- For other province-level divisions, see Political divisions of China.
A province, in the context of China, is a translation of sheng (省 shěng), which is an administrative division of China. Provinces form part of the first level in the administrative structure of the People's Republic of China. Theoretically, provinces are also the first level division of the Taiwan, though this role has been greatly diminished.
The People's Republic of China currently administers 22 provinces, out of a total of 33 province level divisions, and claims a 23rd province, Taiwan Province. The Republic of China administers the entirety of Taiwan Province, as well as some offshore islands of Fujian province, and two municipalities (Taipei and Kaohsiung).
"Province" is also a translation of zhou, a division of the Han Dynasty, as well as circuits, a division of the Tang Dynasty and Song Dynasty.
See History of the political divisions of China.
List and map
The provinces of China were first set up during the Yuan Dynasty. There were initially 10 provinces. By the time of the Qing Dynasty there were 18, all of which were in China proper. These were:
For every province, there was a xunfu (巡撫), a political overseer on emperor's behalf and a tidu (提督), a military governor. In addition, there was a zongdu (總督), a general military inspector, for every two or three provinces.
Outer regions of China were not divided into provinces. Manchuria (consisting of Fengtian (now Liaoning), Jilin, Heilongjiang), Xinjiang, and Mongolia were overseen by military leaders or generals (將軍) and vice_tudong (副都統), and civilian leaders were heads of the leagues (盟長), a subdivision of Mongolia.
In 1878, Xinjiang became a province, in 1909, Fengtian, Jilin, and Taiwan was made a province in 1887, but it was ceded to Japan in 1895. As a result, there were 22 provinces in China (Outer China and China proper) near the end of the Qing Dynasty.
The Republic of China, established in 1912, set up 4 more provinces in Inner Mongolia and 2 provinces in historic Tibet, bringing the total to 28. 4 provinces were however lost with the establishment of the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo in Manchuria. After the defeat of Japan in World War II, Manchuria was reincorporated as 10 provinces, and Taiwan was also returned to China. As a result, the Republic of China had 35 provinces. Although the Republic of China now only controls one province (Taiwan Province) and some islands of a second province (Fujian), it continues to claim (in theory at least) 35 provinces.
The People's Republic of China abolished many of the provinces in the 1950s and converted a number of them into autonomous regions. Hainan was set up as a separate province in 1988, bringing the total number of provinces to 22.