/kee"rin"/, n.
Older Spelling. Jilin.

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Chinese (Wade-Giles)  Chi-lin,  (Pinyin)  Jilin,  

      sheng (province) of the Northeast region of China (formerly called Manchuria). It borders Russia to the east, North Korea to the southeast, the Chinese provinces of Liaoning to the south and Heilungkiang to the north, and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region to the west. It has an area of about 72,200 square miles (187,000 square kilometres). The capital is Ch'ang-ch'un.

Physical and human geography

The land
      The province may be divided into three parts: the eastern mountains, the western plains, and a transitional zone of rolling hills between them. Elevation decreases from the highlands in the southeast toward the Manchurian Plain in the northwestern part of the province. The mountains of eastern Kirin take the form of parallel ranges with the Cathaysian or Sinian trend and are separated by broad valleys. The most famous of the ranges is the Ch'ang-pai Mountains (Changbai Mountains) close to the Korean border. One of its snow-covered summits is 9,000 feet (2,744 metres) above sea level—the highest peak in northeastern China. The summit is formed by a volcanic crater occupied by a lake. The range is the source of three important rivers: the Sungari, the Yalu, and the Tumen. The middle section of the Manchurian Plain (Northeast Plain) forms the northwestern part of the province and constitutes three-eighths of its area. It has a rolling topography, with an average elevation of about 650 feet above sea level.

      The Yalu (Yalu River) and Tumen rivers (Tumen River) flow in opposite directions along the Sino-Korean border. The Yalu runs southwest to Korea Bay, the Tumen down the Ch'ang-pai range northeastward to the Sea of Japan. The two rivers are of great strategic importance, guarding the land approaches to northeastern China from the Korean peninsula. The Sungari River is the major stream of Kirin. It flows for almost 500 miles (800 kilometres) within the province, draining an area of more than 30,000 square miles. Its upper course runs northwest in a series of rapids through heavily forested mountains before it enters the Sungari Reservoir, a man-made lake. Emerging from the reservoir, the Sungari flows past Chi-lin (Jilin) (Kirin city), situated at the head of navigation of the Sungari River and at the geographical centre of the province. The river enters the Manchurian Plain and is shortly afterward joined by its chief tributary, the Nen River, which is in fact larger than the Sungari. It then turns sharply east to run along the provincial boundary for a short distance before it leaves Kirin Province.

      There are two main types of soil in the province: podzols (Podzol) in the eastern mountainous region and black earth in the western plains. The podzols occur in several forms and are of both high and low fertility. Central and western Kirin are the areas of the black earths of the Manchurian Plain. Of high fertility and containing a high percentage of organic matter, they form good arable land. The young alluvial soils along the Sungari and its tributaries also provide excellent land for cultivation. In western Kirin are saline soils, alkaline soils, and high-alkaline soils of low agricultural value.

      Kirin Province forms a transitional climatic zone between the northern and southern portions of China's Northeast. The winter is cold and long, and rivers are frozen for about five months; the ice on the Sungari is thick enough to support mule carts. Ch'ang-ch'un (Changchun), near the centre of China's Northeast, has mean temperatures of 2° F (−17° C) for January and 74° F (23° C) for July. It has a mean annual precipitation of about 25 inches (630 millimetres), more than 80 percent of it during the five warm months from May to September. Precipitation increases southeastward to more than 40 inches in the Ch'ang-pai Mountains area but decreases westward; the Manchurian Plain receives only 16 inches.

Plant and animal life
      The natural vegetation is prairie grass in the western plains and mixed conifer and broad-leaved deciduous forest in the eastern mountainous area. The vegetation in the eastern mountains includes tree species such as the Japanese red pine, Manchurian ash, fish-scale pine, larch, birch, oak, willow, elm, and the Manchurian walnut. In the deep mountain interior, virgin forest has been preserved. Tree types are distributed in distinct belts depending mainly on altitude: between 800 feet and 1,600 feet of elevation is the deciduous broad-leaved belt, mainly mountain willow and thumb; between 1,600 feet and 3,000 feet is found mixed coniferous and broad-leaved forest; between 3,000 feet and 5,900 feet occurs coniferous forest; and from 5,900 feet to 6,900 feet is found mountain birch.

      Many valuable wild animals and medicinal plants are found in the forested mountain areas. The Manchurian hare, valued for its fur, and some species of rodent such as the rat hamster and the eastern field vole are believed to be peculiar to the Manchurian forest. Among birds, finches, the buteo hawk, the needle-footed owl, the black and white barrier, and certain species of flycatcher are typical. Among semiaquatic animals, the lungless newts are notable. Certain species of snakes, such as the Schrenk racer, found in the inhabited areas of the Northeast and Korea, live in a semidomesticated state and are used to eliminate harmful rodents in orchards and gardens. The European wild boar, the common hedgehog, the Asian red deer, the harvest mouse, and the field mouse are among the more common Eurasian species. Valuable pelts include fox, chipmunk, the light-coloured polecat, the Manchurian hare, and the sable. The sable population, however, has become very small.

