Shenyang - History


The city’s name, Shenyang, literally meaning "the city to the north of Shen River", comes from the Hun River on the city’s south side, which used to be called the Shen River. Archaeological findings show that human beings resided in present-day Shenyang as early as 8,000 years ago. The City of Shenyang was first established by Qin Kai, a general of Yan in the Warring States period about 300 BCE. It was named as Hou City (候城) at that time. It became known as the Shen Prefecture (瀋州) in the Jin Dynasty and Shenyang Circuit (瀋陽路) in the Yuan Dynasty. During the Ming Dynasty, it became Shenyang Zhongwei (瀋陽中衛).

In 1625, the Manchu leader Nurhaci moved his capital to Shenyang, or Simiyan hoton ᠰᡳᠮᡳᠶᠠᠨ ᡥ᠋ᠣᡨ᠋ᠣᠨ, as it is called in Manchu. The official name was changed to Shengjing (盛京) in Chinese, or Mukden in Manchu, in 1634. The name derives from the Manchu word, mukdembi ᠮᡠᡴ᠋ᡩᡝ᠋ᠮᠪ᠊ᡳ᠋, meaning "to rise", and this is reflected by its Chinese name, which means "rising capital". A major city needed a major building and in 1626 under Nurhaci's orders the Imperial Palace emerged as Shenyang's symbolic center. It featured more than 300 ostentatiously decorated rooms and 20 gardens as both a symbol of power and grandeur.

After the fall of the Ming Dynasty in 1644, Manchu rule moved west inside the great wall and was established in China proper in Beijing. However, it retained considerable importance as the previous capital and the spiritual home of the Qing dynasty through the centuries. Treasures of the royal house were kept at its palaces, and the tombs of the early Qing rulers were once among the most famous monuments in China. In 1657, Fengtian Prefecture (奉天府, pinyin: Fèngtiān fǔ; Manchu: Abkai imiyangga fu ᠠᠪᡴᠠᡳ ᡳᠮᡳᠶᠠᠨ᠋ᡤᡤᠠ᠋ ᡶ᠋ᡠ or Fungtyian ᡶ᠋ᡠᠨ᠋ᡤᡨ᠋ᠶᡳᠠᠨ, "obeying heaven") was established in the Shenyang area, and Fengtian was sometimes used synonymously with Shenyang/Mukden. In 1914, the city changed back to its old name Shenyang. Shenyang continued to be known as Mukden in some English sources (sometimes spelled Moukden) through much of the 20th century.

With the building of the South Manchurian Railway, Mukden became a Russian stronghold, which occupied it after the Boxer Rebellion. During the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905), Mukden was the site of the Battle of Mukden from on 19 February 1905 – 10 March 1905. It was the largest battle since the battle of Leipzig in 1813. Following the Japanese victory, the Japanese concession at Mukden was one of the chief bases for Japanese economic expansion into southern Manchuria. It was also the seat of the Chinese viceroy of the three Manchurian provinces. In the 1920s, Mukden was the capital of the warlord Zhang Zuolin, who was killed when his train was blown up near Mukden at a Japanese-guarded railway bridge.

In the early 20th century, Shenyang began expanding out of its old city walls. Shenyang Railway Station on the South Manchurian Railway and the Shenyang North Railway Station (today's old north station) on the Jingfeng railway became new commercial centers of Shenyang. Several factories were built by Chang Tso-lin to manufacture ammunition in the northern and eastern suburbs. These factories laid the foundation for Shenyang's industrial development.

The Mukden Incident (18 September 1931), which gave the Japanese the pretext to create the Manchukuo state, took place near Shenyang. During the Manchukuo era (1932–1945) the city was called Fengtian in Chinese again, and Mukden in English. During the Japanese occupation, Shenyang was developed into a heavy industry center. Japan was able to exploit resources in Manchuria using the extensive network of railroads. For example, vast expanses of Manchurian forest were chopped down.

Soviet forces occupied Shenyang in early August 1945 on the surrender of Japan. The Soviets were replaced by the Nationalist Chinese, who were flown in on U.S. transport planes. During the Chinese Civil War, Shenyang remained a Kuomintang stronghold from 1946 to 1948, although the Chinese communists controlled the surrounding countryside. It was captured by the communists on 30 October 1948 following a series of offensives known as the Liaoshen Campaign.

Over the past 200 years or so, Shenyang somehow managed to grow and increase its industrial might, despite consecutive wars by Russia and Japan in the late 19th century and early 20th century, the second world war, and the China's Civil War (Shenyang became the main battleground between the Communists and Nationalists). The city had never come to an economic halt until 1990th, when its massive factories went bankrupt and left millions jobless, which was well documented in the film Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks.

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