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In wireless sensor networks, prolonging the life time is an important research topic. Based on the study of LEACH protocol and EEUC protocol, a novel zone-divided and energy-balanced clustering routing protocol for wireless sensor networks (ZECR) is brought up. The protocol divides the area into several zones according to the distance, and uses the unequal clustering method among these zones to solve the hot spots problem caused by multi-hop mechanism. In the cluster head election phase, only the nodes that meet the energy standard can participate in the competition; in the inter-cluster multi-hop routing phase, the cluster heads with high residual energy in high energy region will be selected as the relay node based on the advantages of zone-divided. Simulation results show that the protocol can effectively balance the energy consumption of each part of the network, solve the hot spots problem, apply to the energy heterogeneous network and prolong the network life time obviously.