In terms of Chinese History, Changchun is a very young city. There has been a settlement on the banks of the Yitong River for around 2000 years, but it was only when Emperor Jiaqing of the Qing Dynasty decided to promote this tiny village by renaming it Changchun Ting in 1800 (later Changchun Fu), that the city was born. It has packed a great deal into 200 years: the peaceful industrious city it has become hides a tumultuous past.

The city grew quickly in the years after 1800 due to its strategic position between the Japanese South Manchurian Railway and the Russian Chinese Eastern Railway. In 1931, the Japanese attacked Chinese forces in northeast China, and quickly occupied the whole of Manchuria (the area covered by modern-day Jilin, Liaoning and Heilongjiang provinces). In 1932, the Japanese proclaimed the region an independent state called Manchukuo, and made Changchun the capital (giving it the name “Xinjing“). The city underwent rapid expansion in both its economy and infrastructure: indeed there are still many historic buildings standing today. The city was severely damaged when it was invaded in 1945 by the Soviet Red Army, who looted the city of everything they could. Kuomintang forces occupied the city in 1946, but were unable to hold the countryside against Chinese Communist forces. The city fell to the Communists in 1948 after a 12-month siege that resulted in a heavy civilian death toll. Renamed Changchun by the People's Republic of China government, the city became the capital of Jilin Province in 1954.

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