PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2022, Vol. 41 ›› Issue (1): 157-172.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2022.01.014

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Urban complexity studies from the perspective of geography:A review based on the literature in the past 20 years

XUE Bing1,2(), ZHAO Bingyu1,3, LI Jingzhong2,4   

  1. 1. Institute of Applied Ecology, CAS, Shenyang 110016, China
    2. Key Lab for Environmental Computation and Sustainability of Liaoning Province, Shenyang 110016, China
    3. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
    4. College of Urban Planning and Architecture, Xuchang University, Xuchang 461000, Henan, China
  • Received:2021-02-08 Revised:2021-10-26 Online:2022-01-28 Published:2022-03-28
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(41971166);Natural Science Foundation of Liaoning Province(20180550831)


As an open human-natural system with a complex organizational structure, the urban system has always been the core object of geographic research. Using the published literature from 2000 to 2020 as the data, we developed a new approach by combing quantitative and qualitative analyses to investigate related research results from the perspective of geography in terms of conceptual connotations, research themes, and technical methods, and put forward the future research needs. Over the past 20 years, urban complexity research in China has gradually shifted from single-scale pattern, process, and mechanism research to integrated and comprehensive research on complex interaction processes at multiple scales, and has gradually formed four major themes, including urban facility networks, urban habitat, urban economic activities, and urban spatial governance. In terms of data analysis methodology, the research has gradually shifted to multi-dimensional scenario analysis supported by spatial technology and social computing with panoramic whole-life cycle data. In the future, urban complexity research from the perspective of geography needs to further strengthen the construction of urban digital infrastructure and life cycle information collection capability, deepen the comprehensive measurement and monitoring of urban ecological-economic systems from the perspective of geospatial pattern, and study the urban flow space under the influence of cross-regional development mechanism.

Key words: urban complexity, human-natural system, urban geography, urban spatial structure, urban governance