The 23 Provinces in the Country of China

Hong Kong and Macau are not provinces

China's Province Capitals and Sub-Provincial Cities Map
China's Province Capitals and Sub-Provincial Cities.

Wikimedia Commons

In terms of its 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 the provinces are controlled by the People's Republic of China (PRC). The 23rd province, Taiwan, is claimed by the PRC but it is not 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 comes in at 427.8 square miles (1,108 sq km) and Macau at 10.8 square miles (28.2 sq km).

The following provinces are ordered by land area and include capital cities.

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Aerial View Of Cityscape Against Sky
Xining. X Zhi Gu Yang Xi / EyeEm / Getty Images

Area: 278,457 square miles (721,200 sq km)

Capital: Xining

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

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Leshan - Chengdu - ZhuoYing ancient bridge - China
ZhuoYing Ancient Bridge in Sichuan Province. © Philippe LEJEANVRE / Getty Images

Area: 187,260 square miles (485,000 sq km)

Capital: Chengdu

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

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Area: 175,406 square miles (454,300 sq km)

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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Area: 175,290 square miles (454,000 sq km)

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 degrees Fahrenheit. Nonetheless, some crops, such as sugar beets and grains, do grow there.

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Tiger Leaping Gorge, deepest mountain hole in world, in Lijiang, Yunnan Province, China.
Tiger Leaping Gorge, Deepest mountain Hole in the World. Suttipong Sutiratanachai / Getty Images

Area: 154,124 square miles (394,000 sq km)

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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Area: 81,081 square miles (210,000 sq km)

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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Area: 79,382 square miles (205,600 sq km)

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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Area: 72,471 square miles (187,700 sq km)

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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Area: 72,355 square miles (187,400 sq km)

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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Area: 71,776 square miles (185,900 sq km)

Capital: Wuhan

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

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Area: 69,498 square miles (180,000 sq km)

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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Area: 67,953 square miles (176,000 sq km)

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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Area: 64,479 square miles (167,000 sq km)

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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Area: 64,479 square miles (167,000 sq km)

Capital: Zhengzhou

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

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Area: 60,347 square miles (156,300 sq km)

Capital: Taiyuan

Shanxi province has a semiarid climate, with the vast majority of its 16 to 20 inches (400 to 650 mm) 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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Area: 59,382 square miles (153,800 sq km)

Capital: Jinan

The seaside is a big feature of Shangong 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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Area: 56,332 square miles (145,900 sq km)

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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Area: 53,938 square miles (139,700 sq km)

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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Area: 46,834 square miles (121,300 sq km)

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 back to 300 BC.

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Area: 39,614 square miles (102,600 sq km)

Capital: Nanjing

Nanjing, in Jiangsu, was the capital during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) and again during the 20th century (1928–1949) and has been culturally and economically significant since antiquity.

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Area: 39,382 square miles (102,000 sq km)

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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Area: 13,738 square miles (35,581 sq km)

Capital: Taipei

The island of Taiwan has been a place much fought over for hundreds of years; it's occasionally had self-rule but also has been a territory of the Netherlands, Nationalist China, and Japan. It's where the Nationalist Chinese fled after the People's Republic of China took over the mainland government in 1949.

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Modern Cable-Stayed Bridge Over River In City During Sunset
Haikou. Gao Yu L / EyeEm / Getty Images

Area: 13,127 square miles (34,000 sq km)

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 km), featuring many bays and natural harbors.