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Original titleGeonames China (populated places)
Document ID2208
Digitized fileYes
Map typeBase maps
Author(s)Geonames (source) Christian Henriot (shapefile)
Map supportDigital

This is the data about populated places (cities, towns, villages, etc.)  in China as recorded in Geonames ( The package includes:
- The China_Geonames gpkg (QGIS) files (zipped archive): the 813,470 data points for China.
- The Countries_Natural Earth files (zipped archive): shape file for all countries on the globe (current situation)
- Oceans files (zipped archive): shape file for all sea surface on the globe
- GeoChinaP_Ref: this is our reference spreadsheet file of the the populated places.

The original Geonames data file includes 19 unlabelled columns. We did not retain all the columns, but we can provide the original data file upon request. The genomes data is organized in several features classes (column V7 in the original).

A: country, state, region,...
H: stream, lake, ...
L: parks,area, ...
P: city, village,...
R: road, railroad
S: spot, building, farm
T: mountain,hill,rock,...
U: undersea
V: forest,heath,...

In the case of China, only categories A-T were available.

The China_Geonames file corresponds to the data filtered by the “P” code in the orignal Geonames file. This designates populated places. We processed the file to extract the Chinese names and place them in a distinct column. It was not a straightforward process because the original field was a mix of Western and Chinese names, with sometimes more than one name in Chinese. For our purpose, we retained a single Chinese name based on the main transliterated names as it appears in the original data. There may be minor misalignments and we shall be grateful for any correction.

The current file contains 813,470 unique entries.

The attribute table of China_Geonames gpkg package contains the following columns:

  1. Loc_ID: original Geonames ID

  2. Name_Py: name of the location in pinyin. This did not exist in the orignal data as a separate information.

  3. Name_ZhT: name of the location in traditional Chinese script. This was added to the original provided only in simplified Chinese characters.
  4. Name_Transl_Geo: name of the location in transliteration or English as provided by Geonames
  5. Name_Trans2_Geo: name of the location in alternative transliteration or English as provided by Geonames
  6. Names_Alt: all other names of the location as provided by Geonames in a single list in a single field. This originally contained the Chinese name.
  7. Name_ZhS: name of the location in simplified Chinese character as provided by Geonames
LAT: Latitude

  8. LONG: Longitude

  9. Type2: sub-level of Geonames typology for Populated places

  10. Type_Admin: data extracted from the original names in Chinese. It is indicative, it is not a systematic typology of administrative levels.


Table 1. Distribution of locations by code (see table 2)

Code Number
PPL 742678
PPLA4 12334
PPLF 9841
PPLA3 1869
PPLL 1669
PPLA2 205


Table 2. Geonames: coding system for populated places

Code Definition Definition 2          
PPL populated place a city, town, village, or other agglomeration of buildings where people live and work
PPLA seat of a first-order administrative division seat of a first-order administrative division (PPLC takes precedence over PPLA)
PPLA2 seat of a second-order administrative division            
PPLA3 seat of a third-order administrative division            
PPLA4 seat of a fourth-order administrative division            
PPLA5 seat of a fifth-order administrative division            
PPLC capital of a political entity            
PPLCH historical capital of a political entity a former capital of a political entity      
PPLF farm village a populated place where the population is largely engaged in agricultural activities
PPLG seat of government of a political entity            
PPLH historical populated place a populated place that no longer exists      
PPLL populated locality an area similar to a locality but with a small group of dwellings or other buildings
PPLQ abandoned populated place            
PPLR religious populated place a populated place whose population is largely engaged in religious occupations
PPLS populated places cities, towns, villages, or other agglomerations of buildings where people live and work
PPLW destroyed populated place a village, town or city destroyed by a natural disaster, or by war  
PPLX section of populated place            



KeywordsGIS, China, shapefile ; China_Basics
LanguageChinese, English, Unknown

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