Rahul Sharma (Editor)

Prefecture level city

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Simplified Chinese  地级市
Hanyu Pinyin  Dìjíshì
Jyutping  dei6 kap1 si5
Traditional Chinese  地級市
Romanization  thi-kip-sṳ:
Prefecture-level city

Literal meaning  Regional-level municipality

A prefectural-level municipality (Chinese: 地级市), prefectural-level city or prefectural city is an administrative division of the People's Republic of China (PRC), ranking below a province and above a county in China's administrative structure. Prefectural level cities form the second level of the administrative structure (alongside prefectures, leagues and autonomous prefectures). Administrative chiefs (mayors) of prefectural level cities generally have the same rank as a division chief (Chinese: 司长) of a national ministry. Since the 1980s, most former prefectures have been renamed into prefectural level cities.


A prefectural level city is a "city" (Chinese: ; pinyin: shì) and "prefecture" (Chinese: 地区; pinyin: dìqū) that have been merged into one unified jurisdiction. As such it is simultaneously a city, which is a municipal entry with subordinate districts, and a prefecture with subordinate county-level cities and counties which is an administrative division of a province.

A prefectural level city is often not a "city" in the usual sense of the term (i.e., a large continuous urban settlement), but instead an administrative unit comprising, typically, a main central urban area (a city in the usual sense, usually with the same name as the prefectural level city), and its much larger surrounding rural area containing many smaller cities, towns and villages. The larger prefectural level cities span over 100 kilometres (62 mi).

Prefectural level cities nearly always contain multiple counties, county level cities, and other such sub-divisions. This results from the fact that the formerly predominant prefectures, which prefectural level cities have mostly replaced, were themselves large administrative units containing cities, smaller towns, and rural areas. To distinguish a prefectural level city from its actual urban area (city in the strict sense), the term 市区 shìqū ("urban area"), is used.

The first prefectural level cities were created on 5 November 1983. Over the following two decades, prefectural level cities have come to replace the vast majority of Chinese prefectures; the process is still ongoing.

Most provinces are composed entirely or nearly entirely of prefectural level cities. Of the 22 provinces and 5 autonomous regions of the PRC, only 9 provinces (Yunnan, Guizhou, Qinghai, Heilongjiang, Sichuan, Gansu, Jilin, Hubei, Hunan) and 3 autonomous regions (Xinjiang, Tibet, Inner Mongolia) have at least one or more second level or prefectural level divisions that are not prefectural level cities.

Criteria that a prefecture must meet to become a prefectural level city:

  • An urban centre with a non-rural population over 250,000
  • gross output of value of industry of 200,000,000 RMB (US$32 million)
  • the output of tertiary industry supersedes that of primary industry, contributing over 35% of the GDP
  • 15 large prefectural level cities have been granted the status of sub-provincial city, which gives them much greater autonomy.

    Shijiazhuang and Zhengzhou are the largest prefectural level cities with populations approaching or exceeding some sub-provincial cities.

    A sub-prefecture-level city is a county-level city with powers approaching those of prefectural level cities.


    There are total of three classification of prefecture-level city:

  • Regular prefectural level city which consist of counties, county level cities, and districts subdivisions.
  • Consolidated district-governed prefectural level city which only consist of districts as it subdivisions.
  • Currently there are only 13 cities are under this classification: Ezhou, Foshan, Guangzhou, Haikou, Karamay, Laiwu, Nanjing, Sanya, Shenzhen, Wuhai, Wuhan, Xiamen, Zhuhai
  • Prefectural level city with no county-level divisions (Direct-piped city) are cities that are not governed by any county-level divisions such as counties, county level cities, or legal administrative districts.
  • Currently there are only 5 cities are under this classification: Danzhou, Dongguan, Jiayuguan, Sansha, Zhongshan
  • Cartographic expression and statistics

    In Europe and North America, cities are generally represented as points, while counties are represented as areas. Thus, Bloomington, Indiana is indicated on the map by a point, which is distinct from, and enclosed by, the area of Monroe County, Indiana. In China, however, large cities such as City of Xianning may, in reality, contain both urban and rural elements. Moreover, they may enclose counties or other cities. On a less detailed map, City of Xianning would be indicated by a point, more or less corresponding to the coordinates of its city government. Other populous areas may also be exhibited as points, such as County of Tongshan, with no indication that County of Tongshan is, in fact, enclosed by City of Xianning. On a more detailed map, City of Xianning would be drawn as an area, similar to a county of the United States, and County of Tongshan would be drawn as a smaller area within City of Xianning.

    This convention may lead to difficulty in the identification of places mentioned in older sources. For example, Guo Moruo writes that he was born in Town of Shawan, within Prefecture of Leshan, and attended primary school in Town of Jiading. A modern map is unlikely to show either town: Shawan, because it is too small, and Jiading, because it is the seat of City of Leshan, and is therefore indicated on the map by a point labelled "Leshan." A more detailed map would show Shawan as a district within City of Leshan, but Jiading would still be missing.

    Statistics of China such as population and industrial activity are generally reported along prefectural city lines. Thus, the relatively unknown City of Huangshi has 2.5 million residents, more than most European capitals, but upon closer inspection, the city covers an area almost 100 kilometers across. Furthermore, Huangshi contains several other cities, such as City of Daye. If a person wished to calculate the population of the urban area of Huangshi, and had a map of Huangshi, and a table of its population by district, the task might not be easy. The urban area might be split between several districts, and some of those districts may include rural elements as well.

    Prefecture-level city list

    As of February 2016, there are 293 Prefecture-level city in total:


    Prefecture-level city Wikipedia