LIAONING PROVINCE (Shenyang, Dalian, Lushun)


Liaoning Province
LIAONING PROVINCE has traditionally been one China's richest province. It has experienced more economic growth than other parts of the Northeast. Located between Beijing and North Korea, it lies in the northern reaches of the North China Plain, where massive agricultural communes were established that turned large areas of the province into corn and wheat fields with neat rows in the flat valleys and twists and turns around the hills. It also contains massive strip mines and industrialized cities.

NORTHEAST CHINA is a cold and sparsely populated region that embraces Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces---which together cover an area of 308,000 square miles and have a population of 107 million people. Known to the Chinese simply as Dongbei (the Northeast), and to Westerners as Manchuria, it encompasses fertile plains, forested mountains and remnants of minorities that survived by hunting and herding reindeer. The term Manchuria is generally not used by Chinese because its association with the Japanese occupation.

Northeast China is separated from Siberia and Russia by the Amur River and two of its tributaries, the Argus and Ussuuri. The Tumen and Yalu Rivers divide it from North Korea. It south coast lies on the opening of the Yellow Sea. Inner Mongolia and Northeast China are roughly separated by the Khingan Mountains.

Liaoning map
Northeast China is the traditional homeland of the Manchu---hence the name Manchuria. Originally a Mongol-like nomadic people, the Manchus ran China during the Qing dynasty from 1644-1912. Chinese now make up 95 percent of the region's population. There are also sizable numbers of Mongols and Koreans. Unusual minorities include the Oroqen nomads, the Dauers, Ewenki and Hezhen. Their numbers are very small.

Northeast China has been described as China’s “cradle of industrialization.” It was first developed by Japanese and Russian colonists. Between 1931 and 1945, it was occupied by the Japanese, who harvested its abundant resources---timber, coal, iron, copper, molybdenum, manganese and aluminum---and built factories that supplied by Japanese military machine. After the World War II the region was briefly occupied by the Russians and was the site of decisive victories by the Communists and over the Kuomintang.

Under Mao it was turned into the industrial heartland of China. Coal-fired power plants, iron-and-steel mills, oil wells and factories were built that churned out the majority of China’s steel, cars, ships, and oil---16 percent of China’s industrial output with juts 8 percent of the population---and created lots of jobs but also produced a lot waste and pollution.

But in a very short time Northeast China has gone from China’s economic powerhouse to a region left behind to a region on the rebound. It suffered under the Deng reforms. Many of the state-run factories had become obsolete and were shut down, resulting in huge lay offs. Of the 31 mullion Chinese who lost their jobs between 1998 and 2002, one quarter lived in the Northeast.

In 2003, the “Revitalize the Northeast,” offering job training and language classes for unemployed and luring foreign companies with high tech centers, tax breaks and other incentives. The region attracted a lot of foreign investment particularly from Japan and South Korea but considerable less than the Shanghai area and southern China.

Northeast China during the Russian and Japanese occupation

Northeast China still has a ways to go to turn itself around. It still suffers from one of the highest unemployment rates in China. Many of those that are employed work for inefficient state-run enterprises that should be shut down. Many of those who are unemployed don’t have skills employers want.

The winters in Northeast China are cold and dry. The summers can be hot and wet. More than half the annual rain falls in July and August. During this time large amounts of corn, wheat, millet and soybeans are raised in the fertile, dark soil. There are also sizable fur and fishing industries. Fushun contains the world's largest open pit coal mine. Many of the cities are heavily industrialized.

Great Wall of China sections in Hebei and Liaoning are thought to be the oldest. Some sections are said to be 2,220 years old. See Great Wall in the Beijing section.


Shenyang (nine hours by train from Beijing) is an industrial megacity located in the heartland of the industrial northeast and is famous for its factories and its "three treasures"---ginseng, sable pelts and furry antlers. Originally known as Mukden, it is the capital of Liaoning and was a Manchu town that was briefly the capital of the Qing dynasty in the 17th century. The Japanese made it an industrial center of Manchuria. Mao made it a major center of industry for China. era.


