Northeast China

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The Northeast
Northeast China.svg
Northeast China (Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning)
Historic regions of Northeast in red
Simplified Chinese 东北
Traditional Chinese 東北
Literal meaningEast-North
Northeast China
Simplified Chinese 中国 东北
Traditional Chinese 中國 東北
Literal meaningNortheast(ern) China
Other names
Simplified Chinese 满洲
Traditional Chinese 滿洲
Literal meaning Manchu Region
3 Northeastern Provinces
Simplified Chinese 东北
Traditional Chinese 東北
Literal meaningNortheast(ern) 3 Provinces
Historic names
Traditional Chinese 關東
Simplified Chinese 关东
Literal meaning[Lands] East of the [Shanhai] Pass
Traditional Chinese 關外
Simplified Chinese 关外
Literal meaning[Lands] outside the [Shanhai] Pass
Nine Northeastern Provinces
Traditional Chinese 東北
Simplified Chinese 东北
Literal meaningNortheast(ern) 9 Provinces
Three Eastern Provinces
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Literal meaningEast(ern) 3 Provinces
Manchu name
Manchu script ᡩᡝᡵᡤᡳ ᡳᠯᠠᠨ ᡤᠣᠯᠣ
Romanization Dergi Ilan Golo

Northeast China, is a geographical region of China. It usually corresponds specifically to the three provinces east of the Greater Khingan Range, namely Liaoning, Jilin, and Heilongjiang, but historically is meant to also encompass the four easternmost prefectures of Inner Mongolia west of the Greater Khingan. The heartland of the region is the Northeast China Plain, the largest plain in China, with an area over 350,000 km2 (140,000 sq mi). It is separated from Russian Far East to the north by the Amur, Argun, and Ussuri rivers; from Korea to the south by the Yalu and Tumen Rivers; and from Inner Mongolian to the west by the Greater Khingan and parts of the Xiliao River.


Due to the shrinking of its once-powerful industrial sector and decline of its economic growth, the region is often referred to as the Rust Belt in China. [1] As the result, a campaign named Northeast Area Revitalization Plan has been launched by the State Council of the People's Republic of China, in which five prefectures of eastern Inner Mongolia, namely Hulunbuir, Hinggan, Tongliao, Chifeng and Xilin Gol, are also formally defined as regions of the Northeast. [2]


Northeastern China is known in Chinese contexts as simply the Northeast or, from the Mandarin pronunciation of its Chinese name, as Dōngběi.

The area was known in European languages as Manchuria , as it was the homeland of the Manchu people who ruled China as its Qing dynasty from the 17th to early 20th century. The name was not used by the Qing themselves, [3] who called the area their "Three East" or "Eastern Provinces", [4] [note 1] and its use is discouraged by the People's Republic of China, which associates the exonym with the Manchu puppet-state installed by the Imperial Japanese in 1932. It is known more specifically as Inner Manchuria when it needs to be distinguished from Outer Manchuria, which was ceded to the Russian Empire through the Amur Annexation in the 1850s.

Historically, the area was also known as Liaoyang (from its capital at Liaoyang) under the Yuan; as Nurgan (from its capital at Tyr) under the Ming; and as Guanwai or Guandong, [note 2] meaning "Lands beyond" or "Lands East of the Pass" in reference to the strategic Shanhai Pass between Hebei and Liaoning. Under Japanese occupation, the name Guandong was more specifically associated with the Kwantung Leased Territory around Dalian, "Kwan-tung" being the same name in Wade-Giles romanization.

