Prefectures of the People's Republic of China

Last updated
Prefecture-level divisions
China Prefectural-level.png
Chinese name
Simplified Chinese 地级行政区
Traditional Chinese 地級行政區
Alternative Chinese name
Simplified Chinese 地区
Traditional Chinese 地區
Tibetan name
Tibetan ས་ཁུལ་
Zhuang name
Zhuang Dagih
Mongolian name
Mongolian translate as League(盟)
Uyghur name
Manchu name
Manchu script ᠪᠠ
former name (1949-1971)
Chinese name
Simplified Chinese 专级行政区
Traditional Chinese 專級行政區
former name (1949-1971)
Simplified Chinese 专区
Traditional Chinese 專區
former name (1932-1949)
Simplified Chinese 行政督察区
Traditional Chinese 行政督察區
Tibet only (1910-1960)
Chinese 基巧
Tibetan name
Tibetan སྤྱི་ཁྱབ

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 334 prefecture-level divisions in China. They include 7 prefectures, 294 prefecture-level cities, 30 autonomous prefectures and 3 leagues. Other than provincial level divisions, prefectural level divisions are not mentioned in the Chinese constitution.

China Country in East Asia

China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia and the world's most populous country, with a population of around 1.404 billion. Covering approximately 9,600,000 square kilometers (3,700,000 sq mi), it is the third- or fourth-largest country by total area. Governed by the Communist Party of China, the state exercises jurisdiction over 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four direct-controlled municipalities, and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.

The history of the administrative divisions of China is covered in the following articles:

Leagues of China Peoples Republic of China prefecture-level subdivision used in Inner Mongolia

A league is an administrative unit of the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia in the People's Republic of China.

Types of prefectural level divisions

National total182792973
Beijing 00000
Tianjin 10000
Hebei 011000
Shanxi 011000
Inner Mongolia 09003
Liaoning 212000
Jilin 17100
Heilongjiang 111010
Shanghai 10000
Jiangsu 112000
Zhejiang 29000
Anhui 016000
Fujian 18000
Jiangxi 011000
Shandong 215000
Henan 017000
Hubei 111100
Hunan 013100
Guangdong 219000
Guangxi 014000
Hainan 04000
Chongqing 00000
Sichuan 117300
Guizhou 06300
Yunnan 08800
Tibet 06010
Shaanxi 19000
Gansu 012200
Qinghai 02600
Ningxia 05000
Xinjiang 14450


Prefectures are administrative subdivisions of provincial-level divisions.

The administrative commission (Chinese :行政公署; pinyin :xíngzhèng gōngshǔ) is an administrative branch office with the rank of a national ministerial department (Chinese :司级) and dispatched by the higher-level provincial government. The leader of the prefecture government, titled as prefectural administrative commissioner (Chinese :行政公署专员; pinyin :xíngzhèng gōngshǔ zhūanyūan), is appointed by the provincial government. Instead of local People's Congresses, the prefecture's working commission of the standing committee of the provincial People’s Congress is dispatched and supervises the prefecture governments, but can not elect or dismiss prefecture governments. [1] The prefecture's working committee of the provincial committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference is a part of the prefecture's committee of the CPPCC. This means that the prefecture's working committee of CPPCC is a branch of the provincial committee of CPPCC, not an individual society entity. The same is valid for provincial CPPCC, which are formally sections of the national CPPCC.

Simplified Chinese characters standardized Chinese characters developed in mainland China

Simplified Chinese characters are standardized Chinese characters prescribed in the Table of General Standard Chinese Characters for use in mainland China. Along with traditional Chinese characters, they are one of the two standard character sets of the contemporary Chinese written language. The government of the People's Republic of China in mainland China has promoted them for use in printing since the 1950s and 1960s to encourage literacy. They are officially used in the People's Republic of China and Singapore.

Hanyu Pinyin, often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese in mainland China and to some extent in Taiwan. It is often used to teach Standard Mandarin Chinese, which is normally written using Chinese characters. The system includes four diacritics denoting tones. Pinyin without tone marks is used to spell Chinese names and words in languages written with the Latin alphabet, and also in certain computer input methods to enter Chinese characters.

