|Name||黑龙江 (hēi lóng jiāng) ['black' 'dragon' 'river'] Old Name Heilungkiang WG|
|Population||38.34 million (2.79 %) [15th] comparison table|
|Area||469,000 km2 [181,081 mile2] (4.89 %) [6th]|
|GDP||39,226 (6.01 %) [22nd]|
Heilongjiang is named after the ‘Black Dragon River’ that forms much of its eastern border with Russia (the Russians call the river ‘Amur’). The province shares its harsh, cold winters with Russia too.
The province was part of the Korean Balhae Kingdom ➚ at the time of the Tang dynasty. This fell to the Jurchen Jin Dynasty but Heilongjiang only really became an integral part of China in the Qing (Manchu) dynasty. At this time it was only sparsely populated and not seen as strategically or economically important. As part of Manchuria it was invaded and industrialized by the Japanese in the 1930s, for it has extensive coal; iron and oil deposits as well as timber. The rural extremities have people of Manchu; Hui; Korean; Oroqen and Mongolian origin.
It was the building of the Trans-Siberian Railway through to Vladivostok that led to the rapid urban development of Heilongjiang, particularly at Harbin. The strong Russian involvement in the early twentieth century can be seen in the local architecture including the onion dome of St. Sofia in Harbin. Russian investment has remained an important spur to development in the province.
Harbin has a famous ice sculpture fair at Zhaolin Park ➚ from January to March, reflecting the long, cold winters (typically -22 ° F [-30 ° C]). It gets so cold that fruit and milk are sold in frozen form. Lanterns made out of ice feature at the Chinese New Year festival. To complete the cold theme there are ski slopes nearby at Shangzhi ➚. Harbin, whose name means ‘Place of Drying Fish nets’ is a relatively modern city, only a hundred years ago it was a fishing village on the Songhua River. It has recently built an impressive Opera House ➚ of very modern design. The city has been laid out with a large number of public parks.
Heilongjiang has impressive mountain scenery and its fringes are covered with dense pine forests. A Siberian Tiger Reserve ➚ is located near to Harbin. An area with important industrial history is the famous Daqing oilfield which was strategic during the Mao era when China was isolated and had to find its own (at the time) scarce sources of oil.
Mirror Lake ➚ (Jingpo) is a volcanic lake (22,239 acres [90 sq kms]) south-west of Mudanjiang set amongst the forests. It is a popular resort particularly for fishermen. Qiqihar is an old industrial town while nearby is the Zhalong Nature Reserve ➚ that attracts many birds, particularly on migration, and is the home of rare red-crowned ➚ and white-naped ➚ cranes. Wudalianchi ➚ meaning Five inter-linked lakes, north of Bei'an is another popular scenic spot amid one of China's few active volcanic areas. Yichun ➚ is a historic forestry town with many old adobe buildings.
The Songhua River ➚ has been subject to high levels of pollution as it flows through many industrial cities picking up associated industrial and domestic waste. Extensive pasture lands make Heilongjiang the most important province for dairy products, it is also produces a great deal of grain and soybean.
City populations for 2012, Province statistics National Bureau of Statistics 2014
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