JILIN PROVINCE is not usually high on tourist itineraries. In recent year, many of the foreign visitors here have come to ogle at the desperate and starving people across the border in North Korea. Many ethnic Koreans live here. Jilin is relatively cold and industrial province. The forth poorest province in China, Jilin has traditionally been China's largest exporter of corn and tobacco. Ginseng from southern Jilin's Changbai mountain is greatly valued ans has been a key ingredient in traditional Chinese medicines for centuries.

Jilin Province covers 191,126 square kilometers (73,794 square miles)and has a population density of 120 people per square kilometer. According to the 2020 Chinese census the population was around 24 million, about 3.5 million less than 2010. About 58 percent of the population lives in urban areas. Changchun is the capital and largest city, with about 4 million people in the city and 7.6 million people in the prefecture. About 91 percent of the population is Han Chinese, 4 percent is Korean, 4 percent is Manchu, 0.6 percent is Mongol and 0.5 percent is Hui. The main languages and dialects are Northeastern Mandarin and Hamgyŏng Korean. Maps of Jilin: chinamaps.org

The population of Jilin was 24,073,453 in 2020; 27,462,297 in 2010; 26,802,191 in 2000; 24,658,721 in 1990; 22,560,053 in 1982; 15,668,663 in 1964; 11,290,073 in 1954; 6,465,000 in 1947; 7,354,000 in 1936-37; 7,635,000 in 1928; 5,580,000 in 1912. [Source: Wikipedia, China Census]

Tourist sights in Jilin Province include the cities of Changchun, Jilin, Jiaohe, and Ji’a, World Heritage site Koguryo Imperial City and Changbai Mountain on the border of North Korea. The Ancient Tombs at Longtou Mountain, including the Mausoleum of Princess Zhenxiao, are royal tombs of the Balhae kingdom found in Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture. According to the Chinese government there are 52 tourist zones at and above class-A, including six national AAAA tourist zones, 33 nature reserves, four state-class scenic resort, 141 cultural units under provincial or national protection, 26 national forest parks, and five provincial-level tourist and holiday resort. A total of 176 star-rated hotels and 237 international and domestic travel agencies have been counted. The Ice Lantern Festival, skiing and winter sports are popular.

Jilin is part of Northeast China, and shares many similarities with culture to neighboring regions, such as Er ren zhuan, stilts and yangge. Jiju, or Jilin Opera, is a form of traditional entertainment that is more unique to Jilin was developed there by migrants. The ethnic Koreans of Jilin have their own distinct culture. Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture is within Jilin Province. The name "Jilin" (pinyin: Jílín; Wade–Giles: Chi-lin, Postal map spelling: Kirin) probably originates from Girin ula, a Manchu term meaning "along the river". This was transcribed into Jilin wula in Chinese, then shortened to Jilin. The literal meaning of the Chinese characters for "Jilin" is "auspicious forest". The name was transliterated to Kirin before standardization to pinyin.

Geography, Climate and Resources of Jilin Province

Jilin map
Jilin lies in the central part of northeastern China, bordering North Korea and Russia to the east, Heilongjiang to the north, Liaoning to the south, and Inner Mongolia to the west. The highest mountains are in the southeast, with elevation dropping gently towards the northwest. The Changbai Mountains extend through southeast regions and contains the highest peak of the province, 2691-meter-high Baiyun Peak. Other mountain ranges include the Jilinhada Mountains, Zhang Guangcai Mountains, and Longgang Mountains.

Jilin is drained by the Yalu and Tumen Rivers in the southwest. Together they form the border between with North Korea. Tributaries of the Liao River flow along the southern border. The Songhua and Nen rivers flow into the Amur. Major cities in this province include Changchun, Jilin City, Baishan, Baicheng, Siping, Yanji, Songyuan, Tonghua and Liaoyuan.

Jilin has a northerly continental monsoon climate, with long, cold winters and short, warm summers. Average January temperatures range from-20 to-14°C. Rainfall averages at 350 to 1000 millimeters. The region has a lengthy winter. Snow that can last for seven months a year in some places. Jilin is rich in natural mineral deposits with 136 different types of minerals, of which 70 have already been extracted. Jilin is known as a source of plants used in traditional Chinese medicine. the province has in large reserves of oil, gas, coal, iron mine, nickel, molybdenum, talc, graphite, gypsum, cement rock, gold and silver; its reserves of oil shale are the largest in the country.

Northeast China (Manchuria)

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 covers 1.554 million square kilometers (600,000 square miles), an area roughly the size of Alaska. It 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.

The northeast is diverse geographically, embracing the strategic natural harbor at Dalian, the heavily-populated Manchurian plain, rugged mountains along Korean border, and wetlands and forests in the north along the Russian border. In terms of agriculture, Jilin has traditionally been China's largest exporter of corn and tobacco, Heilongjiang is known as "the king of soybeans," and Liaoning's apples, peaches, and pears are exported throughout Asia. Ginseng from southern Jilin's Changbai mountain is a staple of Chinese traditional medicine.

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.