Chinese Peoples Political Consultative Conference Political advisory body in the Peoples Republic of China

The Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), also known as the People's PCC or simply the PCC (政协), is a political legislative advisory body in the People's Republic of China. The organisation consists of delegates from a range of political parties and organisations, as well as independent members. The proportion of representation of the various parties is determined by established convention, negotiated between the parties.

The term prefecture was developed from the former Circuit, which was a level between the provincial and the county level during the Qing dynasty. In 1928, the government of the Republic of China abolished the circuit level and the province administrated county directly, but soon, this reform was found unfeasible because some provinces had hundreds of counties. Consequently, in 1932, provinces were again subdivided into several prefectures, and regional administrative offices were set up.

Republic of China (1912–1949) 1912–1949 country in Asia, when the Republic of China governed mainland China

The Republic of China (ROC) ruled the Chinese mainland between 1912 and 1949. It was established in January 1912 after the Xinhai Revolution, which overthrew the Qing dynasty, the last imperial dynasty of China. Its government moved to Taipei in December 1949 due to the Kuomintang's defeat in the Chinese Civil War. The Republic's first president, Sun Yat-sen, served only briefly before handing over the position to Yuan Shikai, leader of the Beiyang Army. Sun's party, then led by Song Jiaoren, won the parliamentary election held in December 1912. Song Jiaoren was assassinated shortly after and the Beiyang Army led by Yuan Shikai maintained full control of the Beiyang government. Between late 1915 and early 1916, Yuan Shikai proclaimed himself as Emperor of China before abdicating due to popular unrest. After Yuan's death in 1916, the authority of the Beiyang government was further weakened by a brief restoration of the Qing dynasty. Cliques in the Beiyang Army claimed their autonomy and clashed with each other during the ensuing Warlord Era.

A province is almost always an administrative division within a country or state. The term derives from the ancient Roman provincia, which was the major territorial and administrative unit of the Roman Empire's territorial possessions outside Italy. The term province has since been adopted by many countries. In some countries with no actual provinces, "the provinces" is a metaphorical term meaning "outside the capital city".

At one point, prefectures were the most common type of prefecture-level division. Today they have been mostly converted into prefecture-level cities, and the trend is still ongoing with only 7 prefectures remaining in China.

NameChinese Province Population (2010)Area (km²)Prefecture Seat
Daxing'anling Prefecture 大兴安岭地区 Heilongjiang 511,56446,755 Jiagedaqi District
Ngari Prefecture 阿里地区 Tibet 95,465304,683 Sênggêzangbo Town, Gar County
Altay Prefecture 阿勒泰地区 Xinjiang 603,280117,988 Altay City
Tacheng Prefecture 塔城地区 Xinjiang 1,219,21294,891 Tacheng City
Kashgar Prefecture 喀什地区 Xinjiang 3,979,362112,058 Kashgar City
Aksu Prefecture 阿克苏地区 Xinjiang 2,370,887128,099 Aksu City
Hotan Prefecture 和田地区 Xinjiang 2,014,365248,946 Hotan City

Prefecture-level city

Prefecture-level cities (地级市 pinyin: dìjíshì) are municipalities that are given prefecture status and the right to govern surrounding counties. In practice, prefecture-level cities are so large that they are just like any other prefectures (prefecture-level administrative divisions), and not cities in the traditional sense of the word at all.

Prefecture-level cities are the most common type of prefecture-level division in mainland China today.


Leagues (Chinese :; pinyin :méng) are the prefectures of Inner Mongolia. The name comes from a kind of ancient Mongolian administrative unit used during the Qing Dynasty in Mongolia. To preempt any sense of Mongolian unity or solidarity, the Qing Dynasty executed divide and rule policies in which Mongolian Banners (county-level regions) were separated from each other. Leagues had no true ruler-ship, they only had conventional assemblies consisting of banners. During the ROC era, the leagues had a status equivalent to provinces. Leagues contain banners, equivalent to counties.

