Manchuria ( Romanized Manchu: Manju, , Маньчжурия, Mongolian: Манж) is a historical name given to a vast geographic region in northeast Asia. Depending on the definition of its extent, Manchuria either falls entirely within China, or is divided between China and Russia. The region is commonly referred to as Northeast China and historically referred as Guandong which literally means "pass east."
This region is the traditional homeland of the Xianbei, Khitan, and Jurchen people, who built several dynasties in northern China. The region is also the home of the Manchus, after whom Manchuria is named. Beginning in the 17th century, the Manchus ruled China until the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in 1911.
"Manchuria" can refer to any one of several regions of various size. These are, from smallest to largest:
Manchuria borders Mongolia in the west, Siberia in the north, China proper to the south and North Korea in the southeast. Inner Manchuria has access to the Yellow Sea and the Bohai Sea to the south, while Outer Manchuria has access to the Sea of Japan and the Sea of Okhotsk to the east and northeast.
In current Chinese parlance, an inhabitant of "the Northeast", or Northeast China, is a "Northeasterner" (Dōng-běi-rén). "The Northeast" is a term that denotes the entire region, encompassing its history, culture, traditions, dialects, cuisines, and so forth. In effect, it replaces the concept of "Manchuria". As such, other provinces in the northeastern part of China (such as Hebei) are not considered to be a part of "the Northeast".
Although no part of Manchuria was glaciated during the Quaternary, the surface geology of most of the lower-lying and more fertile parts of the region consists of extremely deep layers of loess, which have been formed by the wind-born movement of dust and till particles formed in glaciated parts of the Himalayas, Kunlun Shan and Tien Shan, as well as the Gobi and Taklamakan Deserts. Soils are mostly fertile Mollisols and Fluvents, except in the more mountainous parts where they are poorly developed Orthents, as well as the extreme north where permafrost occurs and Orthels dominate.
The climate of Manchuria has extreme seasonal contrasts, ranging from humid, almost tropical heat in the summer to windy, dry, Arctic cold in the winter. This extreme character occurs because the position of Manchuria on the boundary between the great Eurasian continental landmass and the huge Pacific Ocean causes complete monsoonal wind reversal.
In the summer, when the land heats up faster than the ocean, low pressure forms over Asia and warm, moist south to southeasterly winds bring heavy, thundery rain, yielding annual rainfall ranging from 400 mm (16 in.), or less in the west, to over 1150 mm (45 in.) in the Changbai Mountains. Temperatures in the summer are very warm to hot, with July averages ranging from 31 °C (88 °F) in the south to 24 °C (75 °F) in the extreme north. Except in the far north near the Amur River, high humidity causes major discomfort at this time of year.
In the winter, however, the vast Siberian High causes very cold, north to northwesterly winds that bring temperatures as low as −5 °C (23 °F) in the extreme south and −30 °C (-22 °F) in the north, where the zone of discontinuous permafrost reaches northern Heilongjiang. However, because the winds from Siberia are exceedingly dry, snow only falls on a few days every winter and it is never heavy. This explains why, whereas corresponding latitudes of North America were fully glaciated during glacial periods of the Quaternary, Manchuria, though equally cold, always remained too dry to form glaciers – a state of affairs enhanced by stronger westerly winds from the surface of the ice sheet in Europe.
Manchuria was the homeland of several nomadic tribes, including the Manchu, Ulchs, and Hezhen (also known as the Goldi and Nanai). Various ethnic groups and their respective kingdoms, including the Gojoseon, Sushen, Xianbei, Buyeo, Mohe, Goguryeo, Balhae, Khitan, and Jurchens, have risen to power in Manchuria.
During the Song Dynasty, the Khitan set up the Liao dynasty in Manchuria. Later, the Jurchen (Manchu) overthrew the Liao and formed the Jin Dynasty (1115–1234), which went on to control parts of northern China and Mongolia. In 1234, the Jin Dynasty fell to the Yuan Dynasty (Mongol Empire), who were later replaced by the Ming Dynasty in 1368. In 1644, the Manchu overthrew the Ming Dynasty and established the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912).
To the south, the region was separated from China proper by the Inner Willow Palisade, a ditch and embankment planted with willows intended to restrict the movement of the Han Chinese into Manchuria during the Qing Dynasty, as the area was off-limits to the Han until the Qing started colonizing the area with them later on in the dynasty's rule. The Manchu area was still separated from modern-day Inner Mongolia by the Outer Willow Palisade, which kept the Manchu and the Mongols in the area separate.
Manchuria was known for its shamanism, ginseng and tigers. The Manchu imperial symbol was a tiger with a ball of opium in its mouth. Manchu Emperors were, first and foremost, accomplished shamans. By the 19th century, Manchu rule had become increasingly sinicized and, along with other borderlands of the Chinese Empire such as Mongolia and Tibet, came under the influence of colonial powers such as Britain which nibbled at Tibet, France at Hainan and Germany at Shandong. Meanwhile the Russian Empire encroached upon Turkestan and Outer Mongolia, having annexed Outer Manchuria.
