Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2022, Vol. 77 ›› Issue (8): 1892-1906.doi: 10.11821/dlxb202208004

• Economic Geography and Regional Development • Previous Articles     Next Articles

A reexamination of the market principle in central place theory

LIANG Jinshe()   

  1. Faculty of Geographical Science, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
  • Received:2021-10-18 Revised:2022-03-18 Online:2022-08-25 Published:2022-10-25
  • Supported by:
    The Second Tibetan Plateau Scientific Expedition and Research Program(2019QZKK0406)


This study addresses the deficiency in explaining the meaning of the market principle of k = 3 in central place theory. Two contrasting views of explanation-a top-down view by Christaller vs a bottom-up view by Hagget-exist in the literature. As for Christaller, all parts of a region are required to obtain all possible central goods from as few central places as possible that are in operation. As for Haggett, "where the supply of goods from central places is to be as near as possible to be the dependent places a k = 3 hierarchy is indicated, since this maximizes the number of central places". The distinctive views allow us to rethink about the meaning of the market principle in central place theory. We propose that given the condition that central places follow an equilateral triangular distribution with hexagonal markets and that a central place on the higher-level provides goods in both longer- and shorter-distance market ranges, and two adjacent levels of central places, one on the higher level and the other on the lower one, shall have overlapping markets as much as possible (or the size of their market area (or hinterland) should be as close as possible), so that the difference in the market size of the two central places is minimized to reduce the type of goods that could be excluded from them due to maximum or minimum requirement on market ranges. This newly proposed perspective integrates the two existing contrasting views of explanation made by Christaller and Hagget and can be deemed as a reasonable and fair explanation of the market principle of k = 3 in central place theory. It should be noted that this view was first proposed in the textbook Advanced Economic Geography (Chinese version) edited by the author together with Professor Wuyang Yang in 1997. This view can also be verified by LÖsch's central place model, that is, central places built upon the market principle should minimize producers' spatial monopoly and profit.

Key words: central place theory, k = 3, market principle, Christaller, LÖsch