the prefecture-level city of Shiyan. The county spans a total area of 3,509.6 square kilometres (1,355.1 sq mi), and has a population of 447,482 as of 2010.

Jingzhou Miao and Dong Autonomous County Autonomous county in Hunan, Peoples Republic of China

Jingzhou Miao and Dong Autonomous County is an autonomous county of Miao and Dong peoples in Hunan Province, China, the county is under the administration of the prefecture-level city of Huaihua. It was known as "Jing County", renamed to the present name on February 19, 1987.

Qianjiang District District in Chongqing, Peoples Republic of China

Qianjiang District is a district in the southeastern part of Chongqing Municipality, People's Republic of China, bordering Hubei province to the east and northeast. While it is governed as a district, in practice Qianjiang is its own city proper far removed from the urban centre of Chongqing. The Miao and Tujia ethnic groups constitute 50.03% of the Qianjiang population, the other half being mostly Han (49.94%). Qianjiang is nicknamed "The Throat of Sichuan and Hubei" (川鄂咽喉) because it sits on the intersection of Sichuan-Hubei and Sichuan-Hunan Roads.

Banzhuang is the largest town of Ganyu County in the north of Jiangsu Province of PRC, adjacent to Linyi of Shandong Province. After combinated with Huandun Town, Banzhuang Town has a total area of 175.61 square kilometers, and so is the largest town in area in Ganyu County. It is also has a population of about 100,000.

Zhao Zhiyong is a former Chinese politician, banker, and regional official. He served as the Vice Governor of Jiangxi province between March 2002 to June 2008, and Communist Party Secretary of Jiujiang, from June 2005 to November 2006. He also served as Secretary-General of Jiangxi Provincial Party Committee (江西省委秘书长) from 2008 until June 2014, when he was dismissed for corruption.

County magistrate Public office in imperial China

County magistrate sometimes called local magistrate, in imperial China was the official in charge of the xian, or county, the lowest level of central government. The magistrate was the official who had face-to-face relations with the people and administered all aspects of government on behalf of the emperor. Because he was expected to rule in a disciplined but caring way and because the people were expected to obey, the county magistrate was informally known as the Fumu Guan, the "Father and Mother" or "parental" official.

Wu Commandery

Wu Commandery was a commandery of imperial China. It covers parts of the contemporary Northern Zhejiang and Southern Jiangsu. The capital of Wu commandery was Wu. Major counties of Wu commandery include Wu (county), Yuhang county, and Huating county which later became known as Suzhou, Hangzhou and Shanghai.



  1. Hsu, Cho-yun (2012) [2006]. China: A New Cultural History. Translated by Baker, Timothy D., Jr.; Duke, Michael S. Columbia University Press. p. 102. ISBN   9780231159203.
  2. Goodman, David S.G., ed. (2015). Handbook of the Politics of China. Edward Elgar Publishing Limited. p. 159. ISBN   9781782544364.