History of the administrative divisions of China (1912–49)

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Map of the Republic of China in 1926

The History of the administrative divisions of China between 1912 and 1949 refers to the administrative divisions under the Republic of China government control.

Beiyang Government (1912–28)[edit]

Main article: Beiyang Government

The Beiyang Government streamlined the system used in Qing Dynasty down to three levels:

The Beiyang Government set up four more provinces out of Inner Mongolia and the surrounding areas (Chahar, Jehol, Ningsia, Suiyuan) and two others out of parts of historical Tibet (Sikang out of Kham and Tsinghai out of Amdo; Ü-Tsang was the Dalai Lama's realm at this time and not part of any province), bringing the total number of provinces up to 28.

Administrative divisions of the Republic of China (1912–1928)
Division name Abbreviation Capital name Note
Postal Map Chinese Pinyin Chinese Pinyin Postal Map Chinese Pinyin
Provinces ( Shěng)
Anhwei 安徽 Ānhuī Wǎn Anking 安慶 Ānqìng
Chekiang 浙江 Zhèjiāng Zhè Hangchow 杭州 Hángzhōu
Chihli 直隸 Zhílì Zhí Tientsin 天津 Tiānjīn 1914 area around Peking (Beijing) split into Shuntien Prefecture
Fengtien 奉天 Fèngtiān Fèng Mukden 瀋陽 Shěnyáng
Fukien 福建 Fújiàn Mǐn Foochow 福州 Fúzhōu
Heilungkiang 黑龍江 Hēilóngjiāng Hēi Tsitsihar 齊齊哈爾 Qíqíhāěr 1914 Hulunbuir Region split, 1920 merged back.
Honan 河南 Hénán Kaifeng 開封 Kāifēng
Hunan 湖南 Húnán Xiāng Changsha 長沙 Chángshā
Hupeh 湖北 Húběi È Wuchang 武昌 Wǔchāng
Kansu 甘肅 Gānsù Lǒng Lanchow 蘭州 Lánzhōu
Kiangsi 江西 Jiāngxī Gàn Nanchang 南昌 Nánchāng
Kiangsu 江蘇 Jiāngsū Nanking 南京 Nánjīng 1912 area around Nanking (Nanjing) shortly split to a prefecture
Kirin 吉林 Jílín Kirin 吉林 Jílín
Kwangsi 廣西 Guǎngxī Guì Nanning 南寧 Nánníng
Kwangtung 廣東 Guǎngdōng Yuè Canton 廣州 Guǎngzhōu
Kweichow 貴州 Guìzhōu Qián Kweiyang 貴陽 Guìyáng
Shansi 山西 Shānxī Jìn Taiyuan 太原 Tàiyuán
Shantung 山東 Shāndōng Tsinan 濟南 Jǐnán
Shensi 陝西 Shǎnxī Shǎn Sian 西安 Xī'ān
Sinkiang 新疆 Xīnjiāng Xīn Tihwa 迪化 Díhuà Tihwa was renamed Ürümqi (烏魯木齊) after 1949
Szechwan 四川 Sìchuān Shǔ Chengtu 成都 Chéngdū
Yunnan 雲南 Yúnnán Diān Kunming 昆明 Kūnmíng
Areas (地方 Dìfāng)
Capital 京兆 Jīngzhào Jīng About the place of modern Municipality of Beijing
Inner Mongolia 內蒙古 Nèiménggǔ 內蒙 Nèiméng Inner Mongolia was divided into several Mongolian leagues and banners. There was no obvious capital.
Split into Chahar, Jehol, Suiyuan in 1913-14.
Outer Mongolia 外蒙古 Wàiménggǔ 外蒙 Wàiméng Kulun 庫倫 Kùlún Kulun was renamed Ulaan Bator after the independence of Mongolia
Tibet 西藏 Xīzàng Zàng Lhasa 拉薩 Lāsà
Tsinghai 青海 Qīnghǎi Qīng Sining 西寧 Xïníng
Regions (區域 Qūyù)
Altay 阿爾泰 Ā'ěrtài 阿爾泰 Āěrtài Altay 承化寺 Chénghuàsì 1920 abolished → Sinkiang
The Chinese name of the capital 承化寺 was changed to Ālètài (阿勒泰) after 1949.
Hulunbuir 呼倫貝爾 Hūlúnbèi'ěr 呼倫貝爾 Hūlúnbèi'ěr Hailar 海拉爾 Hǎilā'ěr 1915 created, 1920 abolished → Heilungkiang
Tarbaghatay 塔爾巴哈臺 Tǎ'ěrbāhātái 塔城 Tǎchéng Tacheng 塔城 Tǎchéng 1912 created, 1916 abolished → Sinkiang
Prefectures ( )
Nanking 南京 Nánjīng Níng January 1912 created, February 1912 abolished → Kiangsu
Shuntien 順天 Shùntiān Jīng May 1914 created from Chihli, renamed Capital Area in October
Special Administrative Regions (特別區 Tèbiéqū)
Chahar 察哈爾 Cháhāěr Chá Changyuan 張垣 Zhāngyuán 1914 created from Inner Mongolia
Changyuan was renamed Zhangjiakou (張家口) after 1949.
Chwanpien 川邊 Chuānbiān 川邊 Chuānbiān Kangting 康定 Kāngdìng 1925 renamed to Sikang
Jehol 熱河 Rèhé Chengteh 承德 Chéngdé 1914 created from Inner Mongolia
Sikang 西康 Xīkāng Kāng Kangting 康定 Kāngdìng 1925 renamed from Chwanpien
Suiyuan 綏遠 Suīyuǎn Suī Kweisui 歸綏 Gūisūi 1913 created from Inner Mongolia
Kweisui was renamed Hohhot (呼和浩特) after 1949
Tungsheng 東省 Dōngshěng 東省 Dōngshěng Harbin 哈爾濱 Hā'ěrbīn Land along the Chinese Eastern Railway, spanned from Manzhouli through Harbin to Suifenhe.
Commercial Region (商埠 Shāngbù)
Kiao-ao 膠澳 Jiāo'ào Jiāo Tsingtao 青島 Qīngdǎo Formerly Japanese and German concession.
1925 abolished → Shantung
Sunghu 淞滬 Sōnghù Shanghai 上海 Sànghǎi Status in dispute. Division established by the Zhili clique leader Sun Chuanfang, was not recognized by the central government.

Nationalist Government (1928–49)[edit]

Map of the Republic of China in 1936
Map of administrative divisions and claims by the Republic of China between 1949 and 2005.
Map of the Republic of China in 1945

The Nationalist Government also began setting up municipalities, cities directly administered by the central government. More levels began to be added below the county, townships for instance. Circuits were then abolished in 1928 as being superfluous. However, this reform was soon found to be unfeasible since the average province now had 50+ counties and some more than a hundred. As a result, some provinces were later subdivided into several prefectures.

  • Provinces (省, shěng)
    • Administrative superintendent district (行政督察區, xíngzhèng dūcháqū)
  • Counties (縣, xiàn)

The creation of the puppet state Manchukuo by the Empire of Japan in the 1930s deprived China of 4 provinces in the northeast (Fengtien, Heilungkiang, Jehol, Kirin). After the defeat of Japan in 1945, Manchuria was reincorporated into China as 9 provinces and 3 municipalities. The Republic of China also annexed Taiwan and the Pescadores and organized into Taiwan Province. By this time there was a total of thirty-five provinces, twelve municipalities (院轄市, yuànxiáshì), one special administrative region (特別行政區, tèbié xíngzhèngqǖ), and two regions (地方, difāng) as first-level divisions under the Republic of China.

Administrative divisions of the Republic of China (1928–1949)
Division name Abbreviation Capital name Note
Postal Map Chinese Pinyin Chinese Pinyin Postal Map Chinese Pinyin
Provinces ( Shěng)
Antung 安東 Āndōng Ān Tunghwa 通化 Tōnghuà 1947 created from Manchukuo (originally part of Liaoning)
Anhwei 安徽 Ānhuī Wǎn Hofei 合肥 Héféi
Chahar 察哈爾 Cháhāěr Chá Changyuan 張垣 Zhāngyuán 1928 reformed from a special administrative region
Changyuan was renamed Zhangjiakou (張家口) after 1949.
Chekiang 浙江 Zhèjiāng Zhè Hangchow 杭州 Hángzhōu
Fukien 福建 Fújiàn Mǐn Foochow 福州 Fúzhōu
Heilungkiang 黑龍江 Hēilóngjiāng Hēi Peian 北安 Běi'ān 1945 recreated from Manchukuo
Hokiang 合江 Héjiāng Chiamussu 佳木斯 Jiāmùsī 1947 created from Manchukuo (originally part of Kirin)
Honan 河南 Hénán Kaifeng 開封 Kāifēng
Hopeh 河北 Héběi Tsingyuan 清苑 Qīngyuàn 1928 renamed from Chihli
Tsingyuan was renamed to Baoding (保定) after 1949
Hunan 湖南 Húnán Xiāng Changsha 長沙 Chángshā
Hupeh 湖北 Húběi È Wuchang 武昌 Wǔchāng
Hsingan 興安 Xīng'ān Xīng Hailar 海拉爾 Jiāmùsī 1947 created from Manchukuo (originally part of Heilungkiang)
Hailar was renamed to Hulunbuir (呼倫貝爾) after 1949
Jehol 熱河 Rèhé Chengteh 承德 Chéngdé 1928 reformed from a special administrative region, 1945 recreated from Manchukuo
Kansu 甘肅 Gānsù Lǒng Lanchow 蘭州 Lánzhōu
Kiangsi 江西 Jiāngxī Gàn Nanchang 南昌 Nánchāng
Kiangsu 江蘇 Jiāngsū Chingkiang 鎮江 Zhènjiāng
Kirin 吉林 Jílín Kirin 吉林 Jílín 1945 recreated from Manchukuo
Kwangsi 廣西 Guǎngxī Guì Nanning 南寧 Nánníng
Kwangtung 廣東 Guǎngdōng Yuè Canton 廣州 Guǎngzhōu
Kweichow 貴州 Guìzhōu Qián Kweiyang 貴陽 Guìyáng
Liaoning 遼寧 Liáoníng Liáo Mukden 瀋陽 Shěnyáng 1929 renamed from Fengtien, 1945 recreated from Manchukuo
Liaopeh 遼北 Liáoběi Táo Liaoyuan 遼源 Liáoyuán 1947 created from Manchukuo (originally part of Liaoning)
Ningsia 寧夏 Níngxià Níng Yinchwan 銀川 Yínchuān 1928 created from Kansu
Nunkiang 嫩江 Nènjiāng Nèn Tsitsihar 齊齊哈爾 Qíqíhāěr 1947 created from Manchukuo (originally part of Heilungkiang)
Shansi 山西 Shānxī Jìn Taiyuan 太原 Tàiyuán
Shantung 山東 Shāndōng Tsinan 濟南 Jǐnán
Shensi 陝西 Shǎnxī Shǎn Sian 西安 Xī'ān
Sikang 西康 Xīkāng Kāng Kangting 康定 Kāngdìng 1928 reformed from a special administrative region
Sinkiang 新疆 Xīnjiāng Xīn Tihwa 迪化 Díhuà Tihwa was renamed Ürümqi (烏魯木齊) after 1949
Suiyuan 綏遠 Suīyuǎn Suī Kweisui 歸綏 Gūisūi 1928 reformed from a special administrative region
Kweisui was renamed Hohhot (呼和浩特) after 1949
Sungkiang 松江 Sōngjiāng Sōng Mutankiang 牡丹江 Mǔdānjiāng 1947 created from Manchukuo (originally part of Kirin)
Szechwan 四川 Sìchuān Shǔ Chengtu 成都 Chéngdū
Taiwan 臺灣 Táiwān Tái Taipei 臺北 Táiběi 1945 annexed from Japan
Tsinghai 青海 Qīnghǎi Qīng Sining 西寧 Xīníng 1928 reformed from an area
Yunnan 雲南 Yúnnán Diān Kunming 昆明 Kūnmíng
Special Administrative Regions (特別行政區 Tèbiéxíngzhèngqū)
Hainan 海南 Hǎinán Qióng Haikow 海口 Hǎikǒu 1931 Kiung-ai (瓊崖) was planned to create, 1949 created from Kwangtung
Tungsheng 東省 Dōngshěng 東省 Dōngshěng Harbin 哈爾濱 Hā'ěrbīn 1932 abolished by Manchukuo
Weihai 威海 Wēihāi 威海 Wēihāi Weihai 威海 Wēihāi 1930 acquired from the United Kingdom, 1945 abolished → Shantung
Areas (地方 Dìfāng)
Mongolia 蒙古 Ménggǔ Méng Kulun 庫倫 Kùlún Kulun was renamed Ulaan Bator after the independence of Mongolia in 1946
Tibet 西藏 Xīzàng Zàng Lhasa 拉薩 Lāsà
Special municipalities (直轄市 Zhíxiáshì)
Canton 廣州 Guǎngzhōu Suì Jan 1930 created from Kwangtung, Jun merged back. 1947 recreated
Chungking 重慶 Chóngqìng 1927 created from Szechwan
Dairen 大連 Dàlián Lián 1947 created from Manchukuo (originally part of Liaoning)
Hankow 漢口 Hànkǒu Hàn 1927 created Wuhan from Hupeh, 1929 renamed to Hankow, 1931 merged back, 1947 recreated
Harbin 哈爾濱 Hā'ěrbīn 1947 created from Manchukuo (originally part of Heilungkiang)
Mukden 瀋陽 Shěnyáng Shěn 1947 created from Manchukuo (originally part of Liaoning)
Nanking 南京 Nánjīng Jīng 1927 created from Kiangsu
Peiping 北平 Běipíng Píng 1928 created from Hopeh, Jun 1930 merged back, Dec 1930 recreated. 1949 renamed back to Peking (北京)
Shanghai 上海 Shànghǎi 1927 reform Sunghu commercial region to a municipality, created from Kiangsu
Sian 西安 Xī'ān Ān 1933 planned to create Siking (西京), 1947 created from Shensi
Tientsin 天津 Tiānjīn Jīn 1928 created from Hopeh, 1930 merged back. 1935 recreated
Tsingtao 青島 Qīngdǎo Qīng 1929 created from Shantung.

Administrative divisions published after 1949 to 2005[edit]

Map comparing political divisions as drawn by the Republic of China and the People's Republic of China.

After the loss of the mainland to the Communist Party of China in the Chinese Civil War and its retreat to Taiwan in 1949, the Nationalist Party continued to regard the Republic of China as the sole legitimate government of China. The jurisdiction of the Republic was restricted to Taiwan, the Pescadores, and a few islands off Fujian, but the Republic of China has never retracted its claim to mainland China or Mongolia. Accordingly, the official first-order divisions of Republic of China remain the historical divisions of China immediately prior to the loss of mainland China and maps of China and the world published in Taiwan sometimes show provincial and national boundaries as they were in 1949, ignoring changes made by the Communist government and including Mongolia, northern Burma (northern Kachin state), and Tannu Uriankhai as part of the Republic. Maps and list of administrative divisions covering above places were published until 2005.

In 2005, the nominal political divisions of the Republic were 35 provinces, 1 special administrative region, 2 regions, 14 special municipalities (adding Taipei and Kaohsiung to the original list), 14 leagues, and 4 special banners. For second-order divisions, under provinces and special administrative regions, there are counties, province-controlled cities (56), bureaus (34) and management bureaus (7). Under provincial-level municipalities there are districts, and under leagues there are banners (127).

Changes made to Province-level divisions of the Republic of China between 1949 and 2005
Name Traditional
Chinese
Pinyin Abbreviation Capital Capital in Chinese Notes
Provinces
Fujian 福建 Fújiàn 閩 mǐn Jincheng Township 金城鎮 The capital of Fukien Province was moved to Xindian in 1956, and moved to Jincheng Township, Kinmen since 1996.
Taiwan 臺灣 Táiwān 臺 tái Zhongxing New Village 中興新村 The capital of Taiwan Province was moved to Zhongxing Village in Nantou County from Taipei in the 1960s.
Kiangsu 江蘇 Jiāngsū 蘇 sū Shengsi County 嵊泗縣 The government of Kiangsu Province was moved to Shengsi County in 1949. In 1950 the county was conquered by the PLA and the Kiangsu Provincial Government was abolished soon after.
Chekiang 浙江 Zhèjiāng 浙 zhè Taiwan Province 臺灣省 The government of Chekiang Province in Ganlan Township of Dinghai County was abolished in 1950. In 1951, the provincial government was re-established on the Tachen Islands of Wenling County, later to be moved to Taiwan Province in 1953. After the loss of the Yijiangshan Islands during the Battle of Yijiangshan Islands in 1955, the provincial government was abolished.
Szechwan 四川 Sìchuān 蜀 shǔ Xichang County 西昌縣 After the loss of its capital of Chengdu in the December of 1949, the Provincial Government was moved to Xichang County of Xikang Province and remained there until its abolishment in 1950.
Sikang 西康 Xīkāng 康 kāng Xichang County 西昌縣 The government of Xikang Province was re-established in Xichang County in Dec. 1949. In 1950, Xichang was taken over by the PLA.
Kwangtung 廣東 Guǎngdōng 粵 yuè Haikou City 海口市 The government of Kwangtung Province was moved to Haikou City of Hainan in 1949 after the loss of its capital Guangdong. After the loss of Hainan in 1950, the government was subsequently abolished.
Yunnan 雲南 Yúnnán 滇 diān Bangkok 曼谷 The government of Yunnan was moved to Bangkok in 1950 and abolished in 1951.
Sinkiang 新疆 Xīnjiāng 新 xīn Dihua City 迪化市 Provincial Government of Sinkiang was abolished in 1992.
Special Administrative Regions
Hainan 海南 Hǎinán 瓊 qióng Haikow City 海口市 Government abolished in 1950.
Special Municipalities The Chinese name 院轄市 Yuànxiáshì was changed to 直轄市 Zhíxiáshì in 1994.
Kaohsiung 高雄 Gāoxióng 高 gāo Lingya District 苓雅區 Kaohsiung was elevated in 1979.
Taipei 臺北 Táiběi 北 běi Xinyi District 信義區 Taipei was elevated in 1967.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]