Counties ( zh|t=縣|s=县|hp=Xiàn), formally county-level divisions, are found in the third level
of the administrative hierarchy in Provinces
and Autonomous regions
and the second level in municipalities
, a level that is known as "county level" and also contains autonomous counties
, county-level cities
, autonomous banners
and City districts
. There are 1,355 counties in Mainland China
out of a total of 2,851 county-level divisions.
The term ''xian'' is sometimes translated as "district" or "prefecture" when put in the context of Chinese history
''Xian'' have existed since the Warring States period
and were set up nationwide 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 1,000. Under the Eastern Han Dynasty
, the number of counties increased to above 1,000. 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.
Autonomous counties () 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 Communist Party of China
is central to directing government policy in Mainland China, every level of administrative division has a local CPC Committee
. A county's is called the CPC County Committee
() and the head called the Secretary
(), the ''de facto'' highest office of the county. Policies are carried out via the People's government
of the county, and its head is called the County Governor (). The governor is often also one of the deputy secretaries in the CPC Committee.
* — ''historical''.
* List of counties in the People's Republic of China
* List of county-level divisions of China
* History of the administrative divisions of China
Category:Administrative divisions of China