Administrative divisions

GB [5] ISO No. [6] ProvinceChinese NameCapitalPopulationDensityArea (km2) Abbr.
LN21 Liaoning 辽宁省
Liáoníng Shěng
Shenyang 43,746,323299.83145,900
JL22 Jilin 吉林省
Jílín Shěng
Changchun 27,462,297146.54187,400
HL23 Heilongjiang 黑龙江省
Hēilóngjiāng Shěng
Harbin 38,312,22484.38454,000

Cities with urban area over one million in population

Provincial capitals in bold.
#CityUrban area [7] District area [7] City proper [7] Prov.Census date
1 Shenyang 5,718,2326,255,9218,106,171LN2010-11-01
2 Harbin 4,933,0545,878,93910,635,971HL2010-11-01
3 Dalian 3,902,4674,087,7336,690,432LN2010-11-01
4 Changchun 3,411,2094,193,0737,674,439JL2010-11-01
5 Anshan 1,504,9961,544,0843,645,884LN2010-11-01
6 Jilin 1,469,7221,975,1214,413,157JL2010-11-01
7 Daqing 1,433,6981,649,8252,904,532HL2010-11-01
8 Fushun 1,318,8081,431,0142,138,090LN2010-11-01
9 Qiqihar 1,314,7201,553,7885,367,003HL2010-11-01
10 Benxi 1,000,1281,094,2941,709,538LN2010-11-01


A wooden Bodhisattva statue, Jin dynasty, Shanghai Museum Wood Bodhisattva 2.jpg
A wooden Bodhisattva statue, Jin dynasty, Shanghai Museum

Northeast China was the homeland of several ethnic groups, including the Koreans, Manchus (or Jurchens), Ulchs, Hezhen (also known as the Goldi and Nanai). Various ethnic groups and their respective kingdoms, including the Sushen, Xianbei, and Mohe have risen to power in the Northeast. Various states and dynasties such as the State of Yan, Han Dynasty, Gongsun Yuan, Cao Wei, Western Jin, Former Yan, Former Qin, Later Yan, Tang Dynasty, Yuan dynasty, Ming dynasty and Qing dynasty ruled parts of the region.

Many Korean kingdoms have also incorporated parts of modern-day Northeast China, including Gojoseon, Buyeo, Goguryeo, and Balhae. During the Song dynasty, the Khitan set up the Liao Dynasty in Northeast China. Later, the Jurchen overthrew the Liao and formed the Jin dynasty, which went on to conquer northern China. In AD 1234, the Jin dynasty fell to the Mongols, whose Yuan Dynasty was later replaced by the Ming Dynasty in 1368. In 1644, the Han Bannermen established the Qing dynasty (1644–1912) and unified the entirety of China.

Northeast China came under influence of the Russian Empire with the building of the Chinese Eastern Railway through Harbin to Vladivostok. The Empire of Japan replaced Russian influence in the region as a result of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904–1905, and Japan laid the South Manchurian Railway in 1906 to Port Arthur. During the Warlord Era in China, Zhang Zuolin established himself in Northeast China, but was murdered by the Japanese for being too independent. The last Qing dynasty emperor, Puyi, was then placed on the throne to lead a Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo. After the atomic bombing of Japan in 1945, the Soviet Union invaded the region as part of its declaration of war against Japan. From 1945 to 1948, Northeast China was a base area for the Communist People's Liberation Army in the Chinese Civil War. With the encouragement of the Soviet Union, the area was used as a staging ground during the Civil War for the Chinese Communists, who were victorious in 1949 and have been controlling this region since.


Northeast China has a total population of about 107,400,000 people, accounting for 8% of China's total population. The overwhelming majority of the population in the Northeast is Han Chinese, many of whose ancestors came in the 19th and 20th centuries during a migration movement called "Chuang Guandong" (simplified Chinese :闯关东; traditional Chinese :闖關東; lit. 'venture into the east of the Pass'). Northeast China historically had a significant Han Chinese population, reaching over 3 million by the end of Ming Dynasty, but they were subjected to eviction and assimilation by the conquest of the Qing Dynasty, who then set up Willow Palisades during the reign of Shunzhi Emperor and prohibited any settlement of Han Chinese into the region. Despite officially prohibiting Han Chinese settlement, by the 18th century the Qing decided to settle Han into the Northeast so that Han Chinese farmed 500,000 hectares in the region by the 1780s. [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] Besides moving into the Liao area in southern Manchuria, the path linking Jinzhou, Fengtian, Tieling, Changchun, Hulun, and Ningguta was settled by Han Chinese during the Qianlong Emperor's reign, and Han Chinese were the majority in urban areas of Manchuria by 1800. [13] [14] This resulted in the local Han Chinese population growing to over 20 million before the Second Sino-Japanese War. After the establishment of the People's Republic of China at the end of the Chinese Civil War, further immigrations were organized by the Central Government to "develop the Great Northern Wilderness" (开发北大荒), eventually peaking the population over 100 million people.

