China's cooking styles and dietary preferences can be divided into many geographical areas, and each area has a distinct style of cooking. In general China's regional cuisines can be divided into about 14 areas. See the map below.
The map shows China's Eight Classic Regional Cuisines, each named after a province, and six other regional cuisines summarizing other areas of China.
The ingredients used in China's food are traditionally based on the agriculture and wildlife of a region. In colder and drier Northern China, for example, wheat flour is eaten as the staple food, but in the south rice is definitely the staple. Food using wheat as its main ingredients such as noodles and dumplings are widely available in the north.
The warmer, wetter south lends itself far more readily to growing things. Compared to the rather monotonous fare of the north, China's southern cuisines are notable for their exceptional spiciness and their great variety of fruit, vegetable, fungal, and animal ingredients.
Besides the agriculture, wildlife and climate of a region factors like religion, minority culture, geographical isolation, and palate have an influence on regional food styles.
The main religious influence is the halal cuisine style adhered to by Uyghur and other Muslim minorities in China's Northwest. While Muslim food can be found in most cities, apart from in Xinjiang, Qinghai, Ningxia and most of Gansu it is not considered a regional cuisine.
The minority culture of Inner Mongolia is pastoral, so there are many dairy products along with lamb and beef in Mongolian cuisine. Tibetan cuisine is similarly set apart by the use of yak meat and other yak products. The minorities of the south often live in the mountains, and wild plants and game feature in their cuisine.
Taiwan, being geographically, and to some extent politically, isolated from China has developed its own mixed cuisine. Taiwan food blends a variety of Chinese styles brought by settlers, particularly from Fujian and Guangdong, its own Hakka and aboriginal minorities, and local tastes for seafood and game.
Finally a note on regional palates. Sichuan, Hunan, and southern minority cuisines demonstrate a love for spiciness with their liberal use of chilies. Cantonese cuisine shows that those in the Southeast like sweet food, in contrast to a mostly savory palate in the rest of China.