Manchuria, the northeastern part of China, known to the Chinese as Dongbei (“the Northeast”). It is a geographical and historical region that consists of Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning provinces and the eastern half of the autonomous region of Nei Monggol (Inner Mongolia). The area is roughly 450,000 square miles (1,165,000 km 2 ). Manchuria is bordered by Mongolia, Russia, North Korea, and arms of the Yellow Sea.
The heart of the region is the extensive Manchurian Plain, which is nearly enclosed by heavily forested mountain ranges and hills. They include the Great Khingan Mountains (Da Hinggan Ling), the Little Khingan Mountains (Xiao Hinggan Ling), and the Changbai Shan. In the Changbai Shan, elevations reach as much as 9,000 feet (2,740 m) on the North Korean border. The Manchurian Plain opens to the sea in the southwest and to Russia in the northeast by way of the Songhua and Wusuli river valleys. The Amur (Heilong), Songhua, Nen, Wusuli, and Liao rivers drain most of Manchuria. Beyond the Great Khingan Mountains lie steppes on the fringe of the Gobi desert.
Manchuria has a continental climate with long, cold winters and short, warm to hot summers. In Harbin, for example, temperatures average about O° F. (-18° C.) in January and 72° F. (22° C.) in July. Precipitation normally totals 10 to 25 inches (250 to 630 mm) annually and occurs mainly in the summer. Amounts decrease westward toward the interior of the continent. Torrential rains sometimes result in disastrous floods; serious droughts and dust storms also occur.
Manchuria is one of China's chief industrial areas, although its relative economic importance is declining as the result of efforts to build up the rest of the country.
Heavy industry has long been important in Manchuria, probably more so than in any other region of China. Products include iron and steel, railway locomotives and cars, ships, trucks, heavy machinery, fertilizer, cement, and chemicals. The Anshan-Shenyang-Fushun area, in southern Manchuria, is the leading industrial region. The cities of Harbin, Changchun, Jilin, and Qiqihar are also significant production centers. Local mineral resources, notably iron ore, coal, and petroleum, have contributed substantially to Manchuria's economic development.
The Manchurian Plain is a productive agricultural region, especially in the south, and one of potentially greater significance. The flat terrain is adaptable to mechanized farming, and some sections are not yet fully developed. Production consists mostly of soybeans and such grains as kaoliang (a grain sorghum), corn, wheat, and millet. Sugar beets are also grown.
Manchuria is served by one of the best railway networks in China. It is also served by an increasing number of highways, several navigable rivers, and large port facilities at Luda. Shenyang and Harbin are the chief railway and highway junctions.
Most of the people are Han Chinese and speak the Mandarin dialect. Minorities include Mongols, Koreans, and Tungus, primarily Manchus. Roughly 100,000,000 people live in Manchuria. Large cities—all with more than 1,000,000 inhabitants—include Shenyang, Harbin, Changchun, Anshan, Fushun, and Jilin.
Tungus and Mongol nomads have lived in Manchuria from earliest times. The region became part of the Mongol Empire in 1234. After 1368, when the Ming overthrew Mongol rule in China, parts of Manchuria fell under control of the Ming Dynasty. In the early 1600's, several Tungus tribes united and became known as the Manchus. After first wresting Manchuria from the Ming, the Manchus then conquered China, overthrowing the Ming Dynasty in 1644. Under the Manchu Dynasty, Manchuria was closed to Chinese settlement.
During the 1800's, Russia gradually made itself the dominant power in Manchuria. In the 1890's the Russians built railways and helped establish industry in the region. With the defeat of Russia in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05, Japan became the dominant influence in Manchuria.
Following the collapse of the Manchu Dynasty in 1912, Manchuria was opened to Chinese settlers. Within a few years, Manchuria had become mainly Chinese.
The Japanese seized Manchuria from China in 1931 and created the puppet state of Manchukuo in 1932. Under their rule, the region became heavily industrialized. Following Japan's defeat in World War II, the Soviet Union occupied the region until in 1946 China resumed control. Manchuria was one of the first regions to fall to the Chinese Communists in their civil war against the Nationalist government.