The region is ethnically diverse. Although dominated by Han Chinese there are a strong Manchu, Mongolian, and Korean influences. The southern part of Jilin Province contains the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, known as "China's Korean Corner" and is home to several million ethnic Korean Chinese. Today Han Chinese 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 Chinese dishes include frozen melons, bread, vanilla ice cream, stewed moose nose with mushroom, Mongolian hot pot, "yellow flower" (chopped lily stalks), white fungus soup, monkey-leg mushrooms, Harbin potato-eggplant salad, pheasant shashlik. Near Russia dishes made with fatty meat, potatoes, rice gruel, stuffed cabbage, and green peppers covered in gravy are available.

Early History of Northeast China

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. For much of its history, Northeast China was a frontier land. It wasn’t really settled until the late 1800s and soon after that became the center of a strategic battle involving Russia, Japan, Korea, and China.

During different periods of time kingdoms and state-like entities rules by Koreans and Chinese nomadic groups ruled parts of northeast China. In the last half of the seventeenth century the imperial Qing government recruited migrants from south of the Great Wall (notably, from Shandong) to settle the relatively sparsely populated area of Fengtian Province (roughly corresponding to today's Liaoning). Many of the current residents of Liaoning trace their ancestry to these seventeenth century settlers. The rest of China's Northeast, however, remained officially off-limits to Han Chinese for most of the Manchu era. To prevent the migration of Chinese to those regions (today's Jilin and Heilongjiang, as well as the adjacent parts of Inner Mongolia), the so-called Willow Palisade was constructed roughly between 1638 and 1672.

During the Qing Dynasty, Manchuria was ruled by three generals, one of whom, the General of Shengjing, ruled much of modern Liaoning. In 1860, the Manchu government began to reopen the region to migration, which quickly resulted in Han Chinese becoming the dominant ethnic group in the region.

Later History of Northeast China

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 — 1 6 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.

The northeast was home to some of China's largest state enterprises, including the massive Anshan Steel Works, the First Auto Works, and the Jilin Petrochemical Corporation 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" Campaign was launched, 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 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.

History of Jilin Province

In ancient times, Jilin was inhabited by various peoples, notably the Xianbei, Koreans, the Mohe and the Wùjí.. Various Korean kingdoms, including the Buyeo, Goguryeo and Balhae, were established in this area. The region then fell successively under the domination of the Khitan Liao Dynasty, the Jurchen Jin Dynasty, and the Mongol Yuan Dynasty. During the Qing Dynasty, much of the area was under the control of the General of Jilin, whose area of control extended to the Sea of Japan to encompass much of what is Russia's Primorsky Krai today. Immigration of Han Chinese was strictly controlled.

After the Primorsky Krai area was ceded to Russia in 1860, the Qing government began to open the area up to Han Chinese migrants, most of whom came from Shandong. By the beginning of the twentieth century, Han Chinese had become the dominant ethnic group of the region. In 1932, the area was incorporated into Manchukuo, a puppet state set up by Japan. Changchun (then called Hsinking), capital of Jilin today, was made the capital of Manchukuo. After the defeat of Japan in 1945, the region, together with the rest of northeastern China, was ceded to the Communists by the Soviet Union. Manchuria was the staging ground from which the communists eventually conquered the rest of China in the Chinese Civil War.

In 1949, Jilin province was smaller, encompassing only the environs of Changchun and Jilin City, and the capital was at Jilin City, while Changchun was a municipality independent from the province. In the 1950s, Jilin was expanded to its present borders. During the Cultural Revolution, Jilin was expanded again to include a part of Inner Mongolia, giving it a border with the independent state of Mongolia, though this was later reversed. In recent times Jilin has, together with the rest of heavy industry-based Northeast China, been facing economic difficulties with privatization. This has prompted the central government to undertake a campaign called “Revitalize the Northeast”.

Food and Things to Buy in Jilin Province

A Songhua Lake Fish Banquet features live fish from Songhua Lake and includes dozens of delicious fish dishes prepared using traditional culinary techniques. It is a hallmark event at the Jilin Kaijiang Fish Delicious Festival held every April. .Ginseng Maotai Chicken uses Maotai liquor as one of the major seasoning in part to lessen the bitter flavor of ginseng and add aroma to the chicken. One of the famous dishes of Baishan City, it is considered restorative and good to health. Soup of Three Treasures of Deer: is made with deer antler, tendons, penis, and venison of the spotted deer inhabiting Changbai Mountain.. Monkey-head mushroom, a nutritious and precious local product of Changbai Mountain, can be cooked in many ways.

Changbai Mountain boasts a wide variety of special products. In addition to medicinal herbs, there are also wild vegetables, such as bush vetch and common brake; fungus, such as buck mushroom and abalone mushroom; nuts, such as walnut, hazelnut, and pine nut; and fruit, such as cowberry, woodbine, kiwi fruit, sorbus, strawberry, and amur grape. Jinlin’s color-painted wood carving, mainly hand-carved animals and birds made of fine brich wood, are highly sought after.

Skiing in Jilin

Yabuli International Ski Resort (350 kilometers northeast of Jilin and 370 kilometers southeast of Harbin) is China's largest ski resort. It features nine Norwegian-built chair lifts, 13 trails (11 over one kilometer and one over fiver kilometers) and a vertical drop of more than 700 meters. The ski season often lasts into April. A lift ticket and rental skis and boots cost less than US$50 a day. Accommodation ranges between US$25 for a bed in a dormitory to US$200 for an A-frame chalets. Visitors can also enjoy bonfires with rice wine and sleigh rides with a man dressed as Santa Claus.