Shenyang is now the sixth largest city in China with around 8 or 9 million people.. Between 1975 and 2000, it grew from less than 3 million to almost 7 million. Among its important industries are machinery, electrical power, textiles, food processing and metallurgy. The city suffered duringthe Deng reforms. In the 1990s many of the state industries were privatized and restructured, leaving tens of thousands without jobs. The emphasis on industry has also left Shenynag with a pollution problem. Shenyang is currently trying to clean up the pollution while revitalizing its moribund industries.

Run-down but ornate shops remain from the Japanese period. An epoxy-resin statue of Mao erected in the Cultural Revolution dominates a city square where people gather to dance, do tai chi and exercise to music from small boom boxes. The statue is surrounded by 58 figures that represent the phases of the Chinese Revolution. New offices, hotels and shopping malls are being built. There is a small financial district, a high tech industrial park, Wal-marts, KFCs and Ikea-like home furnishing stores. .

Web Sites: Travel China Guide Travel China Guide Maps: China Map Guide China Map Guide Lonely Planet Lonely Planet Hotel Web Site: Sinohotel Sinohotel Budget Accommodation: Check Lonely Planet books; Travellerspoint (click China and place in China) Travellerspoint Getting There:Shenyang is accessible by air and bus and is well-connected by train to major cities in China. Travel China Guide (click transportation) Travel China Guide

Shenyang Imperial Palace is second in China only to the Forbidden Palace in Beijing in size and grandeur. Used by the Ming emperors, it covers over six hectares and contains over 300 rooms and 70 buildings that harmoniously blend Han, Mongol and Manchu architectural styles. The Supreme Politics Hall houses the royal throne. The Phoenix Tower is the highest tower in the palace complex. Shenyang Imperial Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. UNESCO World Heritage Site Map: (click at the bottom): UNESCO Also try the UNESCO World Heritage Site Web site (click the site you want) World Heritage Site

Museum of Steam Locomotives (in Shenyang) is the largest of its kind in China. Located in a city that contained one of the last steam locomotive factories in the world, this museum houses steam locomotives from Russia, Poland, Japan as well as China. Tourists are sometimes permitted to play railroad engineer and drive a steam locomotive around for a mile or two.

Zhaoling Tomb (just north of Shenyang) is the largest Qing imperial tomb in the northeast. Covering 4.5 hectares, it includes a tomb, a fortress, an altar hall, ornamental columns and marble animals. The architectural-style combines ancient Han construction methods and early Qing castle features.



Dalian (six hours from Shenyang by train) is a city known for its office parks, cleanliness and booming economy. Traditionally regarded as one of the main gateways to resource-rich Northeast China and Siberia, it was a fishing town until the late 1800s, when it began its transformation into a major deep-water port under the Russians who coveted it because, unlike Vladivostok to the north, its waters didn't freeze over in the winter. The Japanese took over Dalian after the end of the Russo-Japanese War and for the most part completed the Russian plan for the city.

From 1905 to the end of World War II, Dalian was the center of Japanese commerce in China, the home of a huge Japanese military base with 300,000 troops and the terminus of the Manchurian Railroad. The courthouse is a replica of an auditorium at Tokyo University and Dalian train station is a copy of Ueno Station in Tokyo.

Under the Communists, Dalian became a grimy and smokey industrial town known for its shipyards and petrochemical plants. In the late 1980s, Theroux compared it South Boston. "It was a decaying port," he wrote, "made out of bricks, with wide streets, cobblestones and trolley tracks, and all the paraphernalia of a harbor---the warehouses, dry docks and cranes."

In recent years, Dalian once again has became a center of Japanese commerce. Passengers arriving at the airports are welcomed by a huge "Big Japan" sign, restaurants serve sushi and sea urchins, and golf clubs charge $70,000 membership fees. Many Japanese companies have call centers and research centers here. South Korean companies have invested heavily here also. Russian tourists come to take in what for them is a balmy climate and relatively warm Yellow Sea waters. Dalian is also known for its cheerful and hardworking people.

Japanese-style train station

Dalian is also becoming an low-cost telecom hub and call center hub in Asia, particularly for Japan and South Korea, and for companies like Dell, IBM, Sony, Nokia, Hewlett Packard, General Electric and Motorola. In addition to a high number of Japanese companies and Japanese speakers there are also many Korean-speaking ethnic Korean Chinese in the Dalian and there plans to open call centers for South Korean companies Employees at the call center are paid about $130 a month. The plan is to make Dalian to Japan and South Korea what Bangalore is to the United States.