Inner Manchuria also came under strong Russian influence with the building of the Chinese eastern railway through Harbin to Vladivostok. Japan replaced Russian influence in Inner Manchuria as a result of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904–1905, and Japan laid the South Manchurian Railway in 1906 to Port Arthur (Japanese: Ryojun). In this series of historical events, Jiandao (in the region bordering Korea), was handed over to Qing Dynasty as a compensation for the South Manchurian Railway.
Between World War I and World War II, Manchuria became a political and military battleground. Japanese influence extended into Outer Manchuria in the wake of the Russian Revolution of 1917, but Outer Manchuria had reverted to Soviet control by 1925. Japan took advantage of the disorder following the Russian Revolution to occupy Outer Manchuria, but Soviet successes and American economic pressure forced Japanese withdrawal.
Manchuria was (and is) an important region for its rich mineral and coal reserves, and its soil is perfect for soy and barley production. For pre-World War II Japan, Manchuria was an essential source of raw materials. Without occupying Manchuria, the Japanese probably could not have carried out their plan for conquest over South-East Asia or taken the risk to attack Pearl Harbor.
Around the time of World War I, Zhang Zuolin established himself as a hugely powerful warlord with influence over most of Manchuria. He was determined to keep his Manchu army under his control and to keep Manchuria free of foreign influence. The Japanese tried to kill him in 1916 by throwing a bomb under his carriage, but failed. The Japanese finally succeeded on June 2 1928, when a bomb exploded under his seven-carriage train a few miles from Mukden station.
Following the Mukden Incident in 1931 and the subsequent Japanese invasion of Manchuria, Inner Manchuria was proclaimed as an independent state, Manchukuo. The last Manchu emperor, Pu Yi, was then placed on the throne to lead a Japanese puppet government in the Wei Huang Gong, better known as "Puppet Emperor's Palace". Inner Manchuria was thus formally detached from China by Japan to create a buffer zone to defend Japan from Russia's Southing Strategy and, with Japanese investment and rich natural resources, became an industrial powerhouse. But, under the control of the Japanese, Manchuria was one of the most brutally run regions in the world, with a systematic campaign of terror and intimidation against the local Russian and Chinese populations, arrests, organized riots, and other acts of subversion. The Japanese also began a campaign of emigration to Manchukuo; the Japanese population there rose from 240,000 in 1931 to 837,000 in 1939 (the Japanese had a plan to bring in 5 million Japanese settlers into Manchukuo).. Hundreds of Manchu farmers were evicted and their farms given to Japanese immigrant families. Manchukuo was used as a base to invade the rest of China, an expensive action (in terms of the damage to men, matériel and political integrity) that was very costly to Japan.
At the end of the 1930s, Manchuria was a trouble spot with Japan clashing twice with Russia. These clashes - at Lake Khasan in 1938 and at Khalkhin Gol one year later - resulted in many Japanese casualties. Russia won these two fights and a peace agreement was signed. However, the regional unrest endured.
During the Korean War of the 1950s, 300,000 soldiers of the Chinese People's Liberation Army crossed the Chinese-Korean border from Manchuria to recapture North Korea from UN forces led by the United States.
In the 1960s, Manchuria became the site of the most serious tension between the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China. The treaties of 1858 and 1860, which ceded territory north of the Amur, were ambiguous as to which course of the river was the boundary. This ambiguity led to dispute over the political status of several islands. This led to armed conflict in 1969, called the Sino-Soviet border conflict.
With the end of the Cold War, this boundary issue was discussed through negotiations. In 2004, Russia agreed to transfer Yinlong Island and one half of Heixiazi Island to China, ending a long-standing border dispute. Both islands are found at the confluence of the Amur and Ussuri Rivers, and were until then administered by Russia and claimed by China. The event was meant to foster feelings of reconciliation and cooperation between the two countries by their leaders, but it has also sparked different degrees of discontents on both sides. Russians, especially Cossack farmers of Khabarovsk, who would lose their plowlands on the islands, were unhappy about the apparent loss of territory. Meanwhile, some Chinese have criticized the treaty as an official acknowledgement of the legitimacy of Russian rule over Outer Manchuria, which was ceded by the Qing Dynasty to Imperial Russia under a series of Unequal Treaties, which included the Treaty of Aigun in 1858 and the Convention of Peking in 1860, in order to exchange exclusive usage of Russia's rich oil resources. As a result of these criticisms, news and information regarding the border treaty were censored in mainland China by the PRC government. The transfer has been ratified by both the Chinese National People's Congress and the Russian State Duma, but has yet to be carried out to date.
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