A geocaching map of the Beijing area, shows an unusual pattern:

Enter image description here

Almost all the geocache sites (green circles) are clustered in an area 30 km or so to the west of Beijing, with almost no sites in the capital itself or other surrounding territory.

What is so special, either from a native or tourist perspective, about this area that would cause this phenomenon?

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    Did you check some of the caches to see if they were made by the same user?
    – MastaBaba
    Commented Feb 8, 2021 at 15:01
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    I'm not saying this is off-topic, but I suspect you'd be much more likely to find an answer on a geocaching-specific forum than here.
    – Chris H
    Commented Feb 8, 2021 at 15:01
  • @ChrisH, I'm not so concerned about geocaching itself. That's only an obvious symptom. It's the underlying cause that I'm wondering about. Commented Feb 8, 2021 at 15:18
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    All you're seeing is that that map system happens to draw the label "Beijing" in the "wrong" spot. (Not the actual "real" city center.) There's nothing more to it than that.
    – Fattie
    Commented Feb 10, 2021 at 21:31
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    @Clockwork, no, you were right the first time. It didn't occur to me that the map might be wrong (what kind of a map would mislocate a country's capital city so badly?). I saw all the interesting points clustered in an area 30 km west of the "Beijing" label and wondered why there weren't any in Beijing itself (e.g. a high security zone might make hiding secret caches and cryptic notes in that area an especially stupid activity). Commented Feb 11, 2021 at 14:00

3 Answers 3


The map is correct. Beijing literally is there in the east.

Traditionally, Beijing is the dense area, consists of Xicheng and Dongcheng districts, with Forbidden City in the center. Right inside the 2nd Ring Road (二环路). Every Beijing natives and every tourists still call that the city center of Beijing.

But, in 2019, Beijing municipal government moved to Tongzhou 通州 District, a new area specially designed for administration, called "the city's subsidiary center" (城市副中心).

The Chinese capital has planned for years to shift its administrative center out to the outer Tongzhou district in an effort to rein in population growth, traffic congestion and air pollution in Beijing’s denser inner districts. Caixin report

Maps are taking different display measure. For example, Baidu Map still shows the old city center at low zooming levels, but if zoom in to Tongzhou District, you would see (the Chinese of) Beijing Municipal Government, quite away from Beijing "Proper":

Baidu map screenshot

Answers about distortion maps are wrong. There is distortion with maps in China, but that is about 100m, not with 30 km.

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    Welcome to Travel! This is a better answer than mine, and I encourage people to upvote it. Commented Feb 10, 2021 at 12:12
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    "Q: Why are standards so wonderful? — A: Because there are so many to choose from." ¶ Some maps put a city's label where city hall is located, others put it where the city's downtown (central business district) is. In this case, city hall moved to the suburbs, and some maps moved with it and some didn't. Commented Feb 10, 2021 at 14:28
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    @RayButterworth Just as a reminder, Beijing CBD means a particular place in Chaoyang District in Beijing near the 3rd Ring Road. It isn't the traditional city center (Forbidden City) either!
    – oldherl
    Commented Feb 10, 2021 at 16:53
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    So this answer explains why the label is to the right over there, but as someone not familiar with the area, why are there zero geocaches there? Is it just a place that you typically would not walk around/explore? Perhaps mostly office area?
    – Conor
    Commented Feb 10, 2021 at 22:31
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    @Conor Some of the the geocaches are in tourist hotspots, and others are in areas popular with foreigners and Chinese students, perhaps suggesting that this is mainly a hobby of more cosmopolitan Beijingers. There are hardly any in the working-class residential areas. Tongzhou is neither beautiful nor cosmopolitan....
    – Matthew
    Commented Feb 11, 2021 at 17:29

This just looks to be a problem with the labels of the base map used by that geocaching site. If you look at other online mapping services (Google Maps, Bing Maps), they clearly show central Beijing located near the center of the large beltway highway shown in your screenshot. For example, in your screenshot you can see the thin, squared-off moats surrounding the Forbidden City about 2 km east of the "Xicheng" label.

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    I wonder if this has something to do with the GPS misalignment stuff certain maps of China suffer from?
    – Jan
    Commented Feb 9, 2021 at 5:22
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    @Jan The maps don't suffer from misalignment, they are distorted as an official policy. See for example here, but I can verify from personal experience that any mapping products (e.g. car navigation systems) can only be sold in China if you, the developer, send your code to the Chinese authorities, who add their secret distortion algorithm, complie the whole into a binary blob and sign that to approve distribution.
    – zovits
    Commented Feb 9, 2021 at 8:53
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    @zovits Yes, that is what I meant, I just used a wrong word.
    – Jan
    Commented Feb 9, 2021 at 8:57
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    Why Every Map of China is Just Slightly Wrong youtube.com/watch?v=L9Di-UVC-_4
    – hojusaram
    Commented Feb 9, 2021 at 12:48
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    @hojusaram, that's interesting and worthy of a question of its own, but I don't think it applies here, where the discrepancy is 30,000m not just 100m or so. Commented Feb 9, 2021 at 15:33

This most probably has to do with the obfuscation of the geographic coordinates mandated in China, where apparently random offsets are added to them.

See more details here.

There are open-source, freely available de-obfuscators available on github, which can be integrated with OpenLayers, leaflet, etc. -- I have used them ;-) I say you better report it as a bug to that geocaching site.

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    But shouldn't the city-names still be somewhat aligned with the roads, if not with the caches? Commented Feb 10, 2021 at 0:38

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