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Geographical extent of Manchuria according to Definition 1 (dark red), Definition 3 (dark red + medium red) and Definition 4 (dark red + medium red + light red) in section "Extent of Manchuria" (see below). ██ Dark Red ██ Medium Red ██ Light Red

Manchuria (Manjui gisun.svg (Manchu: Manju, 满洲|t, 滿洲, Mǎnzhōu, Russian: Манчжурия, 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 also includes the Russian maritime provinces. The first definition of the region is commonly known as Northeast China (東北, Dongbei, Tung-pei), and was historically referred to as Guandong (關東). Manchuria includes the Liaodong Peninsula and is defined by natural boundaries; it is separated from Russia by the Amur, Argun, and Ussuri rivers; from North Korea by the Yalu and Tumen rivers; and from Mongolia by the Da Hinggan (Great Khingan) Mountains. Until 1860, it included territory now part of Siberia, and until 1955, the territory which is now the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region. Provincial divisions have changed frequently, but since 1956 Manchuria has comprised the modern provinces of Heilongjiang (黑龍江省, north), Jilin (Kirin, 吉林, central), and Liaoning (遼寧, south). Much of the region is hilly or mountainous; the greatest mountain ranges are the Da and Xiao Hinggan (Great and Lesser Khingan) in the north and the Changbai in the east.

The history of Manchuria before the seventeenth century was shaped by three converging ethnic groups: the Chinese, the Tungus, and the Mongols and Proto-Mongols. The region is the traditional homeland of the Xianbei (鲜卑), Khitan (Khitai, 契丹), and Jurchen (女眞) people, who built several dynasties in northern China. The region is also the home of the Manchus, who ruled China from the seventeenth century until the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in 1911. Manchuria’s strategic geographical location and its natural resources and rich soil have historically made it an object of international exploitation. Russia claimed northern Manchuria (Outer Manchuria) through the Treaty of Nerchinsk (1689), the Treaty of Aigun (1858) and the Treaty of Peking (1860). After the Russo-Japanese War in 1904–1905, Japan replaced Russian influence in Inner Manchuria, annexing it in 1931 as the “independent” state of Manchukuo. After World War II, Inner Manchuria became a staging ground for the Chinese People's Liberation Army (中國人民解放軍) in the Chinese Civil War (國共内戰). During the Korean War in the 1950s, Manchuria was the entry point for more than 300,000 Chinese troops into North Korea.

Extent of Manchuria

"Manchuria" can refer to any one of several regions of various size. These are, from smallest to largest:

  1. Northeast China: generally defined as the three provinces of Heilongjiang (黑龍江省), Jilin (吉林) and Liaoning (遼寧).
  2. The above, plus part of northeastern Inner Mongolia (內蒙古自治區)
  3. The above, plus the Jehol (or Rehe, 熱河省) region of Hebei (河北) province. The part of Manchuria in China is called Inner Manchuria to differentiate it with Outer Manchuria (see below)
  4. The above, plus Outer Manchuria(外滿洲), or Russian Manchuria, a region in Russia that stretches from the Amur (黑龍江) and Ussuri (乌苏里江) rivers to the Stanovoy Mountains (Станово́й хребе́т, 外兴安岭), and the Sea of Japan (East Sea). The Russian Far East comprises Primorsky Krai (Примо́рский край; 滨海州; 연해주), southern Khabarovsk Krai (Хаба́ровский край), the Jewish Autonomous Oblast (Евре́йская автоно́мная о́бласть) and Amur Oblast (Аму́рская о́бласть). These were part of Manchu China according to the Treaty of Nerchinsk of 1689, the first treaty between Russia and the Qing Empire, but were ceded to Russia by the Treaty of Aigun (1858). The Russian representative Nikolay Muravyov and the Qing representative Yishan signed the treaty on May 28, 1858 in the town of Aigun. It was one of many nineteenth century treaties between the Qing Empire and foreign powers that forced China to concede territorial and sovereign rights.
  5. The above, plus Sakhalin Oblast (the island of Sakhalin and the Kuril Islands), which is generally included on Chinese maps as part of Outer Manchuria, even though it is not explicitly mentioned in the Treaty of Nerchinsk.

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 (渤海) to the south, while Outer Manchuria has access to the Sea of Japan and the Sea of Okhotsk to the east and northeast.


Manchuria is a translation of the Manchu word Manju (Chinese language: Mǎnzhōu). After the Xinhai Revolution (1911) (辛亥革命) in China, which resulted in the collapse of the Manchus Qing Dynasty, the name of the region where the Manchus originated, Manju, or Manchuria, was replaced by the Northeast in official documents in the newly founded Republic of China (中華民國).

