District (China)

District (China)

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

In the modern context, districts (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ; Hanyu Pinyin: ; Tongyong Pinyin: cyu) refer to two types of divisions in the People's Republic of China: city districts and the soon-to-be-phased-out county districts (also known as district public offices). Districts can also refer to a type of division in the Republic of China on Taiwan.

However, if the word "district" is encountered in the context of ancient Chinese history, then it is a translation for xian, another type of administrative division in China.


  • People's Republic of China 1
    • City-controlled districts 1.1
      • Other districts 1.1.1
    • Forestry districts 1.2
    • County-controlled districts 1.3
  • Republic of China 2
  • Ancient sense 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5

People's Republic of China

City-controlled districts

A city district (Chinese: 市辖区,区; pinyin: Shìxiáqǖ, Qǖ, lit. a city-governed district ; also translated as a city-controlled district or a sub-city) is a subdivision of a municipality or a prefecture-level city. The rank of a district derives from the rank of its city. Districts of a municipality are prefecture-level; districts of a sub-provincial city are sub-prefecture-level; and districts of a prefecture-level city are county-level.

Before the 1980s, cities in the People's Republic of China were administrative divisions containing mostly urban, built-up areas, with very little farmland, except for the immediate suburbs in order to ensure a large supply of food or raw materials. As a result, districts were also mostly urban or suburban in nature.

After the 1980s, prefectures began to be replaced with prefecture-level cities. From then on, "cities" in mainland China became just like any other administrative division, containing urban areas, towns, villages, and farmland. These cities are subdivided into districts, counties, autonomous counties, and county-level cities. At the same time, counties and county-level cities began to be replaced with districts, especially after 1990. From then onwards, districts were no longer just urban entities — some districts today are just like counties, with towns and townships under them governing rural areas.

Other districts

Ethnic districts

A type of city districts that are specially created for ethnic minorities. Currently there are 4 such "ethnic districts": three in Henan and one in Heilongjiang.

Defunct ethnic district

A type of districts that are specially created for Sansha. Currently there are 3 such "islands-districts":

Special districts

A special county-level division located in Guizhou.

Forestry districts

A special Sub-prefectural-level forestry district located in Hubei.

County-controlled districts

A county-controlled district sometimes translated as county-governed district; county district or sub-county; (Chinese: 县辖区,区; pinyin: Xiànxiáqǖ, Qǖ) is a sub-county in P R China. A branch of a county government, a district public office (Chinese: 区公所; pinyin: Qū gōngsuǒ) is the administrative office in a district, it is not a local government. A county-controlled district was once an important subdivision of a county all over China from 1950s to 1990s. It was common for there to be about 5 to 10 districts in a county, then about 3 to 5 towns and townships in a district. After the 1990s, county-controlled districts began to be phased out, and their role were taken over by larger towns or townships created by merging smaller ones.

At the end of 2011, there are just 2 county-controlled districts left in China:

  • Nanshan District (Zhuolu County, Zhangjiakou, Hebei)
  • Kuiyibage District (Poskam County, Kaxgar Prefecture, Xinjiang)

See Administrative divisions of the People's Republic of China for how these two types of districts fit into the general administrative hierarchy of mainland China.

Republic of China

In the Republic of China (ROC, aka "Taiwan"), districts are the only subdivision of municipalities and provincial cities.

Ancient sense

If the word "district" is encountered in the context of ancient Chinese history, then the word is a translation for xian, another type of administrative division in China.

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

See Counties of the People's Republic of China for more information on the xian of China.

See also