In a land area of approximately 23,021 square kilometers, the diocesan territory covers the prefecture-level city of Zhaotong and its administrative area that comprises of one urban district (Zhaoyang) and 10 counties.
Zhaotong has 5.46 million people, in which 5 million are agricultural population. There are 23 ethnic minorities including Yi, Miao and Hui that amount to 520,000 people.
Mandarin Chinese, Yunnan and Zhaotong dialects are in use in the diocesan territory.
Catholicism was introduced to Zhaotong by a Belgian missioner about 230 years ago. The Apostolic Prefecture of Zhaotong was erected from the Apostolic Vicariate of Yunnanfu in 1935. Father Chen Mu-shun was ordained the first Chinese bishop of Zhaotong without a papal mandate in 1988 and died in 1997.
Zhaotong has a convenient transportation system. State Highway 213 runs through the prefecture-level city and extends to Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province, Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province and Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu Province. Navigating through the Jinsha River waterway, 500-ton ships are able to sail directly to Chongqing and Shanghai. In addition, Zhaotong Airport, 10 kilometers from the city's downtown, operates daily flights to Kunming.
Influenced by the low latitude and moderate elevation, Zhaotong has a temperate subtropical highland climate, with cool, dry winters, and warm, humid summers. Temperatures frequently drop below freezing at night in winter, though the days warm up to around 10 degrees Celsius. Conversely, in summer, average highs rise to 25 degrees Celsius. A great majority of the year's rainfall occurs from May to September.
Zhaotong realized GDP of RMB 37.96 billion yuan in 2010, representing a rise of 14.2 percent year on year. The city's GDP accounted for approximately 6.1 percent of Yunnan's total. The agricultural sector generated value-added output of 7.4 billion yuan in 2010, accounting for 19.5 percent of the city's GDP. Secondary industry (industry and construction), the largest contributor to the city's economy, realized value-added output of 17.48 billion yuan, accounting for 46.1percent of the city's total. Coal, calcium carbide, cement, tobacco, electricity, lead and zinc are the major industrial products of the city. There are two industrial parks, namely Zhaoyang Industrial Park and Shuifu Special Industrial Park, which contributed nearly one fifth of the industrial sector's total.
The service sector generated value-added output of 13.07 billion yuan, accounting for 34.4 percent of the city's total GDP in 2010. Tourism is an important pillar of the service sector. During 2010, 5.91 million tourists visited the city, up 24.4 percent year on year, while tourism income totaled 2 million yuan, representing a rise of 33.86 percent compared to the previous year.
Zhaotong is located in the northeastern part of Yunnan Province, at the intersection of Yunling Plateau and the Sichuan Basin.
Zhaotong boasts a profound historical culture and is known as one of the three headstreams of Yunnan Culture (Dali, Zhaotong and Kunming). As early as 10 thousand years ago, there were people living in the area. During the Western Han Dynasty, Zhaotong was officially designated as Zhuti Shire. The Han Culture has been dominant in Zhaotong since then. In addition, aboriginal culture, immigrant culture and folk minority culture are also important to Zhaotong.