The Provinces of China – How Many Are There And Who Are They?
China’s big, we know that much, but how is it broken down into smaller parts? What are they called and how many are there? Here’s our handy guide to all the provinces of China.
Let’s break it down simply, China is made up of:
- 23 Provinces
- 5 Autonomous Regions
- 4 Municipalities
- 2 Special Administrative Regions
All sounds like quite formal jargon doesn’t it, so let’s make this whole process nice and simple with our breakdown.
Provinces of China – The Full List
Below is the full list of provinces in China.
The provincial level divisions in Chinese reads 省级行政区 shěngjí xíngzhèng qū.
|Chinese Province in Hanzi||Chinese Province in Pinyin||Abbreviation||Type of Division|
|广西||guǎng xī||GX||Autonomous Region|
|河南||hé nán||HA (HEN)||Province|
|河北||hé běi||HB (HEB)||Province|
|湖南||hú nán||HN (HUN)||Province|
|湖北||hú běi||HB (HUB)||Province|
|黑龙江||hēi lóng jiāng||HL||Province|
|内蒙古||nèi méng gǔ aka Inner Mongolia||NM||Autonomous Region|
|宁夏||níng xià||NX||Autonomous Region|
|山西||shān xī||SX (SAX)||Province|
|陕西||shǎn xī||SN (SAA)||Province|
|新疆||xīn jiāng||XJ||Autonomous Region|
|西藏||xī zàng aka Tibet||XZ||Autonomous Region|
|香港||xiāng găng||HK||Special Administrative Region|
|澳门||ào mén||MO||Special Administrative Region|
Provinces of China – The 23 Provinces
China has 23 provinces in total. Here are some facts about them:
- The most populated province of China is Guangdong Province in the south of China, with over 100 million residents.
- The least populated province of China is Qinghai Province, despite its rather large size, only has just over 5 million residents.
- The largest province of China by area, oddly, is the least populated – Qinghai!
- It’s worth noting that when you include all 34 divisions the biggest is Xinjiang.
Qinghai comes in at 722,000 square kilometres, Xinjiang at 1,664,000 square kilometres.
- The smallest province of China by area is its most southern point, the island of Hainan.
- Hainan comes in at a minuscule 34,000 square kilometres.
If you include all 34 divisions once again, the result changes. Macau is a tiny 31 square kilometres making it bar far the smallest of the 34 divisions.
To put that into perspective, the next one on the list, Hong Kong, is 1,108 square kilometres.
- The richest province in China is Guangdong province, although the gap between the rich and the poor is huge.
QUICK FACT – Province in Chinese is 省 shěng
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Provinces of China – China’s 5 Autonomous Regions
So what’s an autonomous region?
Let’s take the Wikipedia definition for complete clarity:
“An autonomous region is a first-level administrative division of China. Like Chinese provinces, an autonomous region has its own local government, but an autonomous region has more legislative rights. An autonomous region is the highest level of minority autonomous entity in China, which has a comparably higher population of a particular minority ethnic group.”
QUICK FACT – Autonomous Region in Chinese is 自治区 zìzhìqū
In total China has 5 Autonomous Regions which are:
- Inner Mongolia (1947)
- Xinjiang (1955)
- Guangxi (1958)
- Ningxia (1958)
- Tibet (1965)
Given the fact the definition mentions that Autonomous Regions have a “higher population of a particular minority ethnic group” let’s cover those also:
|Autonomous Region||Ethnic Majority||Region Population|
|Inner Mongolia||Mongol||25 million|
Interestingly though the ethnic group split side with Han Chinese in a number of these regions.
For example Inner Mongolia is actually almost 80% Han Chinese and only 17% are Mongol.
Tibet (93% Tibetan – 6% Han) and Xinjiang (45% Uyghur – 40% Han) are the only two areas of China where Han Chinese is NOT the most dominant ethnic group.
Provinces of China – China’s 4 Municipalities
China’s 4 municipalities boast the highest level of classification for cities in China.
These cities are effectively provinces in their own right. They form part of the first tier of administrative divisions of China.
China’s 4 municipalities are:
Years ago China actually nominated 11 cities with the title of municipality but in 1954, 11 of these were reduced to sub-provincial cities, and now as we stand, China has the four listed above.
|Beijing||22 million||16,801 km²|
|Shanghai||26 million||6,304 km²|
|Chongqing||29 million||82,300 km²|
|Tianjin||13 million||11,760 km²|
QUICK FACT – Municipality in Chinese is 直辖市 zhí xiá shì
China’s Special Administrative Regions
China has a total of 2 Special Administrative Regions, Hong Kong and Macau, very closely located geographically.
Hong Kong and Macau are located towards the south of China, with Hong Kong bordering Shenzhen.
The details behind how SAR’s work are fairly complex, so let’s go back to our friend Wikipedia:
“The special administrative regions (SAR) are one type of provincial-level administrative divisions of China directly under Central People’s Government. As a region, they possess the highest degree of autonomy in China. Despite the relative autonomy that the Central People’s Government affords special administrative regions, the National People’s Congress is still able to unilaterally write laws in secret for special administrative regions that are not read publicly until they are passed.”
Of course you’re probably well versed to the recent problems in Hong Kong, which related to the above quote.
Hong Kong and Macau (like Taiwan also, which is formally known as a province, but that’s another story also) all have their own currencies.
These are the Hong Kong Dollar, The Macanese Pataca, and the New Taiwan Dollar.
|Hong Kong||7 million||1,104km²|
Hong Kong and Macau were former British and Portuguese colonies respectively, but were returned to China 1997 and 1999 respectively.
QUICK FACT – Special Administrative Region in Chinese is 特别行政区 tèbié xíngzhèngqū
Provinces of China – FAQ’s
How many provinces are there in China?
There are 23 provinces but to summarise that a little clearer, China has 34 divisions in total which are broken down like this:
5 Autonomous Regions
2 Special Administrative Regions
What is the most populated province in China?
The most populated province of China is Guangdong Province in the south of China, with over 100 million residents.
What is the least populated province in China?
The least populated province of China is Qinghai Province, despite its rather large size, only has just over 5 million residents.
What are the two special administrative regions of China?
Hong Kong and Macau, which were former British and Portuguese colonies respectively, but were returned to China 1997 and 1999 respectively.
What are the four municipalities of China?
What are the five autonomous regions of China?
Inner Mongolia (1947)
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