Because most people in Northeast China trace their ancestries back to the migrants from the Chuang Guandong era, Northeastern Chinese were more culturally uniform compared to other geographical regions of China. People from the Northeast would first identify themselves as "Northeasterners" (东北人) before affiliating to individual provinces and cities/towns.

Ethnic Manchus form the second significant ethnic group in Northeast China, followed by the Mongols, Koreans, and the Huis, as well as 49 other ethnic minorities such as Daurs, Sibos, Hezhens, Oroqens, Evenks, Kyrgyz, etc.


Taoism and Chinese Buddhism were never well established in this region – instead Chinese folk religions led by local shamans predominate. The region has also a strong presence of folk religions and Confucian churches.


The Northeast was one of the earliest regions to industrialize in China during the era of Manchukuo. After the founding of the People's Republic of China, Northeast China continued to be a major industrial base of the country, and has been hailed as "the Republic's eldest son" (共和国长子). Recent years, however, have seen the stagnation of Northeast China's heavy-industry-based economy, as China's economy continues to liberalize and privatize; the government has initialized the Revitalize the Northeast campaign to counter this problem, and established the Northeast Summit to improve policy coordination and integration. The region has experienced difficulty distancing itself from a planned economy, a legacy that began in 1905 with the establishment of the Japanese sphere of influence there. The region's once-abundant raw materials have also depleted and the economy has suffered from bureaucratic inefficiency and protectionist politics. [15]

The region is, on the whole, more heavily urbanised than most parts of China, largely because it was the first part of the country to develop heavy industry owing to its abundant coal reserves. Major cities include Shenyang, Dalian, Harbin, Changchun and Anshan, all with several million inhabitants. Other cities include the steel making centres of Fushun and Anshan in Liaoning, Jilin City in Jilin, and Qiqihar and Mudanjiang in Heilongjiang. Harbin, more than any other city in China, possesses significant Russian influences: there are many Orthodox churches that have fallen out of use since the Cultural Revolution. Shenyang and Dalian, meanwhile, have sizable populations of Japanese and South Koreans due to their traditional linkages.

The rural population of the Northeast is heavily concentrated in the warmer southern part of the area, where very warm to hot summer weather permits crops such as maize and millet to be grown with high yields. Soybeans and flax are also very important, as are wheat and barley. The region possesses large flocks of sheep, and pigs are abundant in the more densely settled southern part. The northern half of Heilongjiang is so cold and poorly drained that agriculture is almost impossible; however, the Amur River provides very rich fishing prospects, and sheep are even more abundant than in southern Heilongjiang.

Northeast China is the country's traditional industrial base, focusing mainly on equipment manufacturing. Major industries include the steel, automobile, shipbuilding, aircraft manufacturing, and petroleum refining industries. The gross regional product of the three northeast provinces totaled ¥1.63 trillion in 2002. In recent years, the Chinese government has initialized the "Revitalize the Northeast campaign" to turn this region into one of China's economic growth engines. As of 2015 the region was losing population and the economy, dominated by state-owned enterprises, was stagnant. [16]


Dalian Hotel at Zhongshan Square in Dalian Dalian Hotel Da Lian Bin Guan .jpg
Dalian Hotel at Zhongshan Square in Dalian

In general, the culture of Northeast China takes its elements from the cultures of North China and Shandong, where most of the Han Chinese migration into Northeast China, known as Chuang Guandong, Tungusic peoples and its own innovations.


There are two main dialects of Mandarin Chinese spoken in Northeast China. The dialect spoken in the majority of the Northeast is the Northeastern Mandarin, which is a very slight variant of the Standard Chinese but retains sporadic elements from native Tungusic languages, Korean and Russian, where there are enough differences to give the dialect its own distinctive characteristics. However many residents in the southern fringe of the Liaodong region (mostly in Dalian and Dandong) speak the Jiaoliao Mandarin, which is actually a Shandong dialect.

