I added data from the 2010 census.
ISO/DIS 3166-2 (draft international standard) was published in 1996. For China, it showed 22
provinces, five autonomous regions, and three municipalities. Besides those, it listed Hong Kong
and Macau in brackets as special regions. These two were assigned codes as divisions of China
CN-92, respectively), but this was clearly meant as a second
choice. The main intent of the draft was to represent Hong Kong (
HK) and Macau
MO) as separate countries.
International standard ISO 3166-2, no longer a draft but a full-fledged standard, was published on
1998-12-15. Since the appearance of the draft standard, two changes had occurred in the real world.
On 1997-03-14, Chongqing municipality split from Sichuan province; on 1997-07-01, Hong Kong became a
special administrative region of China. The revisions made to the draft standard were the addition
of Taiwan province (cross-referenced to
TW) and Chongqing municipality, the deletion of
Macau special region, and the change of code for Hainan province from
ISO's policy is that isolated external territories of a country can be assigned separate country codes,
where such codes are needed for information interchange. This policy was applied to Hong Kong, whose
HK, has been allowed to remain in the standard. In the final standard, the
CN-91 are equally acceptable for Hong Kong. (In my observation,
users seem to prefer to stick with
HK.) On the other hand, the code
was dropped, and only the country code
MO was allowed for Macau.
With the change in Hainan province's ISO code, all of the two-digit ISO codes matched the GB2260
(Guobiao) codes for the primary divisions of China, except for Hong Kong (ISO
81). Also, before Macau came under Chinese sovereignty, it was announced that its
Guobiao code would be
82. The Guobiao code for Taiwan is
Portugal's lease on Macau ended on 1999-12-20, and Macau reverted to China as a second special administrative region.
ISO 3166-2 Newsletter Number I-2 was published on 2002-05-21. It shows the Chinese name for "special
administrative region" as "tebie xingzhengqu". It also gives the Chinese names for three divisions:
Neimenggu for Nei Mongol (which is said to be Mongolian), Xianggang for Hong Kong, and Aomen for
Macau. It now allows the code
CN-92 for Macau.
ISO 3166-2 Newsletter Number I-6 was published on 2004-03-08. The only difference between it and the previous version for China is the omission of the name Neimenggu for Nei Mongol.
Change No. 1 to FIPS Publication 10-4 was published on 1998-12-01. It showed the splitting of
Chongqing municipality from Sichuan province by assigning the FIPS code
CH33 to Chongqing,
changing the code for Sichuan from
CH32. Chongqing and Sichuan were
conventionally transcribed as Chungking and Szechwan in roughly the first half of the twentieth century.
At the beginning of the 20th century, an emperor ruled China. It was riddled with European spheres of influence and leased territories. On 1912-01-01, the emperor was overthrown and a republic was proclaimed. In 1931, Japan occupied Manchuria. During World War II, Japan overran a substantial part of China. All of its conquests were nullified by the Allied victory in 1945. Meanwhile, Mao Zedong was leading a Communist revolution which, by 1950, had conquered all of China except Taiwan. In recent years, all concerned parties have agreed that there is only one China, without resolving which is the legitimate government thereof: the People's Republic of China which exercises power on the mainland, or the Republic of China which rules Taiwan. Taiwan is just one province of this theoretically unified country. This website follows ISO standard 3166 in offering two listings, under the names China and Taiwan.
Latin Sina, ancient form of the province name Shaanxi (controversial)
Zhongguo is Chinese zhong: middle + guo kingdom, country.
China is divided into 22 sheng (provinces), five zizhiqu (autonomous regions), and four shih (municipalities under direct control of the central government). It also has two special autonomous regions (Hong Kong and Macau) and claims sovereignty over a 23rd province (Taiwan). These three are listed as separate countries.
