To characterize the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variation in Han Chinese from several provinces of China, we have sequenced the two hypervariable segments of the control region and the segment spanning nucleotide positions 10171-10659 of the coding region, and we have identified a number of specific coding-region mutations by direct sequencing or restriction-fragment-length-polymorphism tests. This allows us to define new haplogroups (clades of the mtDNA phylogeny) and to dissect the Han mtDNA pool on a phylogenetic basis, which is a prerequisite for any fine-grained phylogeographic analysis, the interpretation of ancient mtDNA, or future complete mtDNA sequencing efforts. Some of the haplogroups under study differ considerably in frequencies across different provinces. The southernmost provinces show more pronounced contrasts in their regional Han mtDNA pools than the central and northern provinces. These and other features of the geographical distribution of the mtDNA haplogroups observed in the Han Chinese make an initial Paleolithic colonization from south to north plausible but would suggest subsequent migration events in China that mainly proceeded from north to south and east to west. Lumping together all regional Han mtDNA pools into one fictive general mtDNA pool or choosing one or two regional Han populations to represent all Han Chinese is inappropriate for prehistoric considerations as well as for forensic purposes or medical disease studies.