Chinese (Wade-Giles)  Hei-lung-chiang , (Pinyin)  Heilongjiang 

      the northernmost sheng (province) of China's Northeast region. It is bounded on the north and east by Russia along the Amur River (Hei-lung Chiang) and the Ussuri (Wu-su-li) River, on the south by the Chinese province of Kirin, and on the west by the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China. The province has an area of about 179,000 square miles (463,300 square kilometres). The capital is Harbin. Heilungkiang occupies about three-fifths of the area of the three Northeast provinces that formerly made up Manchuria and has more than one-third of the region's population. The province's name is derived from the Chinese name for the Amur.

Physical and human geography

The land
      The province of Heilungkiang occupies about half of the huge Manchurian Plain (Northeast Plain), surrounded on three sides by old mountain ranges of medium elevation. Its central part is the Sungari–Nen river plain, delimited by the Greater Khingan (Ta-hsing-an (Da Hinggan Range)) Range of Inner Mongolia on the west, the Lesser Khingan (Hsiao-hsing-an (Xiao Hinggan Range)) Range on the north, and the Chang-kuang-ts'ai and Lao-yeh ranges (both partially located in Kirin) on the east. Elevations in Heilungkiang generally are low, exceeding 3,300 feet (1,000 metres) only in the southeastern and northwestern mountains and in isolated peaks in the Lesser Khingan Range.

      The mountains of the northwest—the northern fringe of the Greater Khingan Range—are composed mainly of igneous rocks resistant to erosion and weathering. The structure of the Lesser Khingan Range is more complex. Its northern part is composed of granite, volcanic basalt, and other metamorphic rocks. The average elevation is about 2,300 feet; the granite peaks near I-ch'un rise to about 3,770 feet. The western slope facing the Nen (Nonni) River is gentle, while the eastern slope is steep. The southern end of the Lesser Khingan is composed of archlike, folded, stratified rock. A few of the highest peaks reach over 3,300 feet, but the hills are generally lower. The valleys of the foreland are often broad and smooth, dotted with swamps. The rolling Sungari–Nen plain, at an elevation of 490 to 600 feet, has many bogs and swamps. In contrast, sand dunes occur in the drier western part of the plain.

      The Amur (Amur River) is the longest stream in the province. Its upper and middle sections serve as the international boundary for a distance of 1,180 miles (1,900 kilometres). Ice begins forming on the Amur in mid-October, and it becomes icebound by mid-November; the river is not completely ice-free until May. The Amur's chief tributary, the Sungari (Sung-hua (Sungari River)) River, is the main waterway of the province, however. Most of the Sungari drainage system lies within the province. The Ussuri River forms the Sino-Russian boundary on the east, flowing along a longitudinal valley between mountains. It is a broad, slow-moving river and has a tributary linking it with Lake Khanka (Khanka, Lake) (Hsing-k'ai Hu), the largest freshwater lake in East Asia. Only one-quarter of the lake, which is on the Sino-Russian border, is in China.

      The soils in the province are complex. In the Lesser Khingan mountains, soils differ with altitude. Black soils (chernozems) are prevalent in the foothills, and mountain brown forest soils higher up. Still higher the cold, wet soils are podzolized; i.e., the soluble salts and organic matter are leached out of the topsoil and deposited in an underlying subsoil. Such soils are of low fertility, and their cultivation causes erosion. The humus-rich, highly fertile black soils that cover one-fourth of the province are found in the Sungari–Nen river plain. Its eastern part has the best soils, yielding crops for years without fertilization. The chernozem lands form the main agricultural region of the province.

      The province has severe winters, lasting five to eight months. Summer is short but coincides with the rainy season, making it possible to raise temperate crops in most areas. There are considerable regional differences in climate. The northwest has a cold, wet, temperate climate with very cold winters; summer thaw is only superficial. Hu-ma, on the Amur River, has a mean temperature of −18° F (−28° C) in January. The July mean temperature is 75° F (24° C). There are only four months with mean temperatures over 50° F (10° C).

      A temperate, wet climate prevails in the eastern section, in the drainage basin of the Ussuri River and the lower Sungari River. In the central core of the province the climate is temperate, with a deficiency of precipitation and very severe winters. Nen-chiang, in the northern Manchurian Plain, has mean temperatures of −16° F (−27° C) in January and 70° F (21° C) in July. The mean annual precipitation is 20 inches (510 millimetres), most of which falls from June to September.

      The southern part of the province is also very cold in winter but enjoys a warmer summer and a longer growing period. Harbin has mean temperatures of −2° F (−19° C) in January and 73° F (23° C) in July. Its mean annual precipitation is 21 inches.

Plant and animal life
      The original vegetation of the province was forest-prairie, but it has been largely destroyed by cultivation; the remaining trees are predominantly poplars. There are many species of herbaceous plants, pasture grasses, and sorghums. The central part of the plain was originally prairie-steppe; the western part of the plain is a drier steppe.

      The province's fauna is predominantly that of the Manchurian Plain, which constitutes the larger part of Heilungkiang. It has a predominance of temperate mixed-forest animals, with a significant admixture of elements of the Eurasian taiga. Among the district's representative animals are the Manchurian hare, the eastern field vole, the rat hamster, the Far Eastern finches, the buteo hawk, the needle-footed owl, and some species of flycatchers. Insects include the duckling beetle, the ground beetle, and the bumblebee. The region's fauna yield valuable fur and pelts, including the sable, panther, fox, chipmunk, Manchurian hare, and light-coloured polecat.

      The northwestern mountains have fauna more akin to that of the boreal forests of Europe and Siberia. The more common wildlife includes the brown bear, squirrels, chipmunks, some forest voles, the kolinsky (or Asiatic) mink, the wood hen, the crossbill, and the Siberian frog. Among the insects may be mentioned long-horned beetles, the ground beetle, and the Siberian silkworm. During the long, cold winter the birds migrate to warmer regions as far south as the Malay Peninsula.

The people
      The population is predominantly Han (Chinese), but there are other significant ethnic groups, notably the Manchu, Koreans, Hui (Chinese Muslims), and Mongols (including Daghur Mongols). Other, smaller groups include the O-lun-ch'un, Evenk (E-wen-k'o), and Hochen (Nanai). After the establishment of the Communist government, an autonomous county and several autonomous villages were created in areas inhabited by ethnic minorities. The Manchu form the largest minority group and are distributed largely in the southern part of the province. They have been culturally assimilated by the Han majority. Most of them farm; their way of life is similar to that of the Han, and intermarriage is common, especially among the former nobility and the educated.

      Korean immigration started in the mid-19th century. After the Japanese annexation of their country in 1910, a large number of Koreans emigrated to Heilungkiang and Kirin provinces, where they converted large areas of swampy wasteland into rice paddies. They live mostly in southeastern Heilungkiang, where many autonomous Korean villages have been established. The Hui live and work mostly in the bigger cities as merchants, handicraftsmen, and proprietors of beef and mutton restaurants. Those in An-ta and Chao-tung raise goats and dairy cattle. Mongols (Mongol) live in the drier western part of the province, where they engage in farming and animal husbandry. Many of them live in the Mongolian autonomous county in the western part of the province.

      The Daghur (Daur) (Ta-wo-erh) Mongols live mostly in the upper Nen River valley, on the eastern foreland of the Greater Khingan Range. They are believed to have come from the north side of the Amur River during the 15th and 16th centuries. Hunters originally, they became the earliest farmers of Heilungkiang. Probably the O-lun-ch'un also came from north of the Amur River, later to settle in the Khingan ranges as farmers and hunters. They had domesticated the deer and were once known as the “deer riders.” The O-lun-ch'un were among the earliest inhabitants of the upper and middle Amur. The Evenk tribespeople moved into the province in the 1st century AD. They are believed to be descendants of the Su-shen (Evenk) tribes of the Chou dynasty. They now live in the Amur River valley, near Ai-hui. Originally hunters, they have learned to farm since 1949.