Ethnic Manchus speak mostly Mandarin, and the Manchu language is almost extinct due to widespread assimilation to Han culture over the last four centuries. Ethnic Mongols tend to be bilingual in their own Mongolian tongues as well as Mandarin.


Northeastern Chinese cuisine reflects the region's ethnic diversity. Northern Chinese, Manchu and Korean cooking styles all find their traces in Manchurian cooking. One of the distinguishing characteristics of the cuisine is the use of uncooked fresh vegetables. During the long winter season, pickled Chinese cabbage, which is called "suan cai", is preserved and used for cooking. In almost every other region of China, vegetables are cooked thoroughly before being eaten. Most of the meat dishes are based around pork due to how cold it can get. Often braised pork or dumplings are the main attraction of a meal. This region's often cold climate makes it hard to grow or produce much of anything and growing seasons are correspondingly very short.

Folk dance and sports

Errenzhuan, yangge, Jilin opera and stilts are popular forms of traditional entertainment in Northeast China. "Northeastern Cradle Song" is an example of the folk songs of this region.

Because of its climatic conditions, Northeast China is the base for China's winter sports. Ice hockey and ice skating athletes often come from or were educated in Northeast China.

Major universities

See also


  1. After the Japanese victory in the First Sino-Japanese War, the Qing began referring to the area as the "Three Northeast" or "Northeastern Provinces". After the Republic of China restructured its provinces, the area was known as the "Nine Northeast" or "Northeastern Provinces". After the Communists won the Chinese Civil War and reordered their provinces, it again became known as the "Three Northeast" or "Northeastern Provinces".
  2. Not to be confused with the unrelated Guangdong.

Related Research Articles

Manchuria Geographic region in Northeast Asia

Manchuria is an exonym for several large overlapping historical and geographic regions of Russia and China in Northeast Asia. Depending on the context, it may refer to:

Manchu people East Asian ethnic group native to northeastern China (Manchuria)

The Manchu are an ethnic minority in China and the people from whom Manchuria derives its name. They are sometimes called "red-tasseled Manchus", a reference to the ornamentation on traditional Manchu hats. The Later Jin (1616–1636) and Qing dynasty (1636–1912) were established and ruled by Manchus, who are descended from the Jurchen people who earlier established the Jin dynasty (1115–1234) in China.

Liaoning Province of China

Liaoning, is a coastal province in Northeast China that is the smallest, southernmost, and most populous province in the region. With its capital at Shenyang, it is located on the northern shore of the Yellow Sea, and is the northernmost coastal province of the People's Republic of China.

Jilin Province of China

Jilin is one of the three provinces of Northeast China. Its capital and largest city is Changchun. Jilin borders North Korea and Russia to the east, Heilongjiang to the north, Liaoning to the south, and Inner Mongolia to the west. Along with the rest of Northeast China, Jilin underwent an early period of industrialization. However, Jilin's economy, characterized by heavy industry, has been facing economic difficulties with privatization. This prompted the central government to undertake a campaign called "Revitalize the Northeast". The region contains large deposits of oil shale.

Heilongjiang Province of China

Heilongjiang is a province of the People's Republic of China, located in the northeast of the country. It is the northernmost and easternmost province of the country. The province is bordered by Jilin to the south and Inner Mongolia to the west. It also shares a border with Russia to the north and east. The capital and the largest city of the province is Harbin. Among Chinese provincial-level administrative divisions, Heilongjiang is the sixth-largest by total area and the 15th-most populous.

Anshan Prefecture-level city in Liaoning, Peoples Republic of China

Anshan is an inland prefecture-level city in central-southeast Liaoning province, People's Republic of China, about 92 kilometres (57 mi) south of the provincial capital Shenyang. It is Liaoning's third-most populous city with a population of 3,584,000 people, and covers an area of about 9,252 km2 (3,572 sq mi) spanning 133 km (83 mi) from east to the west. The city's name came from the horse saddle-like shape of a nearby mountain south of the city, which can be seen on the left (west) about five minutes before the northbound train arrives at Anshan railway station. Anshan is home to the Anshan Iron and Steel Group, one of the largest steel producers in China. Anshan is sister city with Sheffield, United Kingdom.