The people
      Han (Chinese) predominate throughout the province, except in an autonomous prefecture for Koreans that is contiguous with North Korea. Most of the Manchu live in the central part of the province, in Chi-lin Municipality and T'ung-hua Prefecture. A few Hui (Chinese Muslims) are distributed in the cities and towns of the province, and some Mongolians (Mongol) are to be found in the Pai-ch'eng area in northwestern Kirin.

The economy
Agriculture and forestry
      Kirin is a significant producer of soybeans, corn (maize), sugar beets, and oil-bearing crops, and its farmers earn an income well above the national average. This is in part due to the high land–labour ratio but also to the relatively high yields produced with the use of agricultural machinery and irrigation. In the eastern uplands, rice and millet are the staple produce of the Korean population.

      In the upper Sungari Basin, timber production for construction and milling is a major economic activity. In the eastern sections of the province, much of the forestry activity centres on pulp and paper production.

Mining and power resources
      The major minerals of the province include coal, iron ore, copper, zinc, and gold. Coal is found in the southeast, near the Yalu River border with North Korea. Many smaller local mines also supply provincial needs. The major hydroelectric power installation, the Feng-man (Fengman Dam) station on the Sungari River southeast of Chi-lin, was built by the Japanese during World War II and rebuilt by the Soviets in the 1950s.

      Kirin is relatively highly industrialized and is a major producer of chemicals, machine tools, power, and forest products. Originally a lumbering and food-processing centre, the province acquired a heavy industrial base during the Japanese occupation of 1931–45. It was a major beneficiary of Soviet investment in the mid-1950s, acquiring an automotive industry and metals and fabrication industries. In the 1960s the Feng-man hydroelectric power station made possible the development of chemical and ferro-alloy industries. Most industry is concentrated in the two largest cities in the province—Ch'ang-ch'un and Chi-lin.

      Most of the municipalities and counties in the province have direct access to a rail line. The Sungari is the main artery of the inland navigation network. Its tributary the Hui-fa River and the Tumen River are both navigable by wooden vessels. The Yalu is navigable by steamers up to Yü-shu-lin-tzu and by wooden vessels above that point. The highway network has regional centres at Ch'ang-ch'un, Chi-lin, Yen-chi, and T'ung-hua.

Administration and social conditions
      Kirin was one of the Manchurian provinces until the Communists subordinated the region to the Northeast Military Administrative Commission in 1950. In 1954 the province was enlarged through the addition of a strip of territory annexed from northern Liaoning, including the cities of Ssu-p'ing, Liao-yüan, and T'ung-hua and a portion of Heilungkiang's steppe district near Pai-ch'eng. After 1954, with the abolition of the regional government, the province came under direct administration of the central government. Kirin is divided into two prefectures (ti'ch'ü), one autonomous prefecture (tzu-chih-chou), and five prefecture-level municipalities (shih). The province is further divided into counties, some of which are under the control of the municipalities or are autonomous counties established for minority nationalities.

      Kirin's educational facilities are well developed, with more than 30 universities and other post-secondary institutions. Overall literacy rates are significantly higher than the national average, as is the proportion of the population with at least a primary level education. Medical services are provided by hospitals and clinics staffed by medical workers, including doctors and practitioners of Chinese medicine.

      In early modern times the Kirin region was inhabited by groups of steppe and forest dwellers and was at times loosely united politically by leaders who presented tribute of furs, ginseng, and pearls at the court of the Ming emperors of China. In the late 16th century the Hurka tribe dominated the region before being defeated by the Manchu leader Nurhachi. After the establishment of the Ch'ing (Qing dynasty), or Manchu, dynasty in 1644, the region was at first directly administered by a military governor posted in the town of Chi-lin, and the region was thereafter referred to as Kirin.

      Despite the Ch'ing government policy of discouraging agricultural settlement in the Manchu homeland, large numbers of settlers from North China established farms in the region during the 18th century, a period of rapid population expansion in China proper. In 1799 the transition to an agricultural economy was officially recognized with the establishment of a prefectural government at Ch'ang-ch'un to administer the new settlements. In the late 19th century, economic development accelerated in Kirin with the building of railways and industries processing agricultural products. This development encouraged a new influx of Chinese settlers and led to conflict between Russia and Japan over economic interests in the area.

      Kirin was created a province in 1907, near the end of the Ch'ing dynasty, and was occupied by the Japanese Army in 1931, becoming a part of the puppet state of Manchukuo (1932–45). Just before Japan's surrender to the Allies on Aug. 15, 1945, Soviet forces entered the region, dismantled key industrial installations, and removed them to the Soviet Union. Following the withdrawal of Soviet troops, Chinese Nationalists moved in, but by 1948 they had been driven out by Chinese Communist forces.

Frank Andrew Leeming Victor C. Falkenheim

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Universalium. 2010.

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