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Time in China

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The National Time Service Center
in Mount Li, Lintong District, Xi'an City, Shaanxi Province

The time in China follows a single standard time offset of UTC+08:00 (eight hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time) based on the National Time Service Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences located in Mount Li, Lintong District, Xi'an City, Shaanxi Province, even though the country spans five geographical time zones. The official national standard time is called Beijing Time (BJT, simplified Chinese: 北京时间; traditional Chinese: 北京時間; pinyin: Běijīng shíjiān) domestically because it is based on the 120th meridian east, where Beijing City is located,[1][2] and China Standard Time (CST) internationally.[3] Daylight saving time has not been observed since 1991.[4] China Standard Time (UTC+8) is consistent across Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, as well as equivalent with Philippines, Singapore, Brunei, most of Mongolia, Malaysia, Irkutsk Time (Russia), Western Australia and Central Indonesia.


In the 1870s, the Shanghai Xujiahui Observatory was constructed by a French Catholic missionary. In 1880s officials in Shanghai French Concession started to provide a time announcement service using the Shanghai Mean Solar Time provided by the aforementioned observatory for ships into and out of Shanghai. By the end of 19th century, the time standard provided by the observatory had been switched to GMT+08:00.[5] The practice has spread to other coastal ports, and in 1902 the "Coastal Time" was proposed to be the universal time zone for all the coastal ports in China. However, the time zone for the rest of China remained undetermined.

Until 1913, the official time standard for the whole of China was still the apparent solar time of Beijing, the capital of the country at the time. Starting in 1914, the Republic of China government began adopting the Beijing Local Mean Solar Time as the official time standard. By 1918, five standard time zones had been proposed by the Central Observatory of Beiyang government of Republic of China, including the Kunlun (UTC+05:30), Sinkiang-Tibet (UTC+06:00), Kansu-Szechwan (UTC+07:00), Chungyuan (UTC+08:00), and Changpai (UTC+08:30).[5]

The 1947 version time zone assignment that was discontinued in 1949 after the People's Republic of China was founded:
  UTC+05:30 Kunlun Time
  UTC+06:00 Sinkiang-Tibet Time
  UTC+07:00 Kansu-Szechuan Time
  UTC+08:00 Chungyuan Time
  UTC+08:30 Changpai Time

After the defeat of Beiyang government in 1928, the mission of the Central Observatory was moved to Nanjing, and the reference time standard used for the construction of traditional Chinese Calendar was shifted from Beijing Mean Solar Time to UTC+08:00.[5]

In the 1930s, the proposed five time zones had not been fully observed, causing regions in inner China area to adopt their own time standards, resulting in chaos. On 9 March 1939, when the Ministry of the Interior organized a Standard Time Conference in Chongqing, it was decided to adopt the five time zone proposal with slight modification of their borders starting from 1 June, however it was also decided that the entire country would use the Kansu-Szechwan Time (UTC+07:00) during the Second Sino-Japanese War which began at the time.[5]

Following the end of World War II, the five time zone system was resumed, although there is little information about the historical usage of time in the Kunlun and Changpai zones.[citation needed] A further refined system with adjustment to zone assignment in the Northwest part of Gansu was announced in 1947 for adoption in 1948. However, as the Chinese Civil War came to its end in 1949–1950, regional governments under the influence of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), other than those in Xinjiang and Tibet, switched to use the same time as Beijing, which is UTC+08:00, and is later known as Beijing Time or China Standard Time.[5]

There are two independent sources that claim the CCP, and/or the People's Republic of China, were using apparent solar time for Beijing Time before the period between 27 September 1949 and 6 October 1949, and they adopted the time of UTC+08:00 within that period of time, but the claim is dubious.[6]

Time zone changes in Tibet are undocumented, but Beijing Time was in use until at least the mid-1950s. Between 1969 and 1986, the time zone was switched repeatedly between Xinjiang Time (UTC+06:00) and Beijing Time.[5]

Daylight saving time was observed from 1945 to 1948, and from 1986 to 1991.[5]

In 1997 and 1999, Hong Kong and Macau were transferred to China from the United Kingdom and Portugal respectively, being established as special administrative regions. Although the sovereignty of the SARs belongs to China, they retain their own policies regarding time zones for historical reasons. Due to their geographical locations, both are within the UTC+08:00 time zone, which is the same as the national standard, Beijing time.


