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China Province Abbreviations - An Introduction

China Province Abbreviations - An Introduction

by Matt Slater 30 October 2020

Did you know that China province abbreviations can be made using both Chinese and English languages?

Not only can all provinces in China be abbreviated to a two-letter code, but there is also a single Chinese character used to represent each.

This article introduces these methods as well as providing a full list of each China province abbreviation, from Anhui to Zhejiang.

Why are China Province Abbreviations Needed?

Famously, the United States has a 2 letter abbreviation for each of her 50 states - think "CA" for California, "NY" for New York and "TX" for Texas.

Whilst China can't quite match America's number of states, there are still 34 different provinces in China, and having an abbreviation for each certainly makes a wide range of tasks easier.

Although one method of China province abbreviation closely resembles the 2-letter system used in the United States, the most commonly used method (at least within China itself) is to have a single Chinese character to represent each province.

Having a character specific to each province helps to provide concise information, whilst saving space on many types of documents and media.

Common China Province Abbreviations

There are two main methods for abbreviating Chinese province names:

  • with a 2-letter code
  • using a single Chinese character

This table identifies these abbreviations for each province of China:

Province Two-letter Code Single-character
(inc. Pinyin)
Notes
Anhui AN 皖​ (wǎn)
Beijing BJ 京 (jīng)
Chongqing CQ 渝 (yú)
Fujian FJ 闽 (mǐn)
Gansu GS 甘 (gān) character 陇 (lǒng) also used
Guangdong GD 粤 (yuè)
Guangxi GX 桂 (guì)
Guizhou GZ 贵 (guì) character 黔 (qián) also used
Hainan HI 琼 (qióng)
Hebei HE 冀 (jì) code "HEB" previously used
Heilongjiang HL 黑 (hēi)
Henan HA 豫 (yù) code "HEN" previously used
Hong Kong HK 港 (gǎng)
Hubei HB 鄂 (è) code "HUB" previously used
Hunan HN 湘 (xiāng) code "HUN" previously used
Inner Mongolia NM 蒙 (méng)
Jiangsu JS 苏 (sū)
Jiangxi JX 赣 (gàn)
Jilin JL 吉 (jí)
Liaoning LN 辽 (liáo)
Macau MO 澳 (ào)
Ningxia NX 宁 (níng)
Qinghai QH 青 (qīng)
Shaanxi SN 陕 (shǎn) character 秦 (qín) also used
code "SAA" previously used
Shandong SD 鲁 (lǔ)
Shanghai SH 沪 (hù) character 申 (shēn) also used
Shanxi SX 晋 (jìn) code "SAX" previously used
Sichuan SC 川 (chuān) character 蜀 (shǔ) also used
Taiwan TW 台 (tái)
Tianjin TJ 津 (jīn)
Tibet XZ 藏 (zàng)
Xinjiang XJ 新 (xīn)
Yunnan YN 云 (yún) character 滇 (diān) also used
Zhejiang ZJ 浙 (zhè)

More details on each abbreviation method below:

China Province Two-letter Codes

These codes are based on Chinese standard GB/T 2260-2007, as used in the China-specific section of international standard ISO 3166-2.

Prior to 2017, this ISO standard used 2-digit numeric codes (which we didn't consider to be abbreviations) rather than 2-letter codes, so the change is quite recent.

We sometimes find these abbreviations used in the URLs of Chinese government websites that are divided into different province sections, for example the various province-level company search websites.

If you are working on geocoding or working with some datasets you may encounter these codes, but generally speaking it is quite rare to see these two-letter abbreviations being used.

China Province Single Character Abbreviations

Known in Chinese as 省份别称 ("province nicknames") or 省份简称 ("province abbreviations"), the single character province abbreviations are widely used and acknowledged as being a part of the Chinese language, meaning that they do not need to be defined by a standard.

shanghai car plate
Shanghai car number plate with the character 沪 (hù)

They are by far the most commonly seen type of China province abbreviation within the Chinese language world in general.

Indeed, just walking down any street in mainland China you can easily see this type of abbreviation being utilized, as the single character abbreviations are used on vehicle registration plates to indicate the province of registration.

Another good example of their usage is on the homepage of the People's Daily (the largest newspaper in China). Here they use each the single character abbreviations to give quick access to news from that province:

People's Daily Homepage Menu
Single character province abbreviations used on the People's Daily website (between green arrows)

Actually you can also see province character abbreviations being used on nearly all Chinese websites if you scroll down to the footer.

In China, all websites operating with their own domain name must have ICP registration, and display their ICP registration details in their footer. As this system is managed at a provincial level, the registration number includes the province abbreviation character.

