We describe the historical change in distribution of snub-nosed monkeys (Rhinopithecus), a genus which includes 3 of the 4 endemic primate species in China, from the Qing Dynasty (1616) to 2001. The monkeys were once widely distributed in south, southwest and central China, and in two provinces in northwest China (Gansu and Shaanxi). Unfortunately, most of their populations in the plains and in some mountainous regions have vanished. Today, extant groups occur only in isolated mountainous regions with an altitude less than or equal to 4,500 m above sea level. The dramatic diminution is closely related to social and natural events, which occurred in China during the last 400 years. 1) the rapidly increasing density of human beings, especially during the twentieth century; 2) wars, especially in the first half of the 20th century; 3) deteriorating environments and accelerated deforestation and 4) hunting monkeys for food, medicinal and economic purposes.