      Russians entered the province at the end of the 19th and in the early 20th centuries. A great number of émigrés arrived after the Bolshevik Revolution. Some of these stayed and became Chinese citizens, many of them women who married Chinese. The few remaining Russians in the province live mostly in Harbin.

The economy
      Despite the great mineral and agricultural potential of Heilungkiang, the provincial economy was relatively underdeveloped until the mid-20th century. The process of economic growth began in the 1920s and '30s with the arrival of railroads and concomitant mineral exploitation. By the 1950s the provincial industrial output per capita was well above the national average.

Agriculture and forestry
      Since 1949 large tracts of low-lying alluvial land have been reclaimed between the Sungari and Ussuri rivers. Large-scale state farms were established there, and millions of acres were brought under cultivation to produce sugar beets, soybeans, corn (maize), and wheat. Although cultivation in the region is highly mechanized, there is relatively little use of irrigation or chemical fertilizers. Heilungkiang is one of China's major grazing areas, its plains supporting large herds of livestock. The province also is one of China's largest producers of raw timber.

      Much of Heilungkiang's industry is based on the exploitation of mineral resources. During the 1950s emphasis was placed on the development of coal mining and thermal and hydroelectric power generation. The Ta-ch'ing (Daqing) oil field began operation in 1960 and subsequently developed into China's major inland field. Heilungkiang is the nation's largest producer of crude oil, accounting for almost half of China's output. Much of the oil is used in Heilungkiang's petrochemical industry.

      The city of Chia-mu-ssu (Jiamusi), on the Sungari River, was built up as a military and air base during the Japanese occupation (1931–45). Four strategic railways were completed, linking the city with T'u-men, on the North Korean border; Sui-hua, to the west; Ho-kang, to the north; and Shuang-ya-shan, to the east. With the rapid industrial development under the Chinese Communists, the city began to produce machinery and electrical and telecommunication equipment. The Chia-mu-ssu paper mill is one of the largest in China, producing both for domestic needs and for export, and there is also a food-processing industry.

      Another burgeoning industrial city is Shuang-ya-shan (Shuangyashan), east of Chia-mu-ssu. Its development began after World War II. The city has a number of large plants for metal and food processing and for the production of lumber and construction materials. Tsitsihar (Qiqihar) (Ch'i-ch'i-ha-erh), the second largest city and former capital of the province, also grew phenomenally in the 1950s.

       Harbin, the largest city and capital of the province, grew in 1898 as a construction base for the Chinese Eastern Railway across northern Manchuria. It soon became the major transportation hub and communications centre of northern Manchuria, with direct rail links to the Russian railroad network and to the Sea of Japan; through the South Manchurian Railway, it is linked with the Chinese and Korean rail networks and the Pacific. Numerous handicraft industries and small oil-pressing and flour mills are located there. By the 1950s the Harbin area had become one of China's primary industrial development centres, with an emphasis on heavy industry. It produces a variety of machinery and has chemical and fertilizer industries. The city is also a food-processing centre, as well as a producer of textiles, lumber, and construction materials.

      The province's main north–south rail line extends from Chia-mu-ssu, through Harbin, to Lü-ta (Dairen) in Liaoning Province, while the main east–west line runs from Mu-tan-chiang, through Harbin, to Man-chou-li in Inner Mongolia. There are also secondary lines. Inland waterways are not important, except for the Sungari River during the ice-free months. Most freight is carried by railroads or highway.