|Guangxi Zhuang||a+||53-54||46,026,629||235,001||90,734||Kwangsi Chuang||Nanning|
|Nei Mongol||a||01-02||24,706,321||1,181,104||456,027||Inner Mongolia||Hohhot|
|Ningxia Hui||a||75||6,301,350||52,188||20,150||Ningsia Hui||Yinchuan|
|Xinjiang Uygur||a||83-84||21,813,334||1,743,441||673,146||Sinkiang Uighur||Urumqi|
Spelling note: Because of the many systems used to transliterate Chinese characters into the Roman alphabet, there are an inordinate number of variant spellings for place names within China. The Pinyin system, devised by Chinese scholars in the 1950s and used as the standard Romanization of the People's Republic of China since 1979, is now widely accepted. The Wade-Giles system was commonly used in English texts before then. Western conventional spelling is not a system, but refers to naive transcriptions that have been in common use. In the main table of divisions, I list the Pinyin and conventional transcriptions of province names, and the Pinyin form of capitals. In the change history, I have tried to choose the transcriptions most likely to be found in historical sources in English. Pinyin equivalents are given with "p:". The list of other names of subdivisions attempts to communicate a feel for the kind of variations that occur. In that table, some variants are translations rather than transliterations. Note how each language uses its own phonetic conventions to render similar sounds.
Guobiao note: The Chinese National Bureau of Standards created a hierarchical set of codes
for the first-, second-, and third-level administrative subdivisions. In a six-digit code, the first two
digits indicate a province, the next two a prefecture or municipality on the prefecture level, and the last
two a county or municipality on the county level. The standard is designated GB2260, where GB stands for
Guobiao, and the codes are called Guobiao codes. (They should not be confused with the Guobiao codes for
Chinese characters, which are defined by standard GB12345.) The Guobiao two-digit province codes are listed
in the main table below. In addition, China has assigned codes to Hong Kong (
82), and Taiwan is (
Source  says that Guobiao standard 2260-1999, in addition to its six-digit codes for administrative
divisions, has a set of two-letter codes for the provincial-level divisions. I have added them to the
table below. Codes are also assigned for Hong Kong (
HK), Macau (
MC), and Taiwan
MARC note: There are two sets of geographic MARC codes. MARC stands for Machine
Readable Cataloging. MARC country codes are two or three letters long. When they are three letters
long, they represent a subnational unit; this is only implemented for four countries: Australia, Canada,
U.S., and U.K. MARC geographic area codes are seven characters long, and are left-padded with hyphens if
necessary. In most cases, the first letter represents a global region such as a continent. The format
for the rest of the code varies. Codes for subnational units are implemented for five countries: the
four above and China. These subnational codes have the form r-cc-ss, where r represents the global
region, cc represents the country, and ss represents the statoid. In the main table below, I've added
MARC codes for the provinces and cities of China. The MARC codes for Hong Kong and Macau are
See the Prefectures of China page.
First-level subdivisions of China are provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities, as shown. There are about 350 second-level divisions, including municipalities under direct provincial control, t'i-ch'ü (prefectures, or areas), chuan-ch'ü (special districts), tzu-chih-chou (autonomous districts), hsing-cheng-ch'ü (administrative districts), and (in Nei Mongol only) meng (leagues). There are about 2,800 third-level divisions: hsien (counties), municipalities, tzu-chih-hsien (autonomous counties), etc. The fourth-level divisions were formerly hsiang (villages) and chen (towns). In 1958, they were all replaced by communes.
China's government uses adjustments to administrative divisions as a policy tool, and approximately 1% of the county-level units are changed each year.
Although Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan are part of China, this website, following ISO 3166, treats them as separate entities.
China claims the Paracel Islands and Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. These groups have
been given FIPS 10-4 country codes of
PG, respectively. In the GENC
standard, their codes are
XPR for Paracel Islands and
XSP for Spratly Islands.
China has long-standing border disputes with many of its Asian neighbors. In the Karakoram Range of the Himalayas, there is an area, mostly in Xinjiang Uygur but partly in Xizang, possessed by China but claimed by India. In Eastern India, most of Arunachal Pradesh state is claimed by China.
Jilin is blocked from access to the Sea of Japan by North Korea and Russia.
Fujian province includes islands to the middle of the Taiwan Strait, with some exceptions. Taiwan claims, and occupies, two island groups in what would otherwise be the territorial waters of the People's Republic. The main islands are Quemoy, near Xiamen, and Matsu, near Fuzhou.
Hebei province has an unusual sort of exclave. As the municipalities of Beijing and Tianjin grew, their borders met on the east and the west, leaving an undigested area in the middle. Sanhe and Zizhixian are towns in this exclave.
Shanghai municipality includes the island of Chongming Dao, north of the main channel of the Yangtze River.