Songhauhau Qingshan and Beidahu are two other ski resorts in Jilin Province. They have vertical drops of 371 meters and 400 meter respectively. Accommodation starts with from US$10 bunks and US$50 rooms. The resorts can be reached by train from Harbin and Beijing. Chanbaishan is another ski area in Jilin. The casino magnate Stanely Ho is considering building a US$500 million ski resort near Changchun and Jilin. Changchun host the 2007 Asian Winter Games.

Thanks to long periods of snow and the fine quality of its snow, Jilin has established many skiing resorts accessible from it cities and winter festivals and events. When winter falls, the vast seas of forest on Changbai Mountain are covered by ice and snow, presenting the most enchanting picture in North China. More than 20 ice and snow tourist venues, including the Beidahu Skiing Resort, were set up for the 2007 Asian Winter Games. Jingyuetan and Lotus Mountain Ski Resorts are the closest to Changchun. Here, tourists can view ice lanterns and snow sculptures, play with snow, ski and enjoy winter fishing as well as ski and snowboard.


Changchun (five hours from Shenyang by train) is known for its auto plants and Mao-era films and was the capital of the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo from 1932 to 1945. Several building from the Manchuku era have been restored in recent years in part to attract Japanese tourists.

Changchun is the capital and largest city in Jilin Province, with about 4 million people in the city and 7.6 million people in the prefecture.

Web Sites: Travel China Guide Travel China Guide ; Maps of Changchun: chinamaps.org ;
Budget Accommodation: Check Lonely Planet books; Getting There: Changchun is accessible by air and bus and on the main train line between Beijing and Harbin. Travel China Guide Travel China Guide Changchun Tram Map: Urban Rail urbanrail.net Changchun Subway Map: Urban Rail urbanrail.net

Among the museums in Jilin University Museum (6 W. Minzhu St., Changchun); Changhan Lake Museum (Changhan Lake Tourist zone); Fuyu County Museum (F/3 Culture and Art blog., S. Changchun St., Ningjiang District); and the Guorlusi Museum (F/5 Libuary Bldg., Ethnic Stadium).

Jingyuetan National Forest Park (12 kilometers southeast of central Changchun) has been described as "a pure land in a big city." It is named after Jingyuetan, Pure Moon Lake, a crescent-shaped lake covering an area of 430 hectares, and seven kilometers long and one kilometer wide. The water is crystal clear. Small fish swim in the lake can be seen clearly from the lake’s shore. There are forests and mountains and what is said to be the largest artificial forest in Asia, with an area of 100 square kilometers with a complete ecosystem has formed with 30 types of trees. The park is an ideal place to go hiking in spring and cross counrty ski in winter; Admission: 30 yuan (US$4.72) per person;

Museum of the Imperial Palace of Puppet Manchukuo

Palace of the Puppet Regime (No. 5 North Guangfu Rd. in northeastern Changchun) is where the "Last Emperor" Pu Yi was sent after he left the Forbidden City. He was used by the Japanese to justify their presence in Manchuria, thus the name. Puyi resided when he acted as the emperor of the Manchukuo, a puppet regime propped up by Japanese invaders.

The museum encompasses palaces, gardens, horse a racing course, a holy temple, and the residential ground of the guardian troops. There are dozens of buildings and whole site covers an area of 137,000 square meters. The architectures is mostly European Gothic style. The halls feature a combination of Chinese and Japanese architecture styles. There are a few tile-roofed houses in traditional Chinese style. The entire compound is divided into two section: imperial court devoted to political affairs and residential quarters for the imperial family.

Te Puppet Manchurian Palace Museum is a palace-relic museum built on the relics of the palace of Aisin Gioro Puyi, the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). It is one of the three great imperial palaces existing in China along with Forbidden City in Beijing and the Imperial Palace in Shenyang. Because the regime was established by Japan to pursue colonial domination in northeast China, it was not recognized by Chinese government. This was why the word "puppet" was used. After the breakup of the regime in 1945, the buildings were destroyed, but later restored to their original appearance. The palace was open to the public in 1984; Admission: 80 yuan (US$12.58) per person;

Changchun Film Theme Park

Changchun Film Theme Park is the first park of its kind in China: a theme park that integrates film entertainment and tourism. Modeled somewhat after Universal Studios and opened in 2003, the park covers an area of 100 hectares and features a film technology exhibition, Chinese-and-western-style architecture, an ethnic group scenic area and entertainment area. Visitors may enjoy 4D movies in the luxury theaters, observe the film-shooting process, take rides to experience filming history, meet their favorite film stars and even get involved in film shooting.

Placing China’s film industry in Changhan is a bit like having Hollywood in the Yukon. Located beyond the Kuanping Bridge, Film City offers tours that include visits to studios where films are being shot, a stop at special effects laboratories, and views of old Beijing streets and imperial palaces.