An inhabitant of "the Northeast," or Northeast China, is a "Northeasterner" (Dōngběirén). "The Northeast" is a term that denotes the entire region, encompassing its history, culture, traditions, dialects, cuisines, and effectively replacing the concept of "Manchuria." Other provinces in the northeastern part of China (such as Hebei) are not considered to be a part of "the Northeast," though technically they are in the same area.

Geography and Climate

Manchuria consists primarily of the northern side of the funnel-shaped North China Craton, a large area of highly tiled and overlaid Precambrian rocks. The North China Craton was an independent continent prior to the Triassic period, and is known to have been the northernmost piece of land in the world during the Carboniferous. The Khingan Mountains in the west are a Triassic mountain range formed by the collision of the North China Craton with the Siberian Craton, which in fact marked the final stage of the formation of the supercontinent Pangaea.

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 there are orthels (soils which contain permafrost within two meters of the surface).

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. These extremes occur because the position of Manchuria on the boundary between the great Eurasian continental landmass and the huge Pacific Ocean is subject to a 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 1,150 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 situation enhanced by stronger westerly winds from the surface of the ice sheet in Europe.


Early history

The history of Manchuria before the seventeenth century was shaped by three converging ethnic groups: the Chinese, the Tungus, and the Mongols and Proto-Mongols. The Tungu, known at different periods as Su-shen, Ulchs, and Hezhen (also known as the Goldi and Nanai). I-lou, Fu-yu, Mo-ho, Jurchen (女眞), and, eventually Manchu, were forest and plain dwellers who lived by agriculture, livestock cultivation, hunting and fishing. The Proto-Mongols, known as the Xianbei (Hsien-pei,: 鮮卑), Wu-huan, Shih-wei, Khitan (契丹), and Mongol, were pastoralists on the eastern rim of the Mongolian Plateau and the eastern slope of the Greater Khingan Range. The Chinese migrated from the north of China to the Liao Plain in southern Manchuria. The various dynasties and kingdoms in Manchuria, including the Gojoseon, Buyeo (夫余), Mohe (靺鞨), Goguryeo( 高句麗) and Balhae (渤海), arose successively from the conflicts among these groups.

Prehistoric Manchuria was the eastern destination of nomadic peoples who traveled from the Volga River to the Korean peninsula. Chinese sources from as early as 1000 B.C.E. make reference to Manchurian tribes. Around the third century B.C.E., Chinese colonies began to appear in southern Manchuria. During the Han dynasty (206 B.C.E. – 220 C.E.), some areas of Manchuria were organized into military districts by the Han. Following the collapse of the Han, China maintained only limited control over Manchuria. In 698, the Tungu peoples founded the Chen kingdom. In 712 this became the P'o-hai kingdom, eventually covering nearly the whole of Manchuria and northern Korea. After the collapse of the Chinese T’ang dynasty in 907, the Khitan gradually gained control of Manchuria and began expanding to the south and west. In 926 they overthrew P’o-hai. The Khitan Empire (契丹國), also known as the Liao Dynasty (遼朝; 辽朝; Liáo Cháo), ruled over the regions of Manchuria, Mongolia, and parts of northern China proper from 907-1125.

In 1125, the Jurchen (女眞) (Manchu) overthrew the Liao and formed the Jin Dynasty (1115–1234) (金朝), which went on to control parts of northern China and Mongolia. In 1234, the Jin Dynasty fell to the Yuan Dynasty (元朝), who were later replaced by the Ming Dynasty (明朝) in 1368. In 1644, the Manchu overthrew the Ming Dynasty and established the Qing Dynasty (清朝) (1644–1912).

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 known to be accomplished shamans. During the Qing Dynasty, the area to the south 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, until the Qing Dynasty started colonizing the area with the Han 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.

Russian influence

Until 1688, the Qing (also known as the Manchu or Ch'ing Dynasty) government encouraged Chinese immigration to Liaotung in order to revive its economy. After 1688, Chinese immigration was restricted, but the Manchu were forced to bring in Chinese recruits to augment the Manchu garrisons in the Amur Valley, where Russia was pressing eastward. The Treaty of Nerchinsk (1689) fixed the northern boundary with Russian Siberia along the watershed of the Stanovoy mountains (Станово́й хребе́т, 外兴安岭). South of the Stanovoy Mountains, the basin of the Amur and its tributaries belonged to the Manchu Empire; north of the Stanovoy Mountains, the Uda valley and Siberia belonged to the Russian Empire.

In 1858, a weakening Manchu China was forced to cede Manchuria north of the Amur to Russia under the Treaty of Aigun, except for a small region known as the Sixty-Four Villages East of the Heilongjiang River (江東六十四屯|s=江东六十四屯, Jiāngdōng Liùshísì Tún), an area of 3,600 km² which had a majority of Chinese residents and was still designated as under the administration of China. By the nineteenth 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. Britain had aspirations in Tibet, France in Hainan and Germany in Shantung, while Russia encroached upon Turkestan and Outer Mongolia.

