Northeast China (Simplified Chinese: 东北; Traditional Chinese: 東北; pinyin: Dōngběi; literally "east-north"), historically known as Manchuria, is the name of a region (ca. 1,550,000 km2) in Northeast Asia which is today the northeast part of People's Republic of China. Manchuria was the traditional homeland of peoples such as the Xianbei, the Khitan, the Jurchen, and most recently and famously, the Manchus, who lent their name to the region. Today, Northeast China has a population of about 100 million, of which the vast majority are Han Chinese.
The literal translation Manchuria in Chinese is Manzhou (滿洲), but Chinese generally find the use of that name in Chinese highly offensive because of its separatist connotations and because it invokes the memory of Japanese occupation under the puppet state of Manchukuo during World War II. In fact, calling someone from Northeast China a "Manchurian" (Manzhouren) may be construed as an insult, since this can be taken as implying that the person is a collaborationist and separatist; both of these concepts are usually viewed as deeply repugnant. If the term is used by Chinese, it is almost always preceded with the term Wei, meaning false.
Instead, the usual name of the region in Chinese is the Northeast, or in English, Northeast China. An inhabitant of Northeast China is a "Northeasterner" (Dongbeiren). "The Northeast" in this case is not just a word for a compass direction, but denotes the entire region, encompassing its history, culture, traditions, dialect, cuisine, and so forth. As such, other provinces in the northeastern part of China are not considered to be a part of the "Northeast"; only Manchurian provinces are. This is similar to the United States, where "The South" usually refers only to the southeastern states and their culture and history and not to states like California.
The use of the term Manchuria in English does not provoke nearly as strong a negative reaction among Chinese, but it is generally frowned upon. Few in Northeast China today would endorse the use of the word "Manchuria" in English or "Manzhou" in Chinese.
The region borders Mongolia in the west, Russia in the north and North Korea in the east. Since 1956 it has comprised Jilin, Heilongjiang, and Liaoning provinces (see map in Political divisions of China). Traditionally, the borders also included the eastern part of Inner Mongolia (specifically, the areas administered today by Hulunbuir, Xing'an League, Chifeng, and Tongliao), and the northernmost part of Hebei Province, around Chengde.
Manchuria is more technically referred to as Inner Manchuria or Chinese Manchuria, and is contrasted with Outer Manchuria or Russian Manchuria, a region that stretches from the Amur and Ussuri rivers to the Stanovoy Mountains and the Sea of Japan, encompassing Sakhalin. These regions were part of the Manchu Qing Dynasty before being ceded to Russia in 1858 and 1860. Outer Manchuria is today administered by Russia as Primorsky Krai, southern Khabarovsk Krai, Sakhalin Oblast, the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, and Amur Oblast.
References to so-called Greater Manchuria can also be seen, which purely used as an ethnic history term. In addition to the area described above, Greater Manchuria also includes the whole of the Korean peninsula, the Sakhalin area and the Kuriles, as well as sometimes the Japanese archipelago. The term is sometimes used when discussing about the ethnic history of the area, and should in no way be used in conjunction with the situation of the political entities in the area.
Manchuria was the home of nomadic tribes of Manchu, Ulchi, Goldi and Nanai. Various ethnic groups or kingdoms including the Fuyu, Goguryeo, Xianbei, Khitan, Bohai (Mohe) and Jurchen have risen into power in Manchuria.
The Government of the Han Chinese loosely controlled southern Manchuria up until the Song dynasty. 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). In 1644 the Manchu conquered China 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 them until the Qing started colonizing the area with the Han during the later parts of the dynasty. The Manchu area was still separated from modern-day Inner Mongolia by the Outer willow palisade, which kept the Manchu and the Mongols living in the area separate.
Russian and Japanese influence
To the north, the boundary with Russian Siberia was fixed by the Treaty of Nerchinsk (1689) as running along the watershed of the Stanovoy mountains. 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 at the Treaty of Aigun. In 1860, at the Treaty of Peking, the Russians managed to extort a further huge slice of Manchuria east of the Ussuri River, so that 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].
Manchuria was known for its shamanism, opium 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. England nibbled at Tibet, France at Hainan, Germany at Shantung while Russia encroached upon Turkestan and Outer Mongolia, having annexed Outer Manchuria.
Inner Manchuria as well 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).
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 but Outer Manchuria had reverted to Soviet Russian 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.
During the period of the warlords in China, Chang Tso-Lin established himself in Inner Manchuria but, being too independent for the increasing Japanese influence, he was murdered; the last Manchu emperor, Pu Yi, was then placed on the throne as to lead a Japanese puppet government. Inner Manchuria was proclaimed as an "independent" state, Manchukuo. Inner Manchuria was thus formally detached from China by Japan in the 1930s 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. Prior to World War II, Manchuria was colonized by the Japanese and Manchukuo was used as a base to invade China, an expensive action (in men, matériel and political integrity) that was as costly to Japan as the invasion of Russia was to Nazi Germany, and for the same reasons.
After World War Two
After the atomic bombing of Japan in 1945 the Soviet Union invaded from Russian Manchuria as part of its declaration of war against Japan. From 1945 to 1948, Inner Manchuria was a base area for the Communist People's Liberation Army in the Chinese Civil War. With the encouragement of Soviet Russia, Manchuria was used as a staging ground during the Civil War for the Chinese Communists, victorious in 1949.
In the 1960s, Manchuria became the site of the most serious tension between Soviet Russia and Communist China. The treaties of 1858 and 1860 which ceded territory north of the Amur were ambigious 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 has been resolved.