The UN LOCODE page for China lists locations in the country, some of them with their latitudes and longitudes, some with their ISO 3166-2 codes for their subdivisions. This information can be put together to approximate the territorial extent of subdivisions.
The change history of Chinese subdivisions is somewhat confusing. It is best understood by separately examining each of the components of the Chinese empire, as of 1900: China, Manchuria, Mongolia, Sinkiang, and Tibet. The external borders of this region were roughly the same as present-day China and Mongolia combined.
China in 1900 consisted of eighteen provinces, the traditional heartland of the empire. There were several independent states in the southern mountains, completely surrounded by China: Lolos, Seng-Miaotse (two enclaves), and Choang Kolao (also two enclaves). Territories leased to other nations included Kwangchowan (French: Kouang-Tchéou-Wan, on modern Donghai Island and adjacent land on the Leizhou Peninsula), Macao (Portuguese: Macau), Hong Kong (British), Kiao-Chow (p:Jiaozhou) Bay (German: Tsing-tao [p:Qingdao]), Weihai (British: Wei-hai-wei, on the Shandong Peninsula), and Kwantung (p:Guandong, not to be confused with Kwangtung [p:Guangdong] province in South China) in Manchuria (Russian: Port Arthur). Japan had acquired Taiwan and the adjacent Penghu Islands in the Sino-Japanese War of 1895.
|Central South||Honan, Hunan, Hupeh, Kiangsi, Kwangsi, Kwangtung|
|East China||Anhwei, Chekiang, Fukien, Kiangsu, Shantung|
|Inner Mongolia||Northern Chahar, Suiyuan|
|North China||Southern Chahar, Hopeh, Shansi|
|Northeast China||Antung, Heilungkiang, Jehol, Kirin, Liaohsi|
|Northwest China||Kansu, Ningsia, Shensi, Sinkiang, Tsinghai|
|Southwest China||Kweichow, Sikang, Szechuan, Yunnan|
Manchuria in 1900 had three provinces: Heilungkiang, Kilin, and Shengching. Their respective capitals were Tsitsihar (p:Qiqihar), Kirin (p:Jilin), and Mukden (now named p:Shenyang). Russian armed forces occupied Manchuria during the course of 1900. After Japan won the Russo-Japanese war in 1905, the Russian forces withdrew and were supplanted by Japanese. Japan also acquired the lease to Kwantung. By 1925, Japan's military occupation was confined to Kwantung. On 1931-09-18, two bombings in Mukden gave the Japanese a pretext to invade Manchuria. On 1932-03-09, the nominally independent country of Manchukuo was declared. In actuality, it was a Japanese puppet state. Its capital was Hsinking (p:Changchun). Japan extended its control, enlarging Manchukuo with territory seized from Inner Mongolia (the Chearim area) and China (the northern part of Chihli province, which became Jehol province of Manchuria). At the end of World War II, Manchuria reverted de facto to Chinese sovereignty. The de jure restoration was completed about 1951. Since then, the Chinese have called the region the Northeast, rather than Manchuria. It now consists of three provinces which roughly match the ones in 1900, with Liaoning corresponding to Shengching.
Mongolia in 1900 included what is now Mongolia, most of Nei Mongol, and parts of Heilongjiang, Jirin, and Liaoning. It acquired independence from China by stages, losing Inner Mongolia and Tannu Tuva in the process. During this period, it was sometimes called Outer Mongolia, to help distinguish it from Inner Mongolia. For internal divisions, see Mongolia.
In 1900, Sinkiang had almost the same extent that it does now. Its northern part was called Sungaria or Jungaria. Its western part was called East Turkestan, or Chinese Turkestan.
In 1900, Tibet occupied approximately the territory of modern Xizang and Qinghai. Its relationship to China has fluctuated between subjugation and independence. Between 1912 and 1950, the scale tilted toward independence. In 1950-10, China invaded Tibet, and has remained sovereign there ever since. The status of Tibet's subdivisions has also been variable over the years. As a rule, the Tibetan region has comprised Tibet proper, in the west; Koko Nor, later called Tsinghai, in the northeast; and Kham, later called Sikang, in the southwest.
1898 and 1936 figures are estimates; the others are censuses (sometimes rounded).
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