Southwest China

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Southwest China (Chinese :西南; pinyin :Xīnán) is a region in the south of the People's Republic of China.



Map of a wide definition of Southwest China, excluding Chongqing SouthWestChina.png
Map of a wide definition of Southwest China, excluding Chongqing

Southwest China is a rugged and mountainous region, transitioning between the Tibetan Plateau to the west and the Chinese coastal hills (东南丘陵) and plains to the east. Key geographic features in the region include the Hengduan Mountains in the west, the Sichuan Basin in the northeast, and the karstic Yungui Plateau in the east. The majority of the region is drained by the Yangtze River which forms the Three Gorges in the northeast of the region. [1]

The narrowest concept of Southwest China consists of Sichuan, Chongqing, Yunnan, and Guizhou, while wider definitions often include Guangxi and western portions of Hunan. [2] The official government definition of Southwest China includes the core provinces of Sichuan, Chongqing, Yunnan, and Guizhou, in addition to the Tibet Autonomous Region.


Map of Ming Dynasty China in 1580. Ming Southwest China was anchored by the cities of Chengdu, Kunming, and Guiyang (bottom left). Ming foreign relations 1580.jpg
Map of Ming Dynasty China in 1580. Ming Southwest China was anchored by the cities of Chengdu, Kunming, and Guiyang (bottom left).

Portions of Southwest China were incorporated in the 3nd century BCE into the Qin dynasty. Independent states would continue to exert influence within the region, with notable examples being the Nanzhao Kingdom in the 8th and 9th centuries CE and the Dali Kingdom in 10th and 11th centuries CE. The region was largely pacified and incorporated into Ming domain. [2] During the Second Sino-Japanese War, the city of Chongqing served as the capital of Chinese resistance to imperial Japanese expansion.


The diverse areas of Southwest China carry strong regional identities and have been historically considered more rural than the more developed eastern regions of China. [2] Rapid development since the late 1970s has helped transform many parts of the region with modern advancements. In the early 21st century, Southwest China contained 50% of the country's ethnic minority population which in turn formed 37% of the region's population. [2] Han Chinese migration has been largely concentrated in the urban centres while the rural areas are still predominantly made up by minority populations including the Zhuang, Miao, Yi, and others.

Inhabitants of Southwest China primarily speak a variant of Mandarin Chinese known as Southwestern Mandarin. This variant uses the same written language as Mandarin but is only approximately 50% mutually intelligible with Standard Chinese. As of 2012, there were approximately 260 million speakers of Southwestern Mandarin. [3]

Administrative divisions

Government defined region of Southwest China, including Chongqing, Sichuan, Guizhou, Yunnan and Tibet Southwest China.svg
Government defined region of Southwest China, including Chongqing, Sichuan, Guizhou, Yunnan and Tibet
GB [4] ISO № [5] ProvinceChinese NameCapitalPopulationDensityAreaAbbreviation/Symbol
50 Chongqing Municipality 重庆市
Chóngqìng Shì
Chuān (Shǔ)51 Sichuan Province 四川省
Sìchuān Shěng
Chengdu 80,418,200165.81485,000SC川(蜀)
Guì (Qián)52 Guizhou Province 贵州省
Gùizhōu Shěng
Guiyang 34,746,468197.42176,000GZ贵(黔)
Yún (Diān)53 Yunnan Province 云南省
Yúnnán Shěng
Kunming 45,966,239116.67394,000YN云(滇)
Zàng54 Tibet Autonomous Region
Xizang Autonomous Region
Xīzàng Zìzhìqū
Lhasa 3,002,1662.441,228,400XZ

Cities with urban area over one million in population

#CityUrban area [6] District area [6] City proper [6] Prov.Census date
1 Chongqing [lower-alpha 1] 8,894,75712,084,38516,044,027CQ2010-11-01
2 Chengdu 6,316,9227,415,59014,047,625SC2010-11-01
3 Kunming [lower-alpha 2] 3,140,7773,272,5866,432,209YN2010-11-01
4 Guiyang 2,520,0613,034,7504,322,611GZ2010-11-01
  1. Chongqing core area only, satellite urban area separated from Chongqing core area is not included.
  2. Dongchuan is a satellite urban area separated from Kunming and it is not included.

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  4. GB/T 2260 codes for the provinces of China
  5. ISO 3166-2:CN (ISO 3166-2 codes for the provinces of China)
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