MA Hongnan

Widely known as the birth place of the Manchu Qing dynasty and an industrial stronghold throughout the socialist era, Shenyang 沈阳 is the capital of Liaoning Province and an economic and cultural hub that conjoins China proper with the three northeastern provinces of Liaoning, Jilin, Heilongjiang that together make up Manchuria.

One of China’s largest cities, with an estimated population of 7.2 million and a total administrative area of 12,980 square kilometers, Shenyang is the capital of Liaoning Province and the political, economic, cultural, and transportation hub of northeast China. Situated at 122°25’–123°48’E and 41°11’–43°2’N, Shenyang is centrally located in the hinterland north of Liaodong Peninsula 辽东半岛. Its four distinct seasons are typical of northern temperate continental climates.

Archeological discoveries at Xinle Relics 新乐遗址 date the earliest settlement in Shenyang to 7200 BCE, during China’s Paleolithic period. Burial sites from the Warring States period (475–221 BCE) and Han dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE) have also been discovered since the 1960s. Shenyang, then known by the name of Shenzhou, became a major jurisdiction under the Liao (907–1125 CE) and Jurchen Jin 女真金国 (1125–1234) dynasties. Recognizing the locale’s geostrategic location as a military garrison, Ming emperor Zhu Yuanzhang 朱元璋 (1368–1399) ordered the initial deliberate city planning in Shenyang. Its ensuing economic prominence as a regional trading and handcraft industry center during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) led to Manchu Qing dynasty founder Nurhachi’s 努尔哈赤 (1559–1626) choice of the town as the power base for his Jurchen regime, the Late Jin 后金,, and his construction there of the Imperial Palace in 1625 (today a big tourist draw, nearly rivaling Beijing’s Forbidden City in its magnificence). Nine years later, in 1634, Nurhachi’s son and successor Huang Taiji 皇太极 renamed the Jin dynasty the Qing (1644–1912) and Shenyang was redubbed Mukden 奉天, or Shengjing 盛京. The city has since been most widely known as the birthplace of the Manchu Qing dynasty.

The founding of the Mukden Machine Bureau in 1895 marked the beginning of modern industrialization in Shenyang. The year 1898 saw the first Russian-built rail station in the city, incorporating the city into the South Manchurian railway system. Following Japanese occupation in 1931 and the founding of the Japanese-controlled puppet state of Manchukuo (1932–1945), northeast China fell prey to the Japanese colonial projects of military occupation, economic encroachment, and mass migration. Shenyang, with its proximity to the iron- and coal-mining complexes in Anshan and Fushun, quickly became the heavy industrial base and so-called industrial capital of imperialist Manchukuo. Tiexi Industrial District, China’s oldest and largest comprehensive industrial base, took shape under this period of Japanese occupation. As World War II reached its destructive climax, the Japanese destroyed most of the productive capacity in the city; the Soviet Red Army then acquired as booty many of the remaining machines, equipment, and supplies. Subsequent social turmoil further disabled the industrial capacity of Shenyang.

The city’s industrial infrastructure was revived during the first Five-Year Plan period (1953–1957), and it remained an industrial stronghold throughout the Maoist socialist era. Shenyang’s comprehensive manufacturing industries include nonferrous metals, chemicals, automobiles, aviation, machine tools, defense, building materials, electronics, textiles, food processing, pharmaceuticals, and light industrial products. As China transitions from a planned economy to a market economy in the first decade of the twenty-first century, and with a significant number of formerly state-owned enterprises gone bankrupt or privatized, the city has been diversifying its industrial base, a project that has benefited tremendously from the government’s “Revitalize Northeast China” campaign since 2003.

Further Reading

Chao Kang. (1982). The economic development of Manchuria: The rise of a frontier economy. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, Center for Chinese Studies.

Miller, T. (2005, September 15). Reviving northeast China. Asia Times Online. Retrieved October 16, 2008, from

Shenyang China Official Website. (2008). Retrieved October 17, 2008, from

Void of a long-term plan will bring you trouble soon.

人无远虑, 必有近忧

Rén wú yuǎn lǜ, bì yǒu jìn yōu

Source: Ma, Hongnan. (2009). Shenyang. In Linsun Cheng, et al. (Eds.), Berkshire Encyclopedia of China, pp. 1958–1959. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing.

Shenyang (Shěnyáng 沈阳)|Shěnyáng 沈阳 (Shenyang)

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