Another China time zone question

Jonathan Hassid Jonathan.Hassid at
Sat Oct 16 00:09:24 UTC 2010

I finally got the time to do some translation work from the article.

On Beijing Time:

Guo says that the transition to Beijing time (though not completely clear, apparently from "Central Standard Time") happened between 27 Sep 1949 and 6 Oct, 1949 most likely on 27 Sep based on certain clues in government documents from the period.

There is a longish discussion about whether Beijing time means local solar time or based on a GMT offset, and Guo argues that between 27 Sep 1949 and 1954 (date unspecified), "Beijing time" meant local Beijing solar time (with an offset varying by time of year of course, but generally between 46 and 56 minutes earlier than 120 degree latitude time).  Starting in 1954, Beijing time means 120 degree latitude time.

And in other parts of the country:

The Xi'an broadcasting station (capital of Shaanxi province) transitioned to "Beijing time" on 7 Oct, 1949, and the Xi'an government announced an official transition for everyone from "Shulong" (or "Gansu/Sichuan") time to Beijing time on 2 Nov. 1949.

The government in Chengdu (capital of Sichuan province) announced the switch (from "Shulong" (Gansu/Sichuan) time) to Beijing time on 27 Dec. 1949.

The rest of the country followed "in early 1950" (dates unspecified), and as I mentioned in my last email, "by the beginning of 1950, within a few months after establishing the country, the entire country except for Xinjiang and Tibet was all using the Beijing Time standard."

Tibet "started using Beijing time in the latter half of 1960."

The situation in Xinjiang is a bit more complicated, as the Xinjiang government announced the province would switch to Beijing time on 1 July 1969, but then had to issue separate instructions on the same issue 1 May 1975 and 1 Feb 1986.  The TIME article seems correct in that Xinjiang started using a sort of quasi-official Urumqi time "before Feb. 1986," but this does not apply to the rest of the county.

So in other words, I read it that between 1949 (and earlier?) and 1 July 1969, Xinjiang was officially on Urumqi time, and between 1 July 1969 and 1 Feb 1986, was officially on Beijing time, and then after 1 Feb. 1986 was also officially on Beijing time "for military business, trains, flights, the postal service, etc" and for most people and "government organs, mining enterprises, schools, etc" was on quasi-official Urumqi time.

I do hope this is helpful! Guo is sometimes a bit vague on dates, which I'm sure won't help when constructing a table.


From: Paul Eggert [eggert at CS.UCLA.EDU]
Sent: Wednesday, October 13, 2010 4:54 PM
To: tz at
Cc: Jonathan Hassid
Subject: Re: Another China time zone question

On 10/12/2010 06:24 PM, Jonathan Hassid wrote:
> So I was wondering what the sources are for China having multiple time
> zones from 1949-1980, and who is correct here

Thanks for bringing that source to our attention.

Our source for the current set of historical data is:

Thomas G. Shanks and Rique Pottenger, The International Atlas (6th edition),
San Diego: ACS Publications, Inc. (2003).  ISBN 0-935127-88-7.

There is also one other reliable source, though alas it contains
just one transition:

China: if it's light, it must be Urumqi
TIME, 1986-02-17, p. 52

(Naturally the two sources disagree. :-)

>From the TIME source, it's quite clear that the question of what time
it is in Urumqi has been controversial for years, and I expect that
it'll be as hard to get reliable data for Urumqi as it is for Mongolia.

All that being said, I think the source you provided is more
reliable than Shanks & Pottenger for older time stamps.  I found it
abstracted at <> but
unfortunately cannot read it.  Can you summarize what it says,
precisely enough for us to generate tables from it?  For example,
the abstract says there was a transition most likely on 1949-09-27
(though it could have been as late as 1949-10-06), but it doesn't
say what the transition was from, or to, or where the transition
occurred (presumably Beijing?).  Your email says the rest of the
country switched by the beginning of 1950, with the exception
of Tibet following in 1960 and Xinjiang by 1975; are there more
details about what the transitions were from and when they occurred?

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