Changchun is famous for its film industry. Changchun Film Studio, known as 'the cradle of New China's film industry', was the first film studio established after the founding of the People's Republic of China and is considered the cornerstone of the Communist Chinese film industry. Located in Changchun Jingyuetan Tourist and Economic Development Zone and conceived by a world-renowned design company, the Century City displays special effects of film and TV through the state-of-the-art science and technology, demonstrating China’s advanced technology in the film industry. Admission: 240 yuan (US$37.75) per person.

Jilin City

Jilin City (113 kilometers east of Changchun) is the second-largest city and former capital of Jilin province. There are about 1.27 million people in the city and 4.4 million in the 27,166 square kilometer Prefecture. It is the only major city in China that has the same as its province. Jilin City is also known as the River City because of the Songhua River surrounding much of the city. In 2007, it co-hosted the Asian Winter Games and suffers from both air pollution and water pollution. In 2005 a petrochemical plant explosion killed six people and caused the release of 100 tons of pollutants containing benzene and nitrobenzene into the river.

Longtan Mountain Deer Farm (on the Songhua River) boasts over one thousand deer. The deer found in this part of China have white spots, even as adults, and furry antlers, which are prized in Chinese medicine. The farm also raises martens and cultivates ginseng.

Ula Ancient City (35 kilometers northwest of Jilin City) is one of the old capitals built by Haixi Jurchens during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The city is near mountains on two sides and near a river on one side, and held a very important military position during ancient times. Covering about 90 hectares, the city was protected by three city walls and a moat. The city walls in the east and north sides have been well-preserved, but most of the walls in the south and west sides have been destroyed. Follow the 34 steps in the center of the city, you would find a platform, where Princess Baihua, a character in a Chinese legend during the Yuan Dynasty, reviewed troops before battle. Ula City is one of the major places of origin of Manchu. Visitors may taste Manchuria-styled food and experience local traditions here; Admission: Free;

Songhua Lake (24 kilometers southeast of Jilin City) is one of the most famous artificial lakes in China. Created after the completion of the Fengman Hydropower Station in 1937, it covers a total area of 550 square kilometers and has a maximum water capacity of 10.8 billion square meters. The narrow lake, which is famous for its tasty fish, stretches for 200 kilometers, and is 10 kilometers at its widest point, and 75 meters at its deepest point. The lake rivals the Qiandao Lake in Zhejiang Province in size.

Tourist can visit the Fengman Hydropower Station, enjoy a genuine Songhua Lake Fish Banquet, and take a sightseeing boat trip and see te lake nine scenic spots: Wuhu Island (Five Tiger Island), Wolong Pond (Crouching Dragon Pond), Fengwu Pond (Dancing Phoenix Pond), Shilong Wall (Stone Dragon Wall), Hailang Hill (Sea Wave Hill), Shuangfeng Ridge (Double Peak Ridge), Luotuo Peak (Camel Peak), Qingshan Hill (Green Hill), and North Heaven Gate. Admission: 30 yuan (US$4.72) per person.

Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture

Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture (150 kilometers east of Changhan and north of the North Korean border) is home to about 2.7 million people and contains the largest concentration of Koreans in China. Under its jurisdiction are the cities of Yanji and Tumen, and the counties of Yanji, Helong, Antu, Huichun, Wangqing and Dunhua. [Source: China.org china.org |]

Covering a total area of 41,500 square kilometers, Yanbian encompasses mountains and valleys. The highest point 2,744-meter-high Changbai Mountain — White Head peak. Located on the border of North Korea, this extinct volcano contains a crater lake, from which the Yalu and Tumen rivers originate, flowing south and north respectively, and forming the boundary with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) to the east. Another community of Koreans lives in the Changbai Korean Autonomous County in southeastern Jilin.

The Ancient Tombs at Longtou Mountain, including the Mausoleum of Princess Zhenxiao, are royal tombs of the Balhae kingdom located in Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture. The prefecture has traditionally been among of China's major sources of timber and forest products, including ginseng, marten pelts and deer antlers. It is also a habitat for many wild animals, including tigers. Copper, lead, zinc and gold have been mined here since the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), and the area also has deposits of iron, antimony, phosphorus, graphite, ///quartz, limestone and oil shale. Yanbian is a major tobacco producer and is famous for apples and pears.


Tumen (North Korean border) has been where many North Korean have fled in search of food from their Korean brothers in China. Ethnic Koreans living in China sometimes throw bags of cookies across the narrow parts of the Tulem River. Children can sometimes be seen retrieving plastic bags of food tossed in the river to by tourists. Farmer in Tumen have had to sow corn three or four times because North Korean dug up the seeds to eat. Many ethnic Koreans were willing at first to share what they had with their North Korean brothers but their patience ran thin after w while.

The border between China and North Korea is surprisingly porous. During the winter, North Koreans can easily walk or drive across the frozen Tumen River near the Chinese town of Yanji. It takes about two minutes on foot. In the summer the river is shallow enough so that it is possible to wade across. Over a 100,000 North Koreans are believed to be in China.

Wulongbei Commune Wulongbei Commune (near North Korean border) is where much of China's "wild silk" is grown. The semi-domesticated worms feeds primarily on oak leaves and may reach lengths of six inches.

