Heilongjiang Province, in the far northeast corner of the country, is named after its longest river, the Black Dragon River (known elsewhere as the Amur), and is nicknamed “the Great Northern Granary.” It borders on Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region to the west, Jilin Province to the south, and Russia to the north and east. It holds the record for the coldest recorded temperature in China (?52° C).
Lying in the northernmost part of northeast China, Heilongjiang Province has a total area of 469,000 square kilometers (about 181,000 square miles; approximately twice the size of Romania), of which 60 percent is mountains, 10 percent rivers, and 30 percent farmland. It has a common boundary with Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and Jilin Province, and borders Russia to the north and east. Within its population are some 2 million people of minority nationalities, including Manchus, Koreans, Huis, Mongolians, Daurs, Hezhens, Oroqens, and Evenkis.
Heilongjiang has a cold-temperate continental climate with a mean annual temperature of ?2° to 3° C (37° to 28° F), an ice-bound period of five to six months, and a frost-free period of 120 days. The city of Mohe, where it is possible to see the Northern Lights, has the record for the lowest temperature recorded in China: ?52° C (?62° F). It has warm, rainy summers with an annual rainfall of 400 to 650 millimeters (about 15 to 26 inches) and long hours of sunshine, which is favorable for crop growth.
Named after its longest river, the Black Dragon River, known outside of China as the Amur, Heilongjiang has five large river systems made up of the Heilong, Songhua, Wusuli, Nenjiang, and Suifen rivers. Rivers and lakes provide good quality water resources for agriculture, industry, and human consumption. Heilongjiang has vast expanses of flatland and wide areas of fertile back soil and is one of China’s major commodity grain growers. It is nicknamed “the Great Northern Granary,” denoting its abundant production of soybeans, maize, wheat, millet, sorghum, sugar beets, flax, and sunflower seeds. Ginseng is cultivated in this area as well.
Heilongjiang’s land area also includes the country’s largest known oil reserve, the Daqing oil field, which was the site of huge protests in 2002 after the central government pressured the owner of the oil fields to cut back on some of the social benefits offered to its current and previous employees. The province also is rich in coal, gold, copper, aluminum, lead, zinc, silver, molybdenum, bismuth, and cobalt. Heilongjiang has a forest area of close to 210,000 square kilometers (about 81,000 square miles), or 49 percent of the province’s total area, and leads the country in timber reserves. The mountains and forests abound in alpine weasels, sables, otters, deer, and musk deer.
Heilongjiang has the most developed inland shipping among the northern provinces. Rail is the principal means of transport in Heilongjiang, with Harbin as the general hub. Harbin, the provincial capital (with an estimated population of 9.87 million in 2007), is on the south bank of the Songhua River. It is the economic, cultural (Harbin is famous worldwide for its annual Winter Ice Festival), and communications center of the province and is the eighth largest in China. The city used to be called “Little Moscow” as a result of colonialism, cooperation with, and immigration from nearby Russia. Harbin looks a bit like a last outpost of imperial Russia.
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Source: Bai, Di. (2009). Heilongjiang Province. In Linsun Cheng, et al. (Eds.), Berkshire Encyclopedia of China, pp. 1017–1018. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing.
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