Shenyang Prefecture-level & Sub-provincial city in Liaoning, China

Shenyang, formerly known as Fengtian or by its Manchu name Mukden, is a major Chinese sub-provincial city and the provincial capital of Liaoning province. Located in central-north Liaoning, it is the province's most populous city, with a total metropolitan population up to 9.02 million. The largest city in Northeast China by urban population, with 6.3 million people, Shenyang is also the central city of one of the major megalopolises in China, the Greater Shenyang Metropolitan Area, which has a total population over 23 million. The city's administrative region includes the ten metropolitan districts of Shenyang proper, the county-level city of Xinmin, and two counties: Kangping and Faku.

History of Manchuria

Manchuria is a region in East Asia. Depending on the definition of its extent, "Manchuria" can refer either to a region falling entirely within present-day China, or to a larger region today divided between Northeast China and the Russian Far East. To differentiate between the two parts following the latter definition, the Russian part is also known as Outer Manchuria, while the Chinese part is known as Inner Manchuria.

Qiqihar Prefecture-level city in Heilongjiang, Peoples Republic of China

Qiqihar is the second-largest city in the Heilongjiang province of China, in the west central part of the province. The built-up area made up of Longsha, Tiefeng and Jianhua districts had 979,517 inhabitants, while the total population of the prefecture-level city was 5,367,003 at the 2010 census. These are mainly Han Chinese, though the city is also home to thirty-four minorities including Manchus, Daur, and Mongols.

Siping, Jilin Prefecture-level city in Jilin, Peoples Republic of China

Siping, formerly Ssupingkai, is a prefecture-level city in the west of Jilin province, People's Republic of China. Located in the middle of the Songliao Plain and at the intersection of Jilin, Liaoning and Inner Mongolia, Siping covers an area of 14,323 km2 (5,530 sq mi). At the 2015 census, Siping has a total population of 3.36 million while the urban population is 625,000.

Jixi Prefecture-level city in Heilongjiang, Peoples Republic of China

Jixi is a city in southeastern Heilongjiang Province, People's Republic of China. At the 2010 census, 1,862,165 people resided within its administrative area of 22,488.47 square kilometres (8,682.85 sq mi) and 757,647 in its built-up area made up of 3 out of 6 urban districts. Jixi is on the Muling River about 30 km (19 mi) from the border with Russia's Primorsky Krai and 120 km (75 mi) from Lake Xingkai. The mayor of Jixi is Zhang Changrong (张常荣) since June 2015. The area is one of the important coal mining bases in China. A crater on asteroid 253 Mathilde was named after the city.

Beijing–Harbin railway

The Beijing–Harbin railway, named the Jingha Railway, is the railway that connects Beijing with Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang Province. It spans 1,249 km (776 mi). It is a very prominent route in the provinces of northeastern China.

Northeastern Mandarin

Northeastern Mandarin is the subgroup of Mandarin varieties spoken in Northeast China with the exception of the Liaodong Peninsula. The classification of Northeastern Mandarin as a separate dialect group from Beijing Mandarin was first proposed by Li Rong, author of the Language Atlas of China, in 1989. However, many researchers do not accept the distinction.

Willow Palisade

Willow Palisade was a system of ditches and embankments planted with willows intended to restrict movement into Manchuria, built by the Qing dynasty during the later 17th century. It is often conveniently divided into three connected sections: the western and eastern sections, forming the Inner Willow Palisade around Liaodong Peninsula, and the northern section, also known as the Outer Willow Palisade, separating the traditionally Manchu areas from the traditionally Mongol area north of the Inner Palisade.

The Northeast Project, which is short for the Serial Research Project on the History and Current State of the Northeast Borderland, was a five-year research project on the history and current situation of the frontiers of Northeast China which lasted from 2002 to 2007. It was launched by the Chinese Academy of Social Science (CASS) and received financial support from both the Chinese government and the CASS.

