Discover the 23 Provinces of China

Hong Kong and Macau are not provinces

A map of China with all of its provinces labeled

chokkicx / Getty Images

In terms of area, China is the third largest country in the world, but it is the world's largest based on population. China is divided into 23 provinces, 22 of which are controlled by the People's Republic of China (PRC). The 23rd province, Taiwan, is claimed by the PRC, but it is not administered or controlled by the PRC, and is thus a de facto independent country. Hong Kong and Macau are not provinces of China, but are called special administrative areas. Hong Kong measures 427.8 square miles (1,108 square kilometers), with Macau at 10.8 square miles (28.2 square kilometers). The provinces are ordered here by land area and include capital cities.

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The cityscape of Xining against a mountainous backdrop
X Zhi Gu Yang Xi / EyeEm / Getty Images
  • Area: 278,457 square miles (721,200 square kilometers)
  • Capital: Xining

The name of the province comes from Qinghai Hu or Koko Nor (blue lake), which sits about 10,500 feet (3,200 meters) above sea level. The region is known for horse breeding.

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ZhuoYing, an ancient stone bridge outside of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan
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  • Area: 187,260 square miles (485,000 square kilometers)
  • Capital: Chengdu

The enormous 2008 earthquake killed some 90,000 people in the mountainous region, and wiped out entire towns.

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The 35-meter long reclining Buddha statue in Gansu

Keren Su/China Span

  • Area: 175,406 square miles (454,300 square kilometers)
  • Capital: Lanzhou

The Gansu Province includes some dramatic arid landscapes, including mountains, sand dunes, striped colorful rock formations, and a portion of the Gobi Desert.

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Visitors admire ice sculptures during the Ice and Snow Festival in Harbin, Heilongjiang

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  • Area: 175,290 square miles (454,000 square kilometers)
  • Capital: Harbin

Heilongjiang Province is prone to severe winters that last from five to eight months, with only 100 to 140 frost-free days per year and four months with temperatures higher than 50 F. Nonetheless, some crops, such as sugar beets and grains, do grow there.

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Tiger Leaping Gorge, the deepest mountain hole in the world, in Lijiang, Yunnan
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  • Area: 154,124 square miles (394,000 square kilometers)
  • Capital: Kunming

The southwest China province of Yunnan is ethnically diverse, and each group has its own traditions and cuisine. Tiger Leaping Gorge was named a UNESCO World Heritage natural site.

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Fenghuang, one of the classic ancient river villages of Hunan, China

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  • Area: 81,081 square miles (210,000 square kilometers)
  • Capital: Changsha

The subtropical Hunan Province, known for its natural splendor, contains the Yangtze River on the north and is bordered by mountains to the south, east, and west.

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In preparation for the Lantern Festival after the lunar New Year, the Ming Dynasty City Wall Relic is illuminated by lanterns Xian, Shaanxi

China Photos / Getty Images

  • Area: 79,382 square miles (205,600 square kilometers)
  • Capital: Xi'an

At the center of the country, Shaanxi history predates the earliest Chinese dynasties, as fossils of Lantian Man, from 500,000 to 600,000 years ago, have been found here.

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The Jinshanling Great Wall, built in 1368 and located in Chengde City, Hebei, is bathed in the light of a pink sunset

zhouyousifang / Getty Images

  • Area: 72,471 square miles (187,700 square kilometers)
  • Capital: Shijiazhuang

You’ll travel to Hebei Province to go to China’s capital, Beijing, and can see the Yan Mountains, with a portion of the Great Wall, the Hebei Plain, and the North China Plain. About half of the province is mountainous.

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Jilin City skyline with lake, buildings, and mountains

Anthony Mance / Getty Images

  • Area: 72,355 square miles (187,400 square kilometers)
  • Capital: Changchun

The Jilin province borders Russia, North Korea, and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Jilin contains mountains, plains, and rolling hills in between.

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Pink and purple lotuses floating on a lake set against skyscrapers in Hubei

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  • Area: 71,776 square miles (185,900 square kilometers)
  • Capital: Wuhan

The changes in the Yangtze River between summer and winter in this province are dramatic, with an average difference of 45 feet (14 meters), making it difficult to navigate in the winter when it’s shallowest.

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Both sides of the Pearl River in Guangzhou lit up at sunset

Zhonghui Bao / Getty Images

  • Area: 69,498 square miles (180,000 square kilometers)
  • Capital: Guangzhou

People around the world recognize Cantonese cuisine, from Guangdong. The province is the country’s richest, as it contains many large urban centers, though the wealth gap between urban and rural in the region is wide.

