Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2015, Vol. 70 ›› Issue (12): 1870-1883.doi: 10.11821/dlxb201512002

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The changing distribution patterns of rural settlements during the process of urbanization: The case of Gongyi (1929-2013), China

Xiaojian LI1,2(), Jiawei XU1, Beibei HAI1   

  1. 1. Collaborative Innovation Center of Three-aspect Coordination of Central-China Economic Region, Henan University of Economics and Law, Zhengzhou 450046, China
    2. Collage of Environment and Planning, Key Center of Yellow River Civilization and Sustainable Development, Henan University, Kaifeng 475004, China
  • Received:2015-07-01 Revised:2015-09-26 Online:2015-12-25 Published:2015-12-25


Rapid urbanization undergoing in China has caused, and will continue to cause tremendous changes of rural settlements. Regions at various stages of economic development and with various geographical backgrounds may witness different changing patterns. This paper uses data of rural settlements covering 84 years from 1929 to 2013 in a county-level city -- Gongyi in Henan province, China, to examine whether such changes in a traditional rural area have evolved towards the urban structure. As Gongyi was one of the earliest areas of rural industries in China, its rapid industrial growth since the 1980s has dramatically transformed the traditional characteristics of rural settlements. By employing Zipf's index, fractal dimension and Gini coefficient, and village data in the county, we have found that: first, Zipf's indexes based on village sizes of the past 84 years were generally much smaller than results based on cities, but with higher speed. The larger settlements were less prominent, but increasing fast in past two decades. Second, fractal dimensions were big but delaying. The larger size in the settlements, the faster increase in their population. Third, Gini coefficient was small but significantly increasing, especially accelerating after the 1990s. Fourth, the spatial patterns have gradually changed from linear concentration pattern along the Yiluo River to more balanced patterns over the plain and the hills. The increases in large settlements and their sizes, were forming hierarchy of the central place in market principles. Along with the process of urbanization, centralization of population leads to changing patterns of rural settlements, with the first rank settlement dominating rank size hierarchy in a region.

Key words: rural settlements, urbanization, rank-size, Zipf's index, Gini coefficient, Gongyi