After the establishment of the provincial-level Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in 1947, leagues of Inner Mongolia became equal to prefectures in other provinces and autonomous regions. The governments of the league, (Chinese :行政公署; pinyin :xíngzhènggōngshǔ), is the administrative branch office dispatched by People's Government of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. The leader of the league's government, titled as league leader (Chinese :盟长; pinyin :méngzhǎng), is appointed by People's Government of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. So are deputy leaders of leagues. Instead of local level of People's Congress, league's working commissions of the Standing Committee of the People’s Congress of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region are detached and supervise the league's governments, but can not elect or dismiss league's government officials. [1] In such a way, the league's working committee of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region's committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference is instead of league's committee of CPPCC.

Just like prefectures, most leagues have been replaced by prefecture-level cities. There are only 3 leagues remaining in Inner Mongolia.

NameChinese Province Population (2010)Area (km²)Prefecture Seat
Alxa League 阿拉善盟 Inner Mongolia 231,334267,574 Bayanhot Elute Subdistrict, Alxa Left Banner
Xilingol League 锡林郭勒盟 Inner Mongolia 1,028,022202,580 Xilinhot City
Hinggan League 兴安盟 Inner Mongolia 1,613,25059,806 Ulanhot City

Autonomous prefecture

Autonomous prefectures (自治州 pinyin: zìzhìzhōu) either have over 50% of the population with ethnic minorities or are historically resided by significant minorities. All autonomous prefectures are mostly dominated, in population, by the Han Chinese. The official name of an autonomous prefecture includes the most dominant minority in that region, sometimes two, rarely three. For example, a Kazakh (Kazak in official naming system) prefecture may be called Kazak Zizhizhou.

Like all other prefecture-level divisions, autonomous prefectures are divided into county-level divisions. There is one exception: Ili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture contains two prefectures of its own.

Under the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, autonomous prefectures cannot be abolished. However, two autonomous prefecture were dissolved when new provinces were established such as Hainan Li and Miao Autonomous Prefecture when Hainan Province was established in 1988 and Qianjiang Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture when Chongqing Municipality was established in 1997.

Development zone

Development zones (开发区 pinyin: kāifāqū) were temporary prefectural level divisions. Chongqing was a development zone before it became a municipality, and two development zones were set up within Chongqing immediately after it became a municipality. These divisions were temporary and no longer exist.

The constitution of the People's Republic of China does not endorse any prefectural level division, except for autonomous prefectures. Prefectures and leagues are not at all mentioned; provinces are explicitly stated to be divided directly into counties.

The constitution does not explicitly endorse the existence of prefecture-level cities; but it does mention that "comparatively large cities" (较大的市) are divided into counties and districts. However, there are only 49 prefectural level cities that have been designated as "comparatively large". As a result, the vast majority of prefecture-level cities do not have the constitutional basis for governing districts and counties.

The wholesale conversion of prefectures into prefectural level cities has resulted in the phenomenon of "cities containing cities" prefectural level cities containing county level cities. There is no legal basis for this, not even for the 49 "comparatively large cities". Thus, the county-level cities technically do not "belong" to the prefecture-level city, but are instead "governed on behalf" of the province by the prefectural level city, though in practice the county level cities do indeed belong to their governing prefectural level cities.

Ancient sense

In the history of the political divisions of China, the word "prefecture" has been applied onto two unrelated types of division: the xian and the zhou. In general the word "prefecture" is applied onto xian for the period before the Sui Dynasty and Tang Dynasty; for the period after, xian are called "districts" or "counties", while "prefectures" now refer to zhou.


Xian ( / ) were first established during the Warring States period, and have existed continuously ever since. Today, they continue to form an important part of the political divisions of China.

Xian has been translated using several English language terms. In the context of ancient history, "district" and "prefecture" are the most commonly used terms, while "county" is generally used for more contemporary contexts.


Zhou ( ) were first established during the Han Dynasty, and were abolished only with the establishment of the Republic of China.

Zhou is generally translated as "province" or "region" for the period before the Sui Dynasty, and "prefecture" for the period from the Sui Dynasty onwards.

The People's Republic of China has revived the word zhou as part of the term "zizhizhou" (自治州), which is translated as "autonomous prefectures", as described above.

