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CityTips Guide to Shenyang

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Gritty Shenyang, one of China's largest cities, reigns as the sprawling capital of the Liaoning province. Located 100 miles inland from the Bohai Sea in China’s northeast corner, it is known as an industrial behemoth rather than a tourist paradise.

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Local Overview

Shenyang, one of China's largest cities with a sprawling populace of over 7 million, reigns as the capital of Liaoning Province. Located about 100 miles inland from the Bohai Sea in China's northeast corner, it is best known as an industrial behemoth. Zinc, copper and lead smelting plants combine with heavy machinery, textile, medicine, chemical, transformer, and tractor manufacturing plants to mold the kind of powerful economic muscle that is emblematic of modern China. Especially when compared to nearby Dalian and Qingdao with their tourism mandates and accompanying infrastructure, tourism in Shenyang plays second fiddle to industry. If you find yourself visiting Shenyang, there is plenty to see and do here, especially if you have an interest in China's history, both ancient and modern. Major eye-candy is found at the Imperial Palace and the Shenyang Botanical Garden.

Shenyang's golden years occurred at the dawn of the Qing Dynasty (1624-1911) when Emperor Nurhaci chose Shenyang as the first Qing capital in the Manchu homeland of Manchuria. At the time it was named Shenjing, Mukden in Manchu. A major city needed a major building and in 1626 under Nurhaci's orders the Imperial Palace emerged as Shenyang's symbolic center. It featured more than 300 ostentatiously decorated rooms and 20 gardens, replicating Beijing's Forbidden City as both a symbol of power and grandeur. After the fall of the Ming Dynasty in 1644, Manchu rule moved south and was established in China proper. The Qing court moved to the Imperial Palace (the Forbidden City) in Beijing. For the Manchu rulers, Shenyang remained the spiritual home of their dynasty through the centuries.

Despite consecutive war related occupations by Russia and Japan in the late 1800s and early 1900s, Shenyang managed to increase its industrial might. Not even during China's Civil War (1948-1949) when Shenyang became the main battleground between the Communists and Nationalists did the city come to an economic halt. Today it is recognized as one of the greatest manufacturing centers in Asia.

Shenyang is comprised of the following six districts:

Heping Better known as downtown, this district sprung up around the South Railway Station, former hub of the Southern Manchurian Railway, is home to many of Shenyang's major sights, all within walking distance of each other. Zhongshan Square with its massive Cultural Revolution-era statue of Chairman Mao, whirls with human activity. The pedestrian Street Zhong Jie is one of the oldest commercial streets in continual use in China. Major hotels such as the Hotel InterContinental, the Sheraton Shenyang Lido and the Traders Hotel give visitors quick access to the Liaoning Industrial Exhibition Hall and shopper friendly Taiyuan Street. Mikado, a Japanese tepanyaki restaurant, and Lao Bian Dