Direct-controlled municipalities of China

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Municipality[1] (zhixiashi)
China municipalities numbered.svg
Simplified Chinese 直辖市
Traditional Chinese 直轄市

This article is part of the series:
Administrative divisions of China

History of the political divisions of China

Municipality (Chinese: 直辖市; pinyin: zhíxiáshì), also translated as Direct-controlled municipality, Municipality directly under the central government, or Province-level Municipality is the highest level classification for cities used by the People's Republic of China.


The first municipalities were the 11 cities of Nanjing, Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, Qingdao, Chongqing, Xi'an, Guangzhou, Hankou (now part of Wuhan), Shenyang, and Harbin when the ROC government ruled China. They were established in 1927 soon after they were designated as "cities" during the 1920s. Nominally Dalian was a municipality as well, although it was under Japanese control. These cities were first called special municipalities/cities (Chinese: 特別市; pinyin: Tébíeshì), but were later renamed Yuan-controlled municipalities (simplified Chinese: 院辖市; traditional Chinese: 院轄市; pinyin: Yùanxíashì), then direct-controlled municipalities (simplified Chinese: 直辖市; traditional Chinese: 直轄市; pinyin: Zhíxiáshì) by the Central Government.

After the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, Anshan, Benxi, and Fushun were also made municipalities, while Qingdao, Dalian, and Harbin were reduced to provincial municipalities.[2] Hankou was merged into Wuhan. Hence there remained 12 municipalities, until Dalian was elevated in 1950. In November 1952, Nanjing was reduced to a provincial municipality.[3] In July 1953, Harbin was restored to municipality status, along with Changchun.[4] Except Beijing and Tianjin, which were under central control, all other municipalities were governed by the greater administrative areas.

In June 1954, 11 of the 14 municipalities were reduced to sub-provincial cities; many of them became capitals of the provinces they were in. Only Beijing, Shanghai, and Tianjin remained municipalities, until Chongqing was restored as a municipality in 1997 with a much enlarged area. Tianjin was also temporarily reverted to sub-provincial city status around the 1960s.

Position in hierarchy[edit]

Municipalities are the highest-ranked cities in the PRC. Some cities of lower levels may also refer to themselves as municipalities in the English language.

Three levels of cities in the People's Republic of China:

  1. Municipalities (直辖市);
  2. Prefecture-level cities (地级市), including sub-provincial cities; and,
  3. County-level cities (县级市), including Sub-prefecture-level cities.


In municipalities, the highest ranking government official is the Mayor. The mayor is also a delegate in the National People's Congress (the legislature)[5] and Deputy Secretary of the CPC Municipal Committee. However, the highest administrative authority in the municipality belongs to the Secretary of the CPC Municipal Committee or Party Secretary.

Current PRC Municipalities[edit]

ISO[6] Division name Simp. Hanzi Hanyu Pinyin Abbr. Region Population[7] Area (km²) Density (/km²) Divisions City seat Province split from
CN-11 Municipality of Beijing 北京市 Běijīng Shì jīng North 19,612,368 16,801 1,167 List (14 districts & 2 counties) Dongcheng District (东城区) Hebei
(Oct. 1949)
CN-12 Municipality of Tianjin 天津市 Tiānjīn Shì jīn North 12,938,224 11,760 1,100 List (13 districts & 3 counties) Heping District (和平区) Hebei
(Jan. 1967)
CN-31 Municipality of Shanghai 上海市 Shànghǎi Shì East 23,019,148 6,340 3,630 List (16 districts & 1 county) Huangpu District (黄浦区) Jiangsu
(Mar. 1927)
CN-50 Municipality of Chongqing 重庆市 Chóngqìng Shì Southwest 28,846,170
(City Core 16,240,026)
(City Core 6,268)
(City Core 2158)
List (19 districts, 15 counties, & 4 autonomous counties)
(City Core: 16 districts & 3 counties)
Yuzhong District (渝中区) Sichuan
(May 1997)

Former municipalities[edit]

Name Simp. Hanzi Pinyin Abbr. Region City seat Administration period Original division
City of Jingdu 京都市 Jīngdū Shì jīng North Dongcheng District (东城区) 1921-1927 Zhili
(present province: Hebei)
City of Jingu 津沽市 Jīngū Shì jīn North Heping District (和平区) 1921-1927 Zhili
(present province: Hebei)
City of Songhu 淞沪市 Sōnghù Shì East Huangpu District (黄浦区) 1921-1927 Jiangsu
City of Qingdao 青岛市 Qīngdǎo Shì qīng East Shinan District (市南区) 1921-1927, 1929–1949 Shandong
City of Harbin 哈尔滨市 Hārbīn Shì Northeast Nangang District (南岗区) 1921-1927, 1947–1949, 1953–1954 Songjiang
(present province: Heilongjiang)
City of Hankou 汉口市 Hànkǒu Shì hàn South Central Jiang'an District (江岸区) 1921-1927 ,1929–1931, 1947-1949 Hubei
City of Wuxi 无锡市 Wúxī Shì East Binhu District (滨湖区) 1921-1927 Jiangsu
City of Hangzhou 杭州市 Hángzhōu Shì háng East Gongshu District (拱墅区) 1921-1927 Zhejiang
City of Ningbo 宁波市 Níngbō Shì yǒng East Jiangdong District (江东区) 1921-1927 Zhejiang
City of Anqing 安庆市 Ānqìng Shì ān East Daguan District (大观区) 1921-1927 Anhui
City of Nanchang 南昌市 Nánchāng Shì hóng East Donghu District (东湖区) 1921-1927 Jiangxi
City of Wuchang 武昌市 Wǔchāng Shì East Wuchang District (武昌区) 1921-1927 Hubei
City of Guangzhou 广州市 Guǎngzhōu Shì suì South Central Yuexiu District (越秀区) 1921-1927, 1930, 1947–1954 Guangdong
City of Wuzhou 梧州市 Wúzhōu Shì South Central Changzhou District (长洲区) 1921-1927 Guangxi
City of Nanjing 南京市 Nánjīng Shì níng East Xuanwu District (玄武区) 1927–1952 Jiangsu
City of Xi'an 西安市 Xī'ān Shì hào Northwest Weiyang District (未央区) 1927–1954 Shaanxi
City of Wuhan 武汉市 Wǔhàn Shì hàn South Central Jiang'an District (江岸区) 1927-1929, 1949 Hubei
City of Beiping 北平市 Jīngdū Shì píng North Dongcheng District (东城区) 1928-1949 Zhili
(present province: Hebei)
City of Dalian 大连市 Dàlián Shì lián Northeast Xigang District (西岗区) 1947–1949 Andong/Liaodong
(present province: Liaoning)
City of Shenyang 沈阳市 Shěnyáng Shì shěn Northeast Shenhe District (沈河区) 1947–1954 Liaoxi
(present province: Liaoning)
City of Anshan 鞍山市 Ānshān Shì ān Northeast Tiedong District (铁东区) 1949–1954 Andong/Liaodong
(present province: Liaoning)
City of Benxi 本溪市 Běnxī Shì běn Northeast Pingshan District (平山区) 1949–1954 Andong/Liaodong
(present province: Liaoning)
City of Fushun 抚顺市 Fǔshùn Shì Northeast Xinfu District (新抚区) 1949–1954 Andong/Liaodong
(present province: Liaoning)
City of Lüda 旅大市 Lǚdà Shì Northeast Xigang District (西岗区) 1950–1954 Lüda
(present province: Liaoning)
City of Changchun 长春市 Chángchūn Shì chūn Northeast Nanguan District (南关区) 1953–1954 Jilin