Changbai Mountain Range

Changbai Mountain Range is the highest mountain range in Northeast China, extending from northeast China’s Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning provinces to the North Korea’s Ryanggang and Chagang provinces. The dormant volcanoes in the Changbai Mountains present unique landforms. Tourists can enjoy the primeval forests, waterfalls, hot springs, mountain gullies and ice and snow scenes, which form a bright and charming scenic sight. The most well-known site of the mountain is Heavenly Lake, a crater lake known for its beautiful scenery. Mount Changbai is the source of the Songhua River.

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “The typical volcanic landform type is an example of the important stage of the earth's evolution.”The landform “is composed of volcanic lava landform, water landform, Karst landform and glacial and periglacial landform. Its development process reflects the history of the interaction between the Pacific plate and the Eurasian continent. It plays an irreplaceable role in the study of the modern plate movement, the ancient plate movement and the global geological evolution. [Source: National Commission of the People's Republic of China]

“The natural wonders like the world's highest volcanic crater lake -Tianchi, various types of peaks, steep cliffs and alleys, milarites and rock benches, hot springs and waterfalls, which enriches marvelous vertical landscapes horizontally distributed in more than 2000 kilometers from the North Temperate Zone to the Arctic Circle; and the most typical Million Acres of Alpine Garden in Northeast Asia are all presented in Changbai Mountain.

“The nominated property is the most representative region in studying the uplift and formation evolution, mountain formation and volcanic mechanism...As a typical long-dormant volcano with obvious volcanic landform group like volcanic lava landform, water landform, Karst landform and glacial and periglacial landform, Changbai Mountain is a rare region for volcanic mechanism study; It has also preserved a large number of important historical relics in each geological stage and biological evolution process from Archeozoic Era to Cenozoic Era.

Changbai Mountain Nature Reserve

Changbai Mountain Nature Reserve (near Baishan City Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture) covers 1,900 square kilometers and was accepted by the UNESCO “Man and Biosphere” program in 1980. It is regarded as a repository of rare species. With Tianchi Lake as its main scenic spot, the nature reserve encompasses valleys, waterfalls, volcanic rock formations, alpine meadows, underground rivers, virgin forest, a sea of clouds and mists, and ice and snow landscape. The Changbai Mountain, vast forests and the Songhu and Yalu Rivers lie within the reserve. The distinctive Guangdong Culture is based here.. Admission: 125 yuan (US$19.66) per person

According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “Changbai Mountain, covered almost all of the typical vegetation types from the North Temperate Zone to the North Pole, is not only the best preserved area of the original state and the most abundant areas of biological species among regions of the same latitude in Eurasian continent, but also a natural museum and a rare gene pool. There are more than 2400 species of wild plants, more than 1500 species of wild animals, 277 species of birds, 56 species of mammals, 75 species of fish, 10 species of amphibians, 12 species of reptiles and more than 3000 species of insects in Changbai Mountain, including 24 species of national rare and endangered plants, 312 species of provincial protection plants, 150 species of rare animals,17 species of rare birds and 11 species of endemic specie like exotic plants Ophioglossum Thermale Kom and Pinus Sylvestriformis. [Source: National Commission of the People's Republic of China]

“In the Mesozoic era, during 2.05~1.40 million years ago, the nominated property has witnessed the important biological evolution process. From the late Indosinian period, influenced by subduction effect of the Kula plate in the North Pacific, breaks and depressions occurred in Changbai Mountain. Then biology reproduced and developed under warm and humid climate conditions, there were fern, fish, insects, double shell, etc…Among which was the unique tree species — Pinus Sylvestriformisin the vertical landscape, this special ecological system representing plant population development of terrestrial ecosystems in the process of evolution.

“The nominated property is a natural museum and a giant gene pool, its vertical vegetation landscape belt gathers a variety of climatic types and biological community types like Temperate Zone and Cold Temperate Zone, Subarctic Zone and Arctic Circle, etc…There are a complete preservation of wild flora and endemic fauna. It has a very high scientific significance for the study of distribution, classification and evolution of organisms with its significant biological diversity and high-density vertical distribution. The nominated property also boasts 73 species of rare and endangered plants, 150 species of rare and endangered animals. There is a large enough area of protection, a complete and undamaged ecological corridor, that has a unique advantage in the endangered species habitat.

“The nominated property, with its volcanic landscape and vertical biological distribution centered in Tianchi, has formed a relatively complete ecosystem for endangered species. According to Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, ensuring The nominated property’s natural value of natural resources get effective integrity protection is in accordance with Convention on Biological Diversity standards, and it is also in line with the requirements for the standard of the world natural heritage integrity.

Changbai Mountain and Its Vertical Vegetation and Volcanic Landscape

Located on the border between China and the DPRK, Mount Changbai is one of the most famous mountains in China. It belongs to Changbai Mountain Range. Most peaks of the mountain exceed 2,000 meters above sea level, and its main peak, Baiyun (white clouds), rises 2,691 meters above sea level. Most of the peak is covered with white rocks and snow, which look like white clouds, and this is how it was named.

