Samiksha Jaiswal (Editor)

District (China)

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Simplified Chinese  
Hanyu Pinyin  
Traditional Chinese  市轄區
Traditional Chinese  
Simplified Chinese  市辖区
Hanyu Pinyin  Shìxiáqǖ
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, district or sub-city (Chinese: ), formally city-governed district, city-controlled district, or municipal district (Chinese: 市辖区), are subdivisions 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.

It was also formerly used to refer the obsolete County-controlled districts (also known as district public office).

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.

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 strictly an urban entities — some districts today are just like counties, with a large towns and townships under them governing rural areas.

Regular districts

A regular district under a municipality or prefecture-level city.

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.

  • Chanhe Hui District
  • Guancheng Hui District
  • Shunhe Hui District
  • Meilisi Daur District
  • Defunct ethnic district

  • Huimin District
  • Special districts

    A special county-level division located in Guizhou.

  • Liuzhi Special District, Liupanshui
  • Forestry districts

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

  • Shennongjia
  • County-controlled districts (obsolete)

    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 the People's Republic of 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.

    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.


    District (China) Wikipedia