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Administrative divisions
of the People's Republic
of China
This article is part of the
Political divisions of China
Province level
Autonomous regions
Special Administrative
Regions (SARs)
History of its political divisions
Prefecture level
Autonomous prefectures
Prefecture-level cities
Sub-provincial cities
County level
Autonomous counties
County-level cities
Sub-prefecture-level cities
City districts
Autonomous banners
Township level
Townships (ethnic)
Sumu (ethnic)
County districts
Village level
This article is part of
a series on the
Administrative divisions
of the Republic of China
In effect
Provincial cities
County-controlled cities
Urban townships
Rural townships
Urban villages
Rural villages
(also known as "Areas")
Special administrative
regions (SARs)
Special banners
Management bureaus
Administrative levels
and divisions of the
People's Republic of China

In the context of Political divisions of China, county is the standard English translation of Xiàn (Simplified Chinese: ). In the People's Republic of China (PRC, commonly known as China or Mainland China), counties are found in the third level of the administrative hierarchy in Provinces and Autonomous regions, and the 2nd level in municipalities and Hainan province, a level that is known as "county-level" and also contains autonomous counties, county-level cities, banners, autonomous banners, and City districts. There are 1467 counties in mainland China out of a total of 2861 county-level divisions.

Xian have existed since the Warring States Period, and were established nationwide during the Qin Dynasty. The term xian is usually translated as "districts" or "prefectures" when put in the context of Chinese history. This article, however, will try to keep the terminology consistent with the modern translation, and use the term "county" throughout. Note that this is not conventional practice in Sinology literature.



Xian have existed since the Warring States Period, and were set up nation-wide by the Qin Dynasty. 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 1000. Under the Eastern Han Dynasty, the number of counties increased to above 1000. 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.

In Imperial China, the county was a significant administrative unit because it marked the lowest level of the imperial bureaucratic structure — 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.

People's Republic of China

See Political divisions of China for how counties fit into the PRC administrative hierarchy.


Autonomous counties

Autonomous counties (自治县 Pinyin: 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 CPC is the central governmental institution in all of 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 real first-in-charge of the county. Further, there is the People's government of the county, and its head is called the County Governor (县长). The governor is sometimes also one of the Deputy Secretaries in the CPC Committee.

Taiwan (Republic of China)

See Administrative divisions of the Republic of China for how counties fit into the ROC administrative hierarchy.

In ROC's administrative divisions , counties or Sian or Hsian (Traditional Chinese: ) are officially found in the second level; however, the streamlining of Taiwan Province has effectively made the county the first level below the Republic of China central government's rule. Within Fujian Province the county is still the second level. There are 18 counties administered by the Republic of China, including 16 in Taiwan Province and 2 in Fujian Province.

In Taiwan Province:

Romanization Chinese Tongyong Pinyin Hanyu Pinyin Wade-Giles POJ Capital Capital in Chinese
Changhua County flag.png Changhua County 彰化縣 Jhanghuà Zhānghuà Chang1-hua4 Chiong-hòa-koān Changhua City 彰化市
Flag of Chiayi County.png Chiayi County 嘉義縣 Jiayì Jiāyì Chia1-i4 Ka-gī-koān Taibao City 太保市
Hsinchu County 新竹縣 Sinjhú Xīnzhú Hsin1-chu2 Zhubei City 竹北市
Hualien County 花蓮縣 Hualián Huālián Hua1-lien2 Hoa-liân-koān Hualien City 花蓮市
Kaohsiung County 高雄縣 Gaosyóng Gāoxióng Kao1-hsiung2 Fengshan City 鳳山市
Miaoli County 苗栗縣 Miáolì Miáolì Miao2-li4 Miaoli City 苗栗市
Flag of Nantou County.png Nantou County 南投縣 Nántóu Nántóu Nan2-t'ou2 Nantou City 南投市
Flag of Penghu County.png Penghu County (Pescadores) 澎湖縣 Pénghú Pénghú P'eng2-hu2 Magong City 馬公市
Flag of Pingtung County.png Pingtung County 屏東縣 Píngdong Píngdōng P'ing2-tung1 Pingtung City 屏東市
Taichung County 臺中縣, 台中縣 Táijhong Táizhōng T'ai2-chung1 Fengyuan City 豐原市
Tainan County 臺南縣, 台南縣 Táinán Táinán T'ai2-nan2 Xingying City 新營市
Taipei County 臺北縣, 台北縣 Táiběi Táiběi T'ai2-pei3 Banqiao City 板橋市
Taitung County 臺東縣, 台東縣 Táidong Táidōng T'ai2-tung1 Taitung City 台東市
Taoyuan County 桃園縣 Táoyuán Táoyuán T'ao2-yüan2 Taoyuan City 桃園市
Yilan County 宜蘭縣 Yílán Yílán I2-lan2 Gî-lân-koān Yilan City 宜蘭市
Yunlin County 雲林縣 Yúnlín Yúnlín Yün2-lin2 Douliu City 斗六市

In Fujian Province (Wade-Giles: Fuchien):

Romanization Chinese Tongyong Pinyin Hanyu Pinyin Wade-Giles Capital Capital in Chinese
Lienchiang County (Matsu) 連江縣 Liánjiang Liánjiāng Lien2-chiang1 Nangan Township 南竿鄉
Kinmen County 金門縣 Jinmén Jīnmén Chin1-men2 Jincheng Township 金城鎮

See also


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