The province character is always at the start, so using this method we can see that Adidas' China website (adidas.com.cn) is registered in Jiangsu province:

Adidas ICP
Adidas China's website has an ICP registration number starting with 苏 (sū) to indicate Jiangsu province

Another example we have seen of their usage is the numbering of China law court records.

The characters are also frequently used just in general Chinese language, to indicate that something originates from a particular province.

For example, seven of China's "8 Great Cuisines" include a province abbreviation in their widely-used Chinese name. 

Official China Province Names

Eagle-eyed readers might have noticed that many of the province names we use in the previous table are actually abbreviations themselves!

This is partly because we have used shortened versions of their official names.

But it is also because we have used the word 'province' rather loosely. Technically-speaking the term "provincial-level administrative division" would be more appropriate.

There are in fact only 23 official provinces in China (22 if you don't include the independently-governed island of Taiwan).

In addition to these provinces, there are also two Special Administrative Regions (Hong Kong and Macau), five Autonomous Regions (Guangxi, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Tibet and Xinjiang) and four Municipalities (Beijing, Chongqing, Shanghai and Tianjin).

This table identifies the official name of each China 'province' in Simplified Chinese, Pinyin and English:

Province Official Name
(Simplified Chinese)
Official Name
(Pinyin)
Official Name
(English)
Anhui 安徽省 Ānhuī Shěng Anhui Province
Beijing 北京市 Běijīng Shì Beijing Municipality
Chongqing 重庆市 Chóngqìng Shì Chongqing Municipality
Fujian 福建省 Fújiàn Shěng Fujian Province
Gansu 甘肃省 Gānsù Shěng Gansu Province
Guangdong 广东省 Guǎngdōng Shěng Guangdong Province
Guangxi 广西壮族自治区 Guǎngxī Zhuàngzú Zìzhìqū Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region
Guizhou 贵州省 Guìzhōu Shěng Guizhou Province
Hainan 海南省 Hǎinán Shěng Hainan Province
Hebei 河北省 Héběi Shěng Hebei Province
Heilongjiang 黑龙江省 Hēilóngjiāng Shěng Heilongjiang Province
Henan 河南省 Hénán Shěng Henan Province
Hong Kong 香港特别行政区 Xiānggǎng Tèbié Xíngzhèngqū Hong Kong Special Administrative Region
Hubei 湖北省 Húběi Shěng Hubei Province
Hunan 湖南省 Húnán Shěng Hunan Province
Inner Mongolia 內蒙古自治区 Nèi Měnggǔ Zìzhìqū Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region
Jiangsu 江苏省 Jiāngsū Shěng Jiangsu Province
Jiangxi 江西省 Jiāngxī Shěng Jiangxi Province
Jilin 吉林省 Jílín Shěng Jilin Province
Liaoning 辽宁省 Liáoníng Shěng Liaoning Province
Macau 澳门特别行政区 Àomén Tèbié Xíngzhèngqū Macau Special Administrative Region
Ningxia 宁夏回族自治区 Níngxià Huízú Zìzhìqū Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region
Qinghai 青海省 Qīnghǎi Shěng Qinghai Province
Shaanxi 陕西省 Shǎnxī Shěng Shaanxi Province
Shandong 山东省 Shāndōng Shěng Shandong Province
Shanghai 上海市 Shànghǎi Shì Shanghai Municipality
Shanxi 山西省 Shānxī Shěng Shanxi Province
Sichuan 四川省 Sìchuān Shěng Sichuan Province
Taiwan 台湾省 Táiwān Shěng Taiwan Province
Tianjin 天津市 Tiānjīn Shì Tianjin Municipality
Tibet 西藏自治区 Xīzàng Zìzhìqū Tibet Autonomous Region
Xinjiang 新疆维吾尔自治区 Xīnjiāng Wéiwú'ěr Zìzhìqū Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region
Yunnan 云南省 Yúnnán Shěng Yunnan Province
Zhejiang 浙江省 Zhèjiāng Shěng Zhejiang Province

As you can see from the pinyin above, the names for Hong Kong (Xiānggǎng), Inner Mongolia (Nèi Měnggǔ), Macau (Àomén) and Tibet (Xīzàng) are different in Mandarin Chinese to English.




Matt Slater
Matt Slater

Author

Hi there, I'm Matt, the Founder & CEO of China Checkup. Originally from the UK, I am now based in Brisbane, Australia.

Frustrated by the scarcity of concise, high-quality and timely information about Chinese companies, I setup China Checkup whilst living in Shanghai in 2013.

My team are proud that China Checkup's company verification reports have now helped thousands of clients from all corners of the world to do business in China more safely.

  



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