Vertical Vegetation Landscape and Volcanic Landscape in Changbai Mountain was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2017. According to a report submitted to UNESCO: The nominated property is a typical long-dormant volcano with obvious volcanic landform group like volcanic lava landform, water landform, Karst landform and glacial and periglacial landform. Meanwhile, Changbai Mountain is a natural museum and a giant gene pool, which gathers a variety of climatic types and biological community types like Temperate Zone and Cold Temperate Zone, Subarctic Zone and Arctic Circle, etc… Its vertical vegetation landscape belt gathers more ecosystems, biological species and typical landforms within a limited geographical area than any other similar properties. [Source: National Commission of the People's Republic of China]

“The nominated property is also the most essential habitat for protecting biodiversity in the Northeast Asia. It is endowed with unusual general value in many aspects such as ecology, biology, geology and history. The rare vertical vegetation landscape and volcanic landscape there enjoy inestimable value in terms of ecology, science and aesthetics.” It also “property boasts great scientific value with its special ecological system of vertical vegetation distribution.

“The nominated property has the vertical vegetation landscape belt with the most abundant animal and plant populations. As a complete and barely damaged original habitat, it enriches significant landscapes horizontally distributed in more than thousands of kilometers from the North Temperate Zone to the Arctic Circle in the range of a vertical height of more than 2000 meters. It gathers more ecosystems, biological species and typical landforms within a limited geographical area than any other similar properties, which is rare worldwide. The nominated property, as an important witness of the earth’s evolution, has provided a complete ecological protection space for the survival and reproduction of the endangered animals. It has irreplaceable scientific value for the formation and evolution of volcanic geology, the distribution and evolution of animals and plants in Northeast Asia.”

Mt. Paektu and Heavenly Lake — Changbai’s Crater Lake

Changbai Mountain Crater Lake (North Korean border) is where, according to myth, Korean civilization began in 2333 B.C. with a meeting between Hwanung (son of God) and a bear and a tiger. Hwang told the animals that if they wanted to become human they had to pass a test — stay in a cave for 100 days and eat only garlic. The tiger failed but the bear passed the test and was transformed into a woman, who mated with Hwaung and produced Tan'gun, the progenitor and first kind of the Korean people.

The main mountain — known to Koreans as Mt. Paektu (Baekdu) — is 2,750 meters high 8,500 feet high). Situated on the border between China and North Korea in the Changbai mountain range, it is spectacular volcano that every Korean hopes to visit in his or her lifetime. Because of snow, Mt. Paektu can only be visited between June and mid-September and even then you often can't see anything because the mountain is shrouded in clouds, mist and fog.

Inside the crater of the Mt. Paektu is a 9.2-square-kilometer, 14-kilometer-around lake called Heavenly Lake (Tianchi), which is similar in appearance to Crater Lake in Oregon. Created by a volcanic eruption, the lake is surrounded by sheer cliffs, steep slopes and 16 peaks. With a depth of 380 meters it is the deepest lake in China and Korea an one of the deepest lakes in the world. Couples from both Korea and China lie throw coins in the lake to symbolize the depth and longevity of their love.

There have been sightings of strange creatures that reportedly live in the bottom of the lake. The existence of creature is likely because the lake freezes over rock solid in the winter and most microorganisms can't even survive. The most likely explanation for the sighting is a swimming black bear.

Mt. Paektu has also been the source of some rather dubious archeological discoveries. In 1993, North Korean authorities reported that the tomb of Tan'gun had been discovered. The mountain is said to be the birthplace of Kim Jong Il. On the North Korean side there are statues and portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il. Visitors to Paekdu mountain on the North Korea side are shown revolutionary slogans carved in trees, which are offer as "proof" that Kim Il Sung lead his revolutionary movement against the Japanese from here.

Visiting Changbai Mountain Crater Lake

In China, Mt. Paektu is the main peak of Changbai Mountain, which forms a natural border between China and North Korea. Mt. Paektu has 20 beautiful waterfalls. Leemyongsoo is regarded as the beautiful. water tumbles down through rugged cliffs. Since Mt. Paektu was opened to foreign visitors in 1990 over 200,000 South Koreans have visited the mountain.

Around Mt. Paektu in the Changbai Mountains are beautiful lakes, waterfalls, and hot springs with such high temperatures you can boil an egg. One of the lakes, Yuanchi, is considered the mythical birthplace of the Manchu people. Wild animals in the forest around Mt. Paektu include leopards, foxes, sable, sika deer, otters, lynx, jello fish, rare arctic vipers, arctic salamanders and possibly even a tiger or two. There are 2,000 different kinds of plant life in the area, including 900 medicinal herbs including valuable wild ginseng.

Many South Koreans — including some who make multiple visits — visit Mt. Paektu from the Chinese side via Beijing or Dalian. The crater lake can by reached in a rough-going six-hour mini-bus ride from a town in the Jilin province. On the final stretch visitors are loaded into Toyota Land Cruisers for 30-minute ride on a two-lane cement road to the summit. The ride can be quite scary due to the high speeds in which the Chinese drivers negotiate the hairpin turns.

At about 2000 meters the tall Korean pines and white birch give way to green meadows and further up near the summit the meadows give way to a steep, rocky landscape. From a small parking area there is a 50 meter path that leads to the crater rim. In some cases the Chinese tell the customers the have only 30 minutes to check the view and if they are late the vehicles will leave without them. Sometimes the views are covered by fogs.

