The Middle of the Middle Kingdom
May 11, 2007 7:13 PM   Subscribe

Where is the geographical center of China?

I suspect it's somewhere around Lanzhou, in Gansu province, though no one seems to know (I've also asked on Lonely Planet's Thorn Tree and that's what they came up with). I'm somewhere near it now, and I want to go!

Bonus question: where would it be if the parts of China that shoudn't be are factored out? (I mean Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, and Taiwan, at least.)
posted by xanthippe to Travel & Transportation around China (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
103.23 degrees east longitude and 35.33 degrees north latitude, apparently.
posted by Abiezer at 7:29 PM on May 11, 2007

Ooh, hang on:
[Li Weisen] stressed that random release of important geographic information, which is against related laws and regulations, may not only distort the figures and confuse the public, but also pose a threat to national security and territorial integrity.

He cited the unauthorized building of a "national center tower" in northwest China's Gansu Province in September 2000.

"The tower was set up to mark the so-called geographic center of China's land territory, but its location was selected after only rough calculation under the circumstances that the national boundaries had yet been fixed," he said.
posted by Abiezer at 7:32 PM on May 11, 2007

Best answer: The illegal tower was set up in 甘肃省东乡族自治县董家岭乡董家岭村 (Dongjialing Village, Dongjialing Township, Dongxiang Autonomous County, Gansu). Here's a picture and an account of a visit, with more on the confusion.
posted by Abiezer at 7:48 PM on May 11, 2007

How do you define "geographical center"? I can think of half a dozen ways of doing that, each of which would result in a different location.

For example, the point which is closest to every point in China is not the same location as the one which has as many square kilometers north of it as south, and east of it as west.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 8:21 PM on May 11, 2007

I think the usual way of defining geographical center is to imagine a cut-out 2D map of the country, of uniform thickness and density. The geographical center would be its center of gravity.

In reality, the exact location is complicated by ill-defined boundaries, variable boundaries due to tidal effects, curvature of the Earth, etc.

For North America, the geographical center is generally accepted to be somewhere near Rugby, North Dakota.
posted by justkevin at 8:48 PM on May 11, 2007

steven: generally it's the centroid.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 9:11 PM on May 11, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Fascinating article about Dongxiang and the Sarta people who live there.
posted by Abiezer at 9:30 PM on May 11, 2007

A different problem is deciding what you mean by "China". Do you include Taiwan? Do you include Tibet? How about Arunachal Pradesh? Or Aksai Chin?

And there are three other places where the border between China and India is disputed.

Depending on how many of those you include, and which, even the centroid would move.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:27 PM on May 11, 2007

I need to learn to count. Actually, there are four other places where the Indian border is in dispute.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:28 PM on May 11, 2007

There's also undefined borders with Tajikistan and arguments with Japan over the Senkakus and various nations over the Spratlys. They did settle an argument with the Russians over the Amur River not so long back, though.
It did say in the Chinese version of the Dongxiang story that the centre was calculated for continental China anyway, and I presume they went by de facto lines of control, so that's the best you'll probably get.
As to without Tibet, East Turkestan or Mongolia, goodness knows. The boundaries of the PRC administrative divisions don't follow claims by exile groups or fit historical cultural areas, for example.
posted by Abiezer at 10:52 PM on May 11, 2007

Baidu Maps puts it somewhere about halfway between Lanzhou and Xi'an, on the G309. Google doesn't have maps for their center of China.
posted by msittig at 11:36 PM on May 11, 2007

Response by poster: Abiezer, that's what I was looking for. Heard something about that tower/monument but couldn't find out where it was.

Too bad I was in Linxia last week (just before I posted this question, actually)... on my way back soon, then!
posted by xanthippe at 3:07 AM on May 13, 2007

Response by poster: The boundaries of the PRC administrative divisions don't follow claims by exile groups or fit historical cultural areas, for example.

Quite right... for example, nearly all of Qinghai province (which is massive) and a good portion of Sichuan, as well as parts of Yunnan and Gansu, are historically Tibetan. Just in case Tibet ever did obtain independence, they'd be set up to keep half of it anyway - just one example of how and why the PRC designs its autonomous regions/prefectures/provinces.
posted by xanthippe at 3:15 AM on May 13, 2007

I passed through on my way up to Labrang what must be ten or more years ago now. I hope you're posting pics somewhere xanthippe.
posted by Abiezer at 4:59 AM on May 13, 2007

Response by poster: Amassing, which is to say, posting eventually, when I slow down and have time. Got some great shots of music practice in Labrang. Will add url to my profile whenever that happens.
posted by xanthippe at 9:28 PM on May 13, 2007

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