Changchun is the capital of Jilin Province, which is located in the heart of northeast China bordering Heilongjiang to the north, Inner Mongolia to the west and Liaoning to the south.
Like most of the Chinese northeastern cities, Changchun saw most of its development occur in the 20th century. The presence of the Yitong River and the railway built by the Russians combined to give Changchun a strategic location. This was taken advantage of by the Japanese when they occupied the region in 1932, and Changchun was chosen as the capital of the territory which they called Manchukou. The “last Emperor”, Pu Yi, lived in a palace in Changchun for some years after the Japanese occupation to give legitimacy to the Japanese invaders, and his palace today remains the most well-known tourist attraction in the city.
With the advent of communist rule in China, Changchun was designated as a key production base for automobiles. This legacy has meant that today Changchun is known as the “Detroit of China”. In addition to the original state-owned enterprise of FAW (First Auto Works), there are now several foreign automakers located in the city. More automobiles are produced in Changchun than in any other city in China. Other key industries for the city include foodstuffs and textiles.
Changchun is home to the largest university in China – Jilin University. With over 80,000 students spread over several campuses, the university has a good reputation particularly in the vocations of law and medicine. It is a popular destination for foreign students looking to study Chinese. In 2008 there were more than 1,000 students enrolled studying Chinese at this university. There are also a lot of students from India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan studying medicine.
Although Changchun literally means “Long Spring”, this actually has no relation to reality. Spring and Autumn in the city tend to be very short. Summer last from June to September while the long winter starts in November and finally finishes in April.