At the crater edge visitors gaze in wonder, snap pictures and throw coins down the 300 meter vertical cliff into the lake. Some South Koreans sing national songs and pray for reunification. Those that try to unfurl patriotic banners have them taken away by Chinese guards. If you look closely you can see a series of white steps on the North Korean side that lead to a guardhouse on the lake. Be careful approaching the North Korean border. Tourists have been sized and arrested by North Korean border guards and put in prison.

Sights around the mountain on the Chinese side include 1500-year-old King Hotai stele; some 10,000 "cave tombs" from the Koguryo period; ruins of Han-dynasty, Korguryo-style walled town of Wandushan; archeological remains around Tonghwa City. The Korguryo-ruins have recently been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Website: Lonely Planet Lonely Planet Map : Lonely Planet Lonely Planet

Changbai Korean Autonomous County

Changbai Korean Autonomous County (across the Yali River from North Korea near Mt Changbai) is a major smuggling center, At night men cross the 40-meter-wide river with boxes loaded on rafts made of wooden planks and tire tubes. Most of the trade is carried out by Chinese ethic Koreans who are not bothered by North Koreans soldiers. They move clothing, electrical appliances, gasoline, chemical fertilizers into North Korea and bring back seafood, other sea products, medical herbs, minerals and fake North Korea tobacco.

Changbai Korean Autonomous County, or simply Changbai County, is located in southern Jilin province, facing Hyesan, North Korea. Covering 2,497.6 square kilometers (964.3 square miles). It is under the administration of the city of Baishan, 160 kilometers (99 miles) to the west-northwest, with a population of 85,000, 14,000 of which are ethnic Koreans. Apart from Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture nearby, it is the only Korean autonomous area of the People's Republic of China.

There is little industry in the area and smuggling is seen by many as the only way to make a living, There are plans to developed the area and make it a trading base to cut down on smuggling. As of 2008 “the largest wholesale center on the China-North Korea border” had about 100 Chinese vendors working out of it. There are plans ti build a ski resort in the area and cash in on the South Korea visitors that come to visit Mt, Paektu. Web Site: Lonely Planet Lonely Planet

Capital Cities and Tombs of the Ancient Koguryo Kingdom

Capital Cities and Tombs of the Ancient Koguryo Kingdom (in and near Ji’an City) was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. The site contains archaeological remains of three cities (Wunv Mountain City, Guonei City, and Wandu Mountain City), and 40 identified tombs of Koguryo imperial and noble families.

Koguryo was an influential kingdom in Korea and northeast China during the Western Han Dynasty (202BC-9) and Tang Dynasty (618-907). Built on Wandu Mountain, Wandu Mountain City was one of the typical mountain cities in the early and medium stage of the Koguryo Kingdom. Wandu Mountain City and Guonei City were important cities of the kingdom. Wunv Mountain City is only partly excavated. The remains of the stone city walls of Guonei City are still solid and magnificent. Wandu Mountain City contains many vestiges including a large palace, a watch platform, houses, gates and ponds. Among the 40 identified tombs of Koguryo Kingdom, 14 are imperial and 26 of nobles. The tombs feature exquisite wall paintings from over 1,000 years ago, but they are still vivid and colorful; Admission: 100 yuan (US$15.73) per person;

According to UNESCO: “The capital cities and tombs are exceptional testimony to the vanished Koguryo civilisation. The layout and construction of the capital cities influenced the city planning and building of later cultures. The tomb paintings represent a rare artistic expression in medieval Northeast Asia and together with the stele and inscriptions show the impact of Chinese culture on the Koguryo.” [Source: UNESCO]

The site is important because: 1) The tombs represent a masterpiece of the human creative genius in their wall paintings and structures. 2) The Capital Cities of the Koguryo Kingdom are an early example of mountain cities, later imitated by neighbouring cultures. The tombs, particularly the important stele and a long inscription in one of the tombs, show the impact of Chinese culture on the Koguryo (who did not develop their own writing). The paintings in the tombs, while showing artistic skills and specific style, are also an example for strong impact from other cultures. 3) The Capital Cities and Tombs of the Ancient Koguryo Kingdom represent exceptional testimony to the vanished Koguryo civilization. 4) The system of capital cities represented by Guonei City and Wandu Mountain City also influenced the construction of later capitals built by the Koguryo regime; the Koguryo tombs provide outstanding examples of the evolution of piled-stone and earthen tomb construction. 5) The capital cities of the Koguryo Kingdom represent a perfect blending of human creation and nature whether with the rocks or with forests and rivers.

Wunu Mountain City: Ancient Korean Site and UNESCO World Heritage Site

Wandu Mountain City (10 kilometers northeast of Jian) is a Goguryeo (ancient Korean) site that is part of the Capital Cities and Tombs of the Ancient Koguryo Kingdom, a combined UNESCO World Heritage Site that also includes sites in Ji'an, Jilin that was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. .