This map shows the difference between legal time and local mean time in China. Northeast China is significantly behind and western parts of China are significantly ahead of local solar time as a single standard time offset of UTC+08:00 is observed across the whole of China, even though the country spans almost five geographical time zones (73°26'E - 134°46'E).

As an illustration of the wide range, the daylight hours (Beijing Time) for the seats of the westernmost (both including and not including Xinjiang due to local customs, see below) and easternmost counties, calculated for the year 2010, are shown here:[7]

Division Daylight time
Location County Province 1 January 1 July
Westernmost Akto[8] Xinjiang 10:16 – 19:44 07:34 – 22:26
Westernmost (not including Xinjiang) Zanda[9] Tibet 09:40 – 19:48 07:39 – 21:50
Easternmost Fuyuan[10] Heilongjiang 06:54 – 15:18 03:05 – 19:08

The border with Afghanistan at the Wakhjir Pass has the most significant official change of clocks for any international land frontier: UTC+08:00 in China to UTC+04:30 in Afghanistan.

Regions with special time regulations[edit]


Map of Xinjiang, together with rest of China

In Xinjiang, two time standards are used in parallel, namely Beijing Time and Xinjiang Time.[11][5]

Xinjiang Time, also known as Ürümqi Time (Chinese: 乌鲁木齐时间; pinyin: Wūlǔmùqí Shíjiān), is set due to its geographical location in the westernmost part of the country.[12] The time offset is UTC+06:00, which is two hours behind Beijing, and is shared with neighbouring Kyrgyzstan.

Some local Xinjiang authorities now use both time standards side by side.[13][14] Television stations schedule programmes in different time standards according to their nature.[5]

The coexistence of two time zones within the same region causes some confusion among the local population, especially when inter-racial communication occurs. When a time is mentioned in conversation between Han and Uyghur, it is necessary to either explicitly make clear whether the time is in Xinjiang Time or Beijing Time, or convert the time according to the ethnicity of the other party.[15][16][17] The double time standard is particularly observable in Xinjiang Television, which schedules its Chinese channel according to Beijing time and its Uyghur and Kazakh channels according to Xinjiang time.[18]

Regardless, Beijing Time users in Xinjiang usually schedule their daily activities two hours later than those who live in eastern China. As such, stores and offices in Xinjiang are commonly open from 10am to 7pm Beijing Time, which equals 8am to 5pm in Ürümqi Time.[19] This is known as the work/rest time in Xinjiang.[20]

In most areas of Xinjiang, the opening time of local authorities is additionally modified by shifting the morning session 30–60 minutes earlier and the afternoon session 30 minutes later to extend the lunch break for 60–90 minutes, so as to avoid the intense heat during noon time in the area during summer.[14]

Hong Kong and Macau[edit]

Hong Kong and Macau maintain their own time authorities after transfer of sovereignty in 1997 and 1999 respectively. The Hong Kong Time (Chinese: 香港時間; Jyutping: hoeng1 gong2 si4 gaan3) and Macau Standard Time[21] (Chinese: 澳門標準時間; Jyutping: ou3 mun2 biu1 zeon2 si4 gaan3; Portuguese: Hora Oficial de Macau[22]) are both UTC+08:00 all year round, thus in line with Beijing time, and daylight saving time has not been used since 1979 in Hong Kong and 1980 in Macau.[23][24] In Hong Kong, Greenwich Mean Time was adopted as the basis in 1904, and UTC was adopted as a standard in 1972. Before that, local time was determined by astronomical observations at Hong Kong Observatory using a 6-inch Lee Equatorial telescope and a 3-inch Transit Circle[clarify].[25]


Taiwan, which is not governed under the authority of the People's Republic of China (see political status of Taiwan), also uses UTC+08:00, which corresponds well to its longitude.