Administration and social conditions
      The boundaries of Heilungkiang fluctuated during the early 20th century. From 1950 to 1954 the province was under the jurisdiction of the Northeast Military Administrative Commission based in Shen-yang. In 1954 Heilungkiang was placed directly under the central government, and its boundaries were expanded eastward across the Sungari River to the Ussuri River frontier with the Soviet Union. Also during the 1950s, territory in western Heilungkiang that included the Greater Khingan Range was transferred to Inner Mongolia; this region again became part of Heilungkiang in 1969 but was restored to Inner Mongolia in 1979. During the Cultural Revolution, Heilungkiang was a pioneer in developing the Revolutionary Committees that became the dominant institutional form. In the early 1980s the former system of provincial congresses was restored. The province (sheng) is divided administratively into 14 prefectures (ti-ch'ü) and 11 prefecture-level municipalities (shih). These districts are further divided into counties (hsien) and county-level municipalities (shih).

      Harbin is an important educational centre, especially in engineering and applied science. The Harbin Institute of Technology was founded in 1920 to train technical personnel for the Chinese Eastern Railway. It offers specialized programs in departments of engineering and technology as well as a graduate school. Heilungkiang has numerous postsecondary educational institutions and a large corps of scientists and technicians. Almost all school-age children are enrolled in schools, and the province's literacy rate is substantially above the national norm.

      The prehistoric population of the region appears to have consisted of people who bred pigs and horses; known as Tungids, they occupied much of northeastern Asia. Stone Age fishermen, the Sibirids and Ainoids, lived along the rivers and coast.

      Heilungkiang was long sparsely inhabited by hunters and fishermen who used canoes, dogsleds, skis, and reindeer as transport. The town of San-hsing (now I-lan) was the home in the early 15th century AD of the ancestors of Nurhachi, the Manchu tribal leader who rose to power in the late 1500s through struggles with rival tribes and alliances with Manchu-related groups. Nurhachi's son, Prince Dorgon, ruled as regent during the reign of the first Ch'ing (Qing dynasty), or Manchu, emperor of China, the Shun-chih emperor.

      During the 17th century the region became a zone of competition between Russia and China. Bands of musket-bearing Cossacks had been exacting tribute in furs from the tribes living along the Amur River, and in 1650 a Russian fort was built at Albazino on the river's north bank. The Ch'ing dynasty appointed a military governor to administer the region in 1683. The fort at Albazino was destroyed, and Russian retaliation was firmly opposed. By the Treaty of Nerchinsk (Nerchinsk, Treaty of) (1689), the Russian government recognized Chinese suzerainty over the lands lying on both sides of the Amur River.

      The tribes of Heilungkiang failed to recover their numerical strength after the Manchu rise to power and even after Manchu culture declined, despite the intentions of Ch'ing emperors to maintain their native language and way of life. Although large areas of Heilungkiang are fertile, agricultural development proceeded there very slowly because of the reluctance of Ch'ing rulers to allow the establishment of farms in their traditionally pastoral homeland. The region remained sparsely settled because access was difficult before the building of the railroads, and it was therefore highly vulnerable to Russian and Japanese expansion during the 19th century.

      In 1858 Russia annexed the region north of the Amur River to its mouth and two years later the region east of the Ussuri River to the Sea of Japan, including the important seaport of Vladivostok (Hai-sheng-wei) and the Ussuri–Amur river port of Khabarovsk (Pai-li). The Russians occupied Heilungkiang from 1900 to 1905 and maintained their domination—despite their defeat by Japan in the Far East in 1904–05—through control of the strategic Chinese Eastern Railway, running through the region from west to east. After the Russian Revolution of 1917 the Bolsheviks renounced special privileges in northern Manchuria as a friendly gesture toward China. Heilungkiang remained under Chinese control until Japan invaded Manchuria in September 1931. It then became a part of the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo (1932–45). On Aug. 15, 1945, just before Japan's unconditional surrender, Soviet troops entered Manchuria, but they evacuated it later to make way for Chinese Communist troops. After the Sino-Soviet rift in 1960, there were several clashes along the international border.

Frederick Fu Hung Victor C. Falkenheim Ed.

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Universalium. 2010.

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