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The mirrored reflection of the business district in Guiyang

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  • Area: 67,953 square miles (176,000 square kilometers)
  • Capital: Guiyang

China’s Guizhou Province sits on an eroded plateau that slopes steeply from the center to the north, east, and south. Thus, rivers here flow from it in three different directions.

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Fields of bright yellow rapeseed flowers color the Jiangxi landscape

Photo by Vincent Ting / Getty Images

  • Area: 64,479 square miles (167,000 square kilometers)
  • Capital: Nanchang

The name of the Jiangxi Province literally translates to “west of the river,” meaning the Yangtze, but it actually is south of it.

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The colorful exterior and pagoda of Shifang Buddhist Temple on a sunny day in Dengfeng City, Henan

Daniel Hanscom / Getty Images

  • Area: 64,479 square miles (167,000 square kilometers)
  • Capital: Zhengzhou

Henan Province is the most populous in China. Its Huang He (Yellow) River, which is 3,395 miles (5,464 kilometers) long, has caused some of the deadliest floods in history (in 1887, 1931, and 1938) that together have killed millions. When it floods, it brings vast amounts of silt with it.

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Natural scenery in a rainy valley in the Taihang mountains, Shanxi

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  • Area: 60,347 square miles (156,300 square kilometers)
  • Capital: Taiyuan

Shanxi province has a semiarid climate, with the vast majority of its 16 to 20 inches (400 to 650 millimeters) of annual rainfall coming between June and September. More than 2,700 different plants have been identified in the province, including some protected species.

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Terraced fields and a Chinese city against the mountains in Shandong

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  • Area: 59,382 square miles (153,800 square kilometers)
  • Capital: Jinan

The seaside is a big feature of Shandong Province, as it has a peninsula that juts out into the Yellow Sea. Another water-related must-see tourist spot is Daming Lake in Jinan, where lotuses bloom on the water in the summer.

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Sunset on New Year's Eve in Dalian, Liaoning

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  • Area: 56,332 square miles (145,900 square kilometers)
  • Capital: Shenyang

The peninsula area of the Liaoning Province was fought over in the 1890s and early 1900s by Japan and Russia and was the site of the Mukden (Manchurian) Incident in 1931 when Japan seized the city of Mukden (now Shenyang) and invaded Manchuria.

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A peak at Huangshan Mountain National Park in Anhui wreathed in clouds

Stephen Wallace / Getty Images

  • Area: 53,938 square miles (139,700 square kilometers)
  • Capital: Hefei

The name of the province means “peaceful beauty” and comes from the names of two cities, Anqing and Huizhou. The region has had human habitation for 2.25 to 2.5 million years.

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Fujian Tǔlóu, old rural dwellings in the mountains of southeastern Fujian

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  • Area: 46,834 square miles (121,300 square kilometers)
  • Capital: Fuzhou

The picturesque Fujian Province might be a small province, but due to its location opposite of Taiwan, bordering the China Sea, it’s been strategically important in its long history, which appears in written records dating to B.C.E. 300.

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Jiangsu's capital, Nanjing, surrounded by the dark clouds of a typhoon

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  • Area: 39,614 square miles (102,600 square kilometers)
  • Capital: Nanjing

Nanjing, in Jiangsu, was the capital during the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644), and again from 1928 to 1949, and has been culturally and economically significant since antiquity.

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A traditional pagoda set against the background of Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang

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  • Area: 39,382 square miles (102,000 square kilometers)
  • Capital: Hangzhou

One of the richest and most densely populated provinces of China, Zhejiang's industry includes textiles, metal, furniture, appliances, paper/printing, car and bicycle manufacturing, and construction.

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The dramatic lights of Taiwan's capital city, Taipei, surrounding the immense and iconic skyscraper Taipei 101

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  • Area: 13,738 square miles (35,581 square kilometers)
  • Capital: Taipei

The island of Taiwan has been a place much fought over for hundreds of years. It has had self-rule but also has been a territory of the Netherlands, Nationalist China, and Japan. Currently, Taiwan has democratically elected leaders and its own constitution as well as its own armed forces. It considers itself a sovereign state. However, China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province.

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Modern cable-stayed bridge over river in city during sunset in Haikou

Gao Yu L / EyeEm / Getty Images

  • Area: 13,127 square miles (34,000 square kilometers)
  • Capital: Haikou

The name of the island province of Hainan literally means "south of the sea." Oval in shape, it has a lot of coastline, 930 miles (1,500 kilometers), featuring many bays and natural harbors.

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Briney, Amanda. "Discover the 23 Provinces of China." ThoughtCo, Mar. 7, 2022, Briney, Amanda. (2022, March 7). Discover the 23 Provinces of China. Retrieved from Briney, Amanda. "Discover the 23 Provinces of China." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 21, 2023).