Dalian is ground zero for China’s outsourcing and IT industries. It is home to seven massive business parks spread along 30 kilometers of rolling green hills. About 70,000 people work there for 700 companies, half of which are foreign-owned. Around 470 of them are located at the Dalian Software Park. Over 2,000 companies are expected to be established there by 2013. Even more will be there when the next phase of the Dalian Software Park is finished in the mid 2010s at a cost of $2.2 billion. General Electric was the first foreign company to establish an office there. There are more than 20 universities and colleges, many of them specializing in science and technology or foreign languages.

There are many old Japanese houses around Harbin Street in the Nanshan area. In recent years many these houses have been demolished to make room for new development. Tourist areas often have a take-your-picture booths. Temples often have monks selling postcards. The "Dragon Cave" near Dalien has plastic stalactites, painted fiberglass rocks and tables surrounded by fake moss.

Web Sites: Travel China Guide Travel China Guide Maps: Lonely Planet Lonely Planet China Map Guide China Map Guide Subway Map : Urban Urban Rail Hotel Web Site: Sinohotel Sinohotel Budget Accommodation: Check Lonely Planet books; Travellerspoint (click China and place in China) Travellerspoint Getting There: Dalian is accessible by air, boat, bus and train. Travel China Guide (click transportation) Travel China Guide



Lushun (near Dalian, on the southern tip of the Liaondong Peninsula) was known in the 19th and early 20th century as Port Arthur and has a number of battlefields, buildings and historical sights associated with the Russian and Japanese occupation and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). Sights include Russian-constructed Lushun Railroad Station, 203 Meter Hill---the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the Russo-Japanese War---and Dongjiguanshan Hill, a large Russian-built fortress. Lushan National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is under the jurisdiction of Dalian municipality. Lushan Port and nearby areas are off limited because they are military zones. Web Site: Travel China Guide (click attractions) Travel China Guide (click transportation) Travel China Guide UNESCO World Heritage Site Map: (click at the bottom): UNESCO Also try the UNESCO World Heritage Site Web site (click the site you want) World Heritage Site

Bingyu Ice Valley (200 kilometers north of Dalien) features forest-covered mountains with a beautiful rumpled and wrinkled look to them. The valley that runs through these mountains gets its name from the sandy river bed that is so white it looks like ice.

Mt. Qianshan (25 kilometers southeast of Anshan) is an unusual-looking mountain. According to a Chinese saying, "There is no peak in Qianshin that is not singular, no rocky cliff not perilous, and no monastery not ancient."

Fushun contains China's largest open pit mine. It is four miles long and a thousand feet across.


Dandong (on the North Korean border) is a port town with about 1 million people across the Yalu River from North Korea. The main train line and much of the trade between China and North Korea pass through the town. Journalists gather here to seek news about North Korea and North Koreans that have escaped into China.

Much of the tourism is geared towards North Korea watching. Boat trips pass within 15 meters of the North Korean shores, binoculars have been set up to visitors to look at the hermit kingdom. Vendors sell kitschy postcards and other items from North Korea. One of the most lucrative businesses in reselling sea cumbers gathered in North Korea to Chinese medicine shops. There is a 1.3-kilometer section of the Great Wall near the Yalu River.

Web Sites: Travel China Guide Travel China Guide Hotel Web Site: Sinohotel Sinohotel Budget Accommodation: Check Lonely Planet books; Getting There: Dandong Shenyang is accessible by air, train and bus. Lonely Planet (click Getting There) Lonely Planet

Image Sources: Province maps from the Nolls China Web site. Photographs of places from 1) CNTO (China National Tourist Organization; 2) Nolls China Web site; 3) Perrochon photo site; 4); 5) tourist and government offices linked with the place shown; 6); 7) University of Washington, Purdue University, Ohio State University; 8) UNESCO; 9) Wikipedia; 10) Julie Chao photo site; 11) Pico Pico' Wiki Commons

Text Sources: CNTO, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Page Top

© 2009 Jeffrey Hays

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from, please contact me.