Chuang Guandong is descriptive of the rush of Han Chinese into Manchuria, mainly from the Shandong Peninsula and Zhili, during the hundred-year period beginning in the last half of the 19th century. Previously, this region was outside China proper, but was sometimes under direct control and/or indirect influence, of the ruling Chinese dynasty. During the first two centuries of the Manchu Qing Dynasty, this part of China, the traditional homeland of the ruling Manchus, was, with few exceptions, closed to settlement by Han Chinese civilians, with only certain Manchu Bannermen, Mongol Bannermen, and Chinese Bannermen allowed in. The region, now known as Northeast China, now has an overwhelmingly Han population.

Viceroy of the Three Northeast Provinces

The Viceroy of the Three Northeast Provinces, fully referred to in Chinese as the Governor-General of the Three Northeast Provinces and Surrounding Areas Overseeing Military Generals of the Three Provinces, Director of Civil Affairs of Fengtian, sometimes referred to as the Viceroy of Manchuria, was a regional viceroy in China during the Qing dynasty. It was the only regional viceroy whose jurisdiction was outside China proper. The Viceroy had control over Fengtian, Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces in Northeast China, which was also known as Manchuria.

Northeast China folk religion

Northeast China folk religion is the variety of Chinese folk religion of northeast China, characterised by distinctive cults original to Hebei and Shandong, transplanted and adapted by the Han Chinese settlers of Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang since the Qing dynasty. It is characterised by terminology, deities and practices that are different from those of central and southern Chinese folk religion. Many of these patterns derive from the interaction of Han religion with Manchu shamanism.

Manchuria under Qing rule

Manchuria under Qing rule was the rule of the Qing dynasty over Manchuria, including today's Northeast China and Outer Manchuria. The Qing dynasty itself was established by the Manchus, a Tungusic people coming from Manchuria, who later conquered the Ming dynasty and became the ruler of China. Thus, Manchuria enjoyed a somewhat special status during the Qing and was not governed as regular provinces until the late Qing dynasty.

Religion in Northeast China

The predominant religions in Northeast China are Chinese folk religions led by local shamans. Taoism and Chinese Buddhism were never well established in this region of recent Han Chinese settlement. For this reason the region has been a hotbed for folk religious and Confucian churches, which provide a structure, clergy, scriptures and ritual to the local communities. The Way of the Return to the One, the Universal Church of the Way and its Virtue (Shanrendao), and more recently the Falun Gong, have been the most successful sects in Manchuria, claiming millions of followers. Schools of Tibetan Buddhism, traditionally transmitted by the region's Mongol minorities, have made inroads also among Han Chinese.



  1. The nine nations of China: Rust Belt, Atlantic
  2. "Northeast Revitalization Plan (2007)". State Council of the People's Republic of China . Retrieved 31 August 2010.
  3. Giles 1912 , p.  8 .
  4. Clausen 1995 , p.  7 .
  5. GB/T 2260 codes for the provinces of China
  6. ISO 3166-2:CN (ISO 3166-2 codes for the provinces of China)
  7. 1 2 3 国务院人口普查办公室; 国家统计局人口和社会科技统计司, eds. (2012). 中国2010年人口普查分县资料. Beijing: China Statistics Press. ISBN   978-7-5037-6659-6.
  8. Reardon-Anderson 2000, p. 504.
  9. Reardon-Anderson 2000, p. 505.
  10. Reardon-Anderson 2000, p. 506.
  11. Scharping 1998, p. 18.
  12. Reardon-Anderson 2000, p. 507.
  13. Reardon-Anderson 2000, p. 508.
  14. Reardon-Anderson 2000, p. 509.
  15. Chan, Elaine (2019-05-06). "China's Northeastern rust belt was once 'eldest son', now struggling as runt of the litter". China Economy. South China Morning Post. Retrieved 2019-05-06.
  16. Li Yongfeng (24 September 2015). "Central Planning Got the Northeast in Trouble – and Won't Save It". Caixin. Retrieved 24 September 2015.