See also

Related Research Articles

A prefecture is an administrative jurisdiction or subdivision in any of various countries and within some international church structures, and in antiquity a Roman district governed by an appointed prefect.

Due to China's large population and area, the administrative divisions of China have consisted of several levels since ancient times. 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.

Circuit (administrative division) administrative territorial entity

A circuit was a historical political division of China and is a historical and modern administrative unit in Japan. The primary level of administrative division of Korea under the Joseon and in modern North and South Korea employs the same Chinese character as the Chinese and Japanese divisions but, because of its relatively greater importance, is usually translated as province instead.

Provinces of China Peoples Republic of China province-level subdivision

Provincial-level administrative divisions, or first-level administrative divisions, are the highest-level Chinese administrative divisions. There are 34 such divisions, classified as 23 provinces, four municipalities, five autonomous regions, and two Special Administrative Regions. All but Taiwan Province and a small fraction of Fujian Province are controlled by the People's Republic of China.

A sub-prefectural municipality, sub-prefectural city, or vice-prefectural municipality, is an unofficial designation for a type of administrative division of China. A sub-prefectural city is officially considered to be a county-level city, but it has more power de facto because the cadres assigned to its government are one half-level higher in rank than those of an "ordinary" county-level city—though still lower than those of a prefecture-level city.

District (China) administrative division of the Peoples Republic of China

The term district, in the context of China, is used to refer to several unrelated political divisions in both ancient and modern China.

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.

Zhou (country subdivision) historical political divisions of China

Zhou were historical political divisions of China. Formally established during the Han dynasty, zhou exist continuously until the establishment of the Republic of China in 1912—a period of over 2000 years. Zhou were also previously used in Korea, Vietnam, and Japan.

Autonomous prefectures are one type of autonomous administrative divisions of China, existing at the prefectural level, with either ethnic minorities forming over 50% of the population or being the historic home of significant minorities. All autonomous prefectures are mostly dominated, in population, by the Han Chinese. The official name of an autonomous prefecture includes the most dominant minority in that region, sometimes two, rarely three. For example, a Kazakh prefecture may be called Kazak Zizhizhou. Like all other prefectural level divisions, autonomous prefectures are divided into county level divisions. There is one exception: Ili Kazak Autonomous Prefecture contains two prefectures of its own. Under the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, autonomous prefectures cannot be abolished.

Mongols in China ethnic group

Chinese Mongols are citizens of the China who are ethnic Mongols. They form one of the 55 ethnic minorities officially recognized by the People's Republic of China. There are approximately 5.8 million people classified as ethnic Mongols living in China. Most of them live in Inner Mongolia, Northeast China, Xinjiang, etc. The Mongol population in China is over twice that of the sovereign state of Mongolia.

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.

Counties of China Peoples Republic of China county-level subdivision

Counties, 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 banner, and City districts. There are 1,355 counties in Mainland China out of a total of 2,851 county-level divisions.

Administrative division codes of the People's Republic of China identify administrative divisions of the PRC at county level and above. They are published by the National Bureau of Statistics of the People's Republic of China with the latest version issued on September 30, 2015.

The History of the administrative divisions of China after 1949 refers to the administrative divisions under the People's Republic of China. In 1949, the communist forces initially held scattered fragments of China at the start of the Chinese civil war. By late 1949, they controlled the majority of mainland China, forcing the Republic of China government to relocate to Taiwan.

Administrative divisions of the Yuan dynasty

The Yuan dynasty was a vast empire founded by Mongol leader Kublai Khan in China. During its existence, its territory was divided into the Central Region (腹裏) governed by the Central Secretariat and places under control of various provinces (行省) or Branch Secretariats (行中書省), as well as the region under the Bureau of Buddhist and Tibetan Affairs. In addition, the Yuan emperors held nominal suzerainty over the western Mongol khanates, but in reality none of them were governed by the Yuan dynasty due to the division of the Mongol Empire.


  1. 1 2 "The standing committee of the people’s congress of a province and autonomous region may set up administrative offices in the prefectures under its jurisdiction. " from Item 2, Article 53, Organic Law of the Local People’s Congresses and Local People’s Governments of the People’s Republic of China (2004 Revision)