In 1860, at the Treaty of Peking, the Russians managed to extort a further large slice of Manchuria, east of the Ussuri River. After its victory in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895, Japan demanded that China cede them the Liaotung Peninsula. Russia, with the support of France and Germany, compelled Japan to abandon this claim. In 1898, Russia managed acquire from China a 25-year lease of the Liaotung Peninsula and the right to build a connecting railway from the ports of Darien (Dalian) and Port Arthur (Lushunkou) to the Chinese Eastern Railway. In 1900, during the Boxer Rebellion (義和團運動), Russia sent its troops to occupy the Sixty-Four Villages and forced the people there to cross the Amur into China, causing the deaths of large numbers of Chinese. Manchuria was divided into a Russian half known as “Outer Manchuria,” and a remaining Chinese half known as “Inner Manchuria.” In modern literature, “Manchuria” usually refers to Inner (Chinese) Manchuria. (cf. Inner and Outer Mongolia). As a result of the Treaties of Argun and Peking, Manchuria (and China) lost access to the Sea of Japan. Inner Manchuria also came under strong Russian influence with the building of the Chinese eastern railway through Harbin to Vladivostok. The Republic of China (ROC), the successor of the Qing Empire, never recognized the Russian occupation as legitimate.

Japanese influence

As a consequence of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904–1905, Japan replaced Russian influence in Inner Manchuria, and laid the South Manchurian Railway in 1906 to Lüshunkou (Port Arthur, Japanese: Ryojun).

Between World War I and World War II, Manchuria became a political and military battleground. Around the time of World War I, Chang Tso-Lin established himself as a 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, but was compelled to grant concessions to the Japanese in exchange for military support. The Twenty-One Demands imposed by Japan in 1915 [1]forced the Chinese to grant Japan a 99-year lease on the territory of Kwantung (at the tip of the Liaotung Peninsula) and broad civil and commercial privileges in Manchuria. The Japanese tried unsuccessfully to assassinate Chang Tso-Lin in 1916 by throwing a bomb under his carriage. A second attempt succeeded on June 2, 1928, when a bomb exploded under his train a few miles from Mukden station.[2]

Japan took advantage of the disorder following the Russian Revolution to occupy Outer Manchuria, but by 1925 Outer Manchuria had reverted to Soviet control.

In 1931, Japan used the Mukden Incident (or the Manchurian Incident, Kyūjitai: 滿洲事變, Shinjitai: 満州事変) in which some Japanese junior officers blew up a section of the South Manchuria Railway near Mukden, as a pretext to annex Manchuria. Inner Manchuria was proclaimed an independent state, Manchukuo (1932–1945, 満州国, lit. "State of Manchuria"). The last Manchu emperor, Pu Yi (溥儀), was placed on the throne to lead a Japanese puppet government in the Wei Huang Gong (Chinese: 伪皇宫), better known as "Puppet Emperor's Palace." In this way Inner Manchuria was formally detached from China, to create a buffer zone between Japan and Russia. With Japanese investment and its rich natural resources, Manchuria became an industrial powerhouse, but the Japanese administration conducted a systematic campaign of terror and intimidation against the local Russian and Chinese populations, utilizing arrests, organized riots, and other acts of subversion.[3] The Japanese population in Manchuria rose from 240,000 in 1931 to 837,000 in 1939. Hundreds of Manchu farmers were evicted and their farms given to Japanese immigrant families.[4]

Its rich mineral and coal reserves, and its agricultural production of soy and barley made Manchuria an essential source of raw materials for pre-World War II Japan. Without their occupation of Manchuria, the Japan probably could not have carried out its expansion into Southeast Asia or mounted its attack on Pearl Harbor.[5] Manchukuo was also used as a base for a costly Japanese attempt to invade the rest of China.

Manchuria and Korea

Until 1945, 1.5 million Koreans had migrated to Manchuria. Although the majority were landless peasants escaping poverty, Japan used them as a tool to diffuse China's resistance to Japanese territorial ambition. From its protectorate of Korea in 1905, Japan claimed Koreans in China as its subjects.[6]

Yet, just prior to and even in the midst of the Japanese occupation, two nationalist Korean historians, Sin Ch'aeho and Ch'oe Namson, challenged conventional assumptions about the limits of Korean territoriality. Sin asserted that Korea more properly extended into Manchuria and called for a Korean Manchuria, in part on the basis of a broad racial definition of the Korean nation.[7] Ch'oe, as early as 1920, conceived of Korea as the center of the Northeast Asian cultural sphere, albeit on the basis of the unproven assumption of the widespread existence of a paek (or "park") regional racial culture descended from the mythical founder of the Korean people, Tangun.[8]

After World War II

After the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945, the Soviet Union invaded China from the Soviet Far East (Russian Manchuria) as part of its declaration of war against Japan. From 1945 to 1948, with the support of the Soviet Union, Inner Manchuria became a staging ground for the Chinese People's Liberation Army (中國人民解放軍) in the Chinese Civil War (國共内戰). The Communist Party of China was victorious in October 1949.

During the Korean War from 1950-1953, over 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 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.

After the end of the Cold War, this boundary issue was resolved 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 had been administered by Russia and claimed by China. The agreement was meant to foster feelings of reconciliation and cooperation between the two countries by their leaders, but it has also sparked some discontent on both sides. Russians, especially Cossack farmers of Khabarovsk, threatened with the loss of their farmlands on the islands, were unhappy about the apparent loss of territory. Some Chinese, both at home and abroad, have criticized the treaty as an official acknowledgment 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, including the Treaty of Aigun in 1858 and the Convention of Peking in 1860, in exchange for exclusive access to Russia's rich oil resources. Because 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 (全國人民代表大會) and the Russian State Duma, but has yet to be carried out to date.

For much of the twentieth century, mineral-rich Manchuria was China's industrial base, especially after Japan's development of the region. When the Soviets entered World War II against the Japanese in August 1945, they stripped most of Manchuria's factories and reassembled them in Russia. Today, Manchuria is known as China's "rust belt," and development lags behind southeastern China. However, China has introduced its Northeast Development Strategy which aims to rebuild outdated industries as well as introduce service industries. Northeastern provinces also have increased trade ties with North Korea which assists in its development but also serves to integrate North Korea into the Chinese Northeast economy.

In 2002, the Chinese government also introduced its "Northeast Project, "which Chinese historians have portrayed the ancient Korean kingdom of Goguryeo or Koguryo (고구려) - that at its height occupied a substantial portion of greater Manchuria - as being part of Chinese history. The Northeast Project has infuriated both North and South Korea, and is considered an attempt to justify the further integration into China of the Korean minority (about 2.5 million) that lives in Liaoning and Jilin provinces bordering North Korea.[9]


  1. Primary Documents: 'Twenty-One Demands' Made by Japan to China, 18 January 1915. [1] Retrieved May 20, 2008.
  2. Edward Behr. The Last Emperor. (Toronto: Bantam Books, 1987. ISBN 0553344749), 168
  3. Behr, 202
  4. Behr, 204
  5. Behr, 202
  6. Hyun Ok Park, "Korean Manchuria: The Racial Politics of Territorial Osmosis," South Atlantic Quarterly 99 (1)(Winter 2000)
  7. Andre Schmid, "Rediscovering Manchuria: Sin Ch'aeho and the Politics of Territorial History in Korea," The Journal of Asian Studies 49 (4) (February 1997)
  8. Chizuko T. Allen, "Northeast Asia Centered Around Korea: Ch'oe Namson's View of History," The Journal of Asian Studies (November 1990)
  9. Hwy-tak Yoon, "China's Northeast Project: Defensive or Offensive Strategy?" East Asian Review 16 (4)(Winter 2004)

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Allen, Chizuko T. "Northeast Asia Centerted Around Korea: Ch'oe Namson's View of History," The Journal of Asian Studies (November 1990)
  • Behr, Edward. The Last Emperor. Toronto: Bantam Books, 1987. ISBN 0553344749
  • Elliott, Mark C. "The Limits of Tartary: Manchuria in Imperial and National Geographies." Journal of Asian Studies 59 (3) (2000): 603-646.
  • Hunt, Michael H. 1973. Frontier defense and the open door: Manchuria in Chinese-American relations, 1895-1911. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 0300016166
  • Isett, Christopher Mills. 2007. State, peasant, and merchant in Qing Manchuria, 1644-1862. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0804752710
  • Jones, Francis Clifford. Manchuria Since 1931. London: Royal Institute of International Affairs, 1949.
  • Kuramoto, Kazuko. 1999. Manchurian legacy memoirs of a Japanese colonist. East Lansing, Mich: Michigan State University Press. ISBN 0585188149
  • Park, Hyun Ok. "Korean Manchuria: The Racial Politics of Territorial Osmosis," South Atlantic Quarterly 99 (1)(Winter 2000)
  • Park, Hyun Ok. 2005. Two dreams in one bed: empire, social life, and the origins of the North Korean revolution in Manchuria. Durham: Duke University Press. ISBN 0822336251
  • Schmid, Andre, "Rediscovering Manchuria: Sin Ch'aeho and the Politics of Territorial History in Korea," The Journal of Asian Studies 49 (4) (February 1997)
  • Yamamuro, Shin’ichi, and Joshua A. Fogel. 2006. "Manchuria under Japanese dominion." Encounters with Asia. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 0812239121
  • Yoon, Hwy-tak. "China's Northeast Project: Defensive or Offensive Strategy?" East Asian Review (Winter 2004)


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