According to UNESCO: “The site includes archaeological remains of three cities and 40 tombs: Wunu Mountain City, Guonei City and Wandu Mountain City, 14 tombs are imperial, 26 of nobles. All belong to the Koguryo culture, named after the dynasty that ruled over parts of northern China and the northern half of the Korean Peninsula from 277 B.C. to A.D. 668. Wunu Mountain City is only partly excavated. Guonei City, within the modern city of Ji’an, played the role of a ‘supporting capital’ after the main Koguryo capital moved to Pyongyang. Wandu Mountain City, one of the capitals of the Koguryo Kingdom, contains many vestiges including a large palace and 37 tombs. Some of the tombs show great ingenuity in their elaborate ceilings, designed to roof wide spaces without columns and carry the heavy load of a stone or earth tumulus (mound), which was placed above them.

“The Capital Cities and Tombs of the Ancient Koguryo Kingdom dating from the 1st century B.C. to the 7th century CE comprise archaeological remains of three cities and 40 tombs: Wunu Mountain City in Huanren Manchu Autonomous County, Liaoning Province; Guonei City, Wandu Mountain City, and the 40 tombs in Ji’an municipality, Jilin Province.

“The Koguryo kingdom was a regional power and ethnic group from the year 37 B.C. until the kingdom moved its capital to Pyonyang in 427CE.Wunu Mountain City, Guonei City and Wandu Mountain City served as capitals of Koguryo during the early and middle period of the Kingdom. Wunu Mountain City was built in 37 B.C. as the first capital of the Koguryo regime. Surrounded by a defensive wall with three gates which was partly built in stone and in other places exploited the cliff face, the city included a palace, military camp, watch tower, houses and warehouses. Guonei City, now surrounded by the city of Ji’an, was built on the plain with a stone-built defensive wall and had separate palace and residential zones. Wandu Mountain City, the only Koguryo mountain city capital whose general layout was planned with the large palace as its core, created a mountain city that perfectly combined the Koguryo culture with the natural environment. Guonei City and Wandu Mountain City were the economic, political and cultural centers of the Koguryo for hundreds of years. Guonei City was destroyed in the year 197 CE when the Koguryo were defeated by another power. Wandu Mountain City was built in 209 CE. Both cities were damaged in wars and rebuilt several times, serving alternately as the capital. Guonei City played the role of a supporting capital after the main Koguryo capital moved to Pyongyang; it is one of the few plains city sites with stone city walls still standing.

“The tombs of kings and nobles of the ancient Koguryo Kingdom are distributed in the Donggou Ancient Tombs Area of Wandu Mountain City. The 12 imperial tombs take a stepped pyramid form constructed of stone. The burial chambers within were roofed with clay tiles. The tombs of the nobles have stone chambers covered with earth mounds and are decorated with wall paintings, depicting scenes of daily life, sports, hunting, nature, gods, fairies, and dragons. The stele of King Haotaiwang dating from 414CE, tells the story of the founding of the Koguryo kingdom.”

Natural Sights in Jilin Province

Xianghai National Nature Reserve (300 kilometers northwest of Changhan) is a major habitat a for migratory birds in northeast China's Jilin Province. Located in the Horqin Grassland, the reserve covers an area of 106,700 hectares, and 39 percent of its area is covered with marshland, water, reeds, or a secondary forest growth. It features more than 20 types of trees and 200 types of plants, with three major rivers flowing through. As a paradise for birds, it is the home of 293 species of rare birds, including six breeds of cranes. It earned the reputation of "the hometown of cranes", due to the large groups of cranes and the number of crane species. There are also some other wild animals living in the area including roes, Mongolian rabbits, wolves, and fishes. The reserve was listed as an A-class wetland by the World Wildlife Fund International (World Wide Fund for Nature) in 1992 and was included in the People and Bio-sphere Protection Network in 1993; Admission: Birds Park: 30 yuan (US$4.72) per person; Crane Island: 40 yuan (US$6.29) per person;

Chagan Lake (near Songyuan City, 150 kilometers north of Changhan) covers 420 square kilometers and is one of the 10 largest fresh water lakes in China and the biggest in Jilin. The name "Chagan" comes from the Mongolian language and means sacred, pure or white, so the lake is often referred to as Sacred Lake or Holy Water Lake by the locals. The lake is well-known for its traditional Mongolian-style winter fishing which has a very long Russian. The annual Winter Fishing Festival is a big event in Jilin. It has been listed as a National Intangible Cultural Heritage of China. The lake set a Guinness World Record of a single net that yielded 104,500 kilograms fish in 2005, and broke its own record with 168,000 kilograms of fish in 2008. The lake is also a haven for more than 20 kinds of wild animals and 80 kinds of birds. Admission: Free;

Rime, also known as "snow willow" or "tree hanging," is a kind of phenomenon where winter fog condenses on tree branches and leaves to form individual white ice crystals. The freezing temperatures and warm water in the northern China city of Jilin contribute to the formation of the unique phenomenon. The rime usually appears from late November to early March every year. It is mostly formed after 1:00am and grows promptly in the latter half of the night. When the sun is up high at noon, the rime will disappear. The best time and place to enjoy this spectacular scene is in the morning along the Songhua River. The rime in Jilin is one of the Four Natural Wonders of China, and the other three are the Mountains and Water of Guilin, Stone Forest of Yunnan and Three Gorges of the Yangtze River; Admission: Free. [Source: China.org]

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: CNTO (China National Tourist Organization), China.org, UNESCO, reports submitted to UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, China Daily, Xinhua, Global Times, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in July 2021

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