Southwest China

Southwest China (Chinese: 西南; pinyin: Xīnán) is a region in the south of the People's Republic of China.


Map of a wide definition of Southwest China, excluding Chongqing

Southwest China is a rugged and mountainous region, transitioning between the Tibetan Plateau to the west and the Chinese coastal hills (东南丘陵) and plains to the east. Key geographic features in the region include the Hengduan Mountains in the west, the Sichuan Basin in the northeast, and the karstic Yungui Plateau in the east. The majority of the region is drained by the Yangtze River which forms the Three Gorges in the northeast of the region.[1]

The narrowest concept of Southwest China consists of Sichuan, Chongqing, Yunnan, and Guizhou, while wider definitions often include Guangxi and western portions of Hunan.[2] The official government definition of Southwest China includes the core provinces of Sichuan, Chongqing, Yunnan, and Guizhou, in addition to the Tibet Autonomous Region.


Map of Ming Dynasty China in 1580. Ming Southwest China was anchored by the cities of Chengdu, Kunming, and Guiyang (bottom left).

Portions of Southwest China were incorporated in the 3nd century BCE into the Qin dynasty. Independent states would continue to exert influence within the region, with notable examples being the Nanzhao Kingdom in the 8th and 9th centuries CE and the Dali Kingdom in 10th and 11th centuries CE. The region was largely pacified and incorporated into Ming domain.[2] During the Second Sino-Japanese War, the city of Chongqing served as the capital of Chinese resistance to imperial Japanese expansion.


The diverse areas of Southwest China carry strong regional identities and have been historically considered more rural than the more developed eastern regions of China.[2] Rapid development since the late 1970s has helped transform many parts of the region with modern advancements. In the early 21st century, Southwest China contained 50% of the country's ethnic minority population which in turn formed 37% of the region's population.[2] Han Chinese migration has been largely concentrated in the urban centres while the rural areas are still predominantly made up by minority populations including the Zhuang, Miao, Yi, and others.

Inhabitants of Southwest China primarily speak a variant of Mandarin Chinese known as Southwestern Mandarin. This variant uses the same written language as Mandarin but is only approximately 50% mutually intelligible with Standard Chinese. As of 2012, there were approximately 260 million speakers of Southwestern Mandarin.[3]

Administrative divisionsEdit

Government defined region of Southwest China, including Chongqing, Sichuan, Guizhou, Yunnan and Tibet
Map showing the distribution of Southwestern Mandarin within China.
GB[4] ISO №[5] Province Chinese Name Capital Population Density Area Abbreviation/Symbol
50 Chongqing Municipality 重庆市
Chóngqìng Shì
Chongqing 28,846,170 350.50 82,300 CQ
Chuān (Shǔ) 51 Sichuan Province 四川省
Sìchuān Shěng
Chengdu 80,418,200 165.81 485,000 SC 川(蜀)
Guì (Qián) 52 Guizhou Province 贵州省
Gùizhōu Shěng
Guiyang 34,746,468 197.42 176,000 GZ 贵(黔)
Yún (Diān) 53 Yunnan Province 云南省
Yúnnán Shěng
Kunming 45,966,239 116.67 394,000 YN 云(滇)
Zàng 54 Tibet Autonomous Region
Xizang Autonomous Region
Xīzàng Zìzhìqū
Lhasa 3,002,166 2.44 1,228,400 XZ

Cities with urban area over one million in populationEdit

# City Urban area[6] District area[6] City proper[6] Prov. Census date
1 Chongqing[a] 8,894,757 12,084,385 16,044,027 CQ 2010-11-01
2 Chengdu 6,316,922 7,415,590 14,047,625 SC 2010-11-01
3 Kunming[b] 3,140,777 3,272,586 6,432,209 YN 2010-11-01
4 Guiyang 2,520,061 3,034,750 4,322,611 GZ 2010-11-01
  1. ^ Chongqing core area only, satellite urban area separated from Chongqing core area is not included.
  2. ^ Dongchuan is a satellite urban area separated from Kunming and it is not included.


  1. ^ Atlas of China. Beijing, China: SinoMaps Press. 2006. ISBN 9787503141782.
  2. ^ a b c d China's Southwest (3rd ed.). Lonely Planet. 2007. ISBN 978-1741041859.
  3. ^ Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (2012). Zhōngguó yǔyán dìtú jí (dì 2 bǎn): Hànyǔ fāngyán juǎn 中国语言地图集(第2版):汉语方言卷 [Language Atlas of China (2nd edition): Chinese dialect volume]. Beijing: The Commercial Press. p. 3.
  4. ^ GB/T 2260 codes for the provinces of China
  5. ^ ISO 3166-2:CN (ISO 3166-2 codes for the provinces of China)
  6. ^ a b c 国务院人口普查办公室、国家统计局人口和社会科技统计司编 (2012). 中国2010年人口普查分县资料. Beijing: 中国统计出版社 [China Statistics Press]. ISBN 978-7-5037-6659-6.