IANA time zone database[edit]

The territory of the People's Republic of China is covered in the IANA time zone database by the following zones. "Asia/Shanghai" is used instead of "Asia/Beijing" because Shanghai is the most populous location in the zone.[26]

Columns marked with * are from the file zone.tab of the database.

c.c.* coordinates* TZ* comments* Standard time Summer time Notes
CN +3114+12128 Asia/Shanghai Beijing Time tUTC+08:00
CN +4348+08735 Asia/Urumqi Xinjiang Time tUTC+06:00 Unofficial
HK +2217+11409 Asia/Hong_Kong tUTC+08:00
MO +221150+1133230 Asia/Macau tUTC+08:00

Backward compatibility zone[edit]

The following zones, including Asia/Kashgar, Asia/Chongqing, and Asia/Harbin, are kept in the "backzone" file of the IANA time zone database for backward compatibility.

c.c.* coordinates* TZ* comments* Standard time Summer time Notes
CN Asia/Harbin tUTC+08:00 linked back to Asia/Shanghai
CN Asia/Chongqing tUTC+08:00 linked back to Asia/Shanghai
CN Asia/Kashgar tUTC+06:00 linked back to Asia/Ürümqi

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 时间的概念 [The concept of time]. 国家授时中心科普网站 (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 16 October 2012.
  2. ^ 黑河综合遥感联合试验:冰沟流域加密观测区径流加强观测数据集 [WATER: Dataset of intensive runoff observations in the Binggou watershed foci experimental area]. 国家青藏高原科学数据中心 [National Tibetan Plateau Data Center] (in Simplified Chinese). Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  3. ^ "CST – China Standard Time (Time Zone Abbreviation)". timeanddate.com.
  4. ^ "Daylight Saving Time in China". timeanddate.com.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Guo, Qing-sheng (2001). 中国标准时制考 [A Study on the Standard Time Changes for the Past 100 Years in China] (PDF). China Historical Materials of Science and Technology (in Chinese (China)). 22 (3): 269–280. 1000-0798(2001)03-0269-12. Archived from the original (PDF) on 20 December 2016. Retrieved 9 December 2016.
  6. ^ Guo, Qingsheng (2003). "Beijing Time at the Beginning of PRC". China Historical Materials of Science and Technology'. 24 (1): 5–9.
  7. ^ "NOAA Solar Calculator". NOAA. Retrieved 11 December 2020.
  8. ^ 39°08′52″N 75°56′51″E / 39.1478°N 75.9474°E / 39.1478; 75.9474
  9. ^ 31°28′48″N 79°48′26″E / 31.479882°N 79.807096°E / 31.479882; 79.807096
  10. ^ 48°21′53″N 134°18′28″E / 48.3647°N 134.3079°E / 48.3647; 134.3079
  11. ^ 冷知识:"北京时间"的由来. Xinhua (in Simplified Chinese). 3 November 2015. Archived from the original on 9 November 2015. Retrieved 3 November 2015.
  12. ^ 2 节气、数九、昼长、乌鲁木齐时间. xjxnw.gov.cn (in Chinese). 22 February 2011. Archived from the original on 17 October 2014. Retrieved 12 October 2014.
  13. ^ Ingram, Ruth (September 2013). "Bending Time in Xinjiang". EthnoTraveler Magazine.
  14. ^ a b 作息时间. xjlt.gov.cn (in Chinese). 26 August 2008. Archived from the original on 12 October 2014.
  15. ^ 10点日出,半夜吃饭,在新疆用北京时间的烦恼. zh:纽约时报中文网 [New York Times Chinese Website] (in Chinese). 17 June 2016.
  16. ^ 【城市】乌鲁木齐:没有屋顶的博物馆. Southern Weekly (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 21 December 2016.
  17. ^ Demick, Barbara (31 March 2009). "Clocks square off in China's far west". Los Angeles Times.
  18. ^ 北京时间的概念 (in Chinese).
  19. ^ "The Working-Calendar for The Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Government". The Government of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China. Archived from the original on 4 December 2011. Retrieved 26 July 2008. Urumqi Time (GMT+6) is 2 hours behind Beijing Time
  20. ^ 政协委员建议:调整新疆单位作息时间 (in Chinese). 人民网. 17 January 2014.
  21. ^ "Macau Standard Time". Meteorological and Geophysical Bureau. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011.
  22. ^ "O Serviço de<<Hora Exacta>> na Internet". Direcção dos Serviços Meteorológicos e Geofísicos [Meteorological and Geophysical Bureau] (in Portuguese). Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 27 March 2011.
  23. ^ timeanddate.com, Daylight Saving Time in Hong Kong
  24. ^ timeanddate.com, Daylight Saving Time in Macau
  25. ^ "1883-1933: Equatorial & Transit Circle". Hong Kong Obvervatory.
  26. ^ "eggert/tz". 20 July 2022 – via GitHub.

External links[edit]

Government departments responsible for time services