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ChangchunChangchun is the capital of Jilin Province and is also known as the “Spring City of Northern China”. Located in the center of the Dongbei Grasslands, Changchun is one of the few cities in China with a sizeable minority population, consisting primarily of Manchurian, Hui, Mongolian, Xibao, Korean, and Xinjiang peoples. Here is the center of mainland China’s film industry and awesome collections of Japanese and European architecture.

It is a new city by Chinese standards with a history of just over 200 years. In the year of 1800, Emperor Jiaqing of Qing Dynasty selected a small village on the east bank of the Yitong River and christened it Changchun Ting. In 1889 the named was changed slightly to Changchun. It quickly became a major granary in the north due to its exceptionally fertile soil. Within a quarter of a century, it gained its fame as a major agricultural and soy-producing center of East Asia.

Puyi, the last imperial emperor of China, found refuge in Changchun and worked with the Japanese to establish the capital of a newly formed nation called Manchukuo. This state existed from 1932 to 1945. At this time the city received considerable development and investment. Since the Communists came into power in 1949 the city’s population has swelled and now numbers just under 3 million urban residents.

ChangchunToday Changchun is an interesting mix of the modern and traditional. The downtown commercial center is highly developed and modern. The various other neighborhoods around the city are incredibly diverse in terms of development, ranging from humble market areas, residential districts, universities, and world-class shopping centers. Changchun is one of the best cities in the world to formally study Chinese language and there are numerous and excellent programs at the universities around the city. The city has communities of long-term resident foreigners who are involved with these university programs.

Changchun is located near the 45th parallel and enjoys mild summers with long hours of sunshine. Winter is cold, with occasional snows. Spring and autumn are short and the transition in and out of winter can be surprisingly abrupt. This is a very dry region of China and sunshine and bright blue skies dominate year round regardless of temperature.

Despite the apparent harshness of the long winter, this is when the city truly comes alive. The population of Changchun does not shut itself away and await the coming of spring, as can be common in many western countries during this time. Although the heating throughout the city is excellent, residents enjoy spending time socializing and engaging in activities outdoors in all seasons. Outdoor markets flourish in January and generally people embrace the season.

Numerous festivals throughout the winter enable the residents to get together and celebrate the coming of the cold. Northeast China is famous throughout the country for its hearty and filling food. Dumplings of every form imaginable and hot pot are the local specialties. There are also immigrants from around China offering many of the other regional cuisines including Xinjiang, Sichuan, Shaanxi, Yunnan, and Shandong food just to name a few. In addition to this, Changchun boasts an impressive number of international restaurants. There are numerous Western-style restaurants, ranging from North American and Brazilian to Italian and French. Korean and Japanese places are numerous, with high quality and low prices. There are even some South Asian places serving up convincing curries. There is a lively nightlife scene in Changchun, with numerous bars, discos, and live music venues catering to the more affluent in the community. Many of these places are in the vicinity of the school and teachers’ apartments.

ChangchunChangchun is very well connected to the rest of Northern China by rail. Harbin is just 3 hours away, Jilin City less than 1 hour, and Shenyang 3 ½ hours. Beijing, Hohot, and Dalian are easily reached on overnight trains. Explorations into the extreme north of Heilongjiang Province and Inner Mongolia are easily staged with overnight trains originating at Changchun. The countryside of Jilin Province, especially south towards the border of North Korea, is fascinating and certainly worthy of exploration. Busses from Changchun extensively link destinations throughout the province.



 
 
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March Semester 2014
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