Circuit (administrative division)
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Circuits originated in China in 627, when Emperor Taizong subdivided China into ten circuits. These were originally meant to be purely geographic and not administrative. Emperor Xuanzong further added five. Slowly, the circuits strengthened their own power, until they became powerful regional forces that tore the country apart during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. During the Later Jin and Song dynasties, circuits were renamed from dao to lu (路), both of which literally mean "road" or "path". Dao were revived during the Yuan Dynasty.
At first, circuits were the highest of the three-tier administrative system of China; the next two were prefectures or zhou (州) and counties (縣, also translated as "districts"). They are simultaneously inspection areas (監察區 jiān chá qū). Circuits were demoted to the second-level after the Yuan Dynasty established provinces at the very top, and remained there for the next several centuries.
Circuits still existed as high-level, though not top-level, divisions of the Republic of China, such as Qiongya Circuit (now Hainan Province). In 1928, all circuits were replaced with committees or just completely abandoned.
During the Asuka Period (AD 538–710), Japan was organized into five provinces and seven circuits, known as the Gokishichidō (5 ki 7 dō), as part of a legal and governmental system borrowed from the Chinese. Though these units did not survive as administrative structures beyond the Muromachi Period (1336–1573), they did remain important geographical entities up until the 19th century. The seven circuits spread over the islands of Honshū, Shikoku, and Kyūshū:
- Tōkaidō (東海道) "East Sea Circuit": 15 provinces (kuni)
- Nankaidō (南海道) "South Sea Circuit": 6 provinces
- Saikaidō (西海道) "West Sea Circuit": 8 provinces
- Hokurikudō (北陸道) "North Land Circuit": 7 provinces
- San'indō (山陰道) "Shaded-side Circuit": 8 provinces
- San'yōdō (山陽道) "Sunny-side Circuit": 8 provinces
- Tōsandō (東山道) "East Mountain Circuit": 13 provinces
Since the late 10th century, the do (“province”) has been the primary administrative division in Korea. See Eight Provinces, Provinces of Korea, Subdivisions of South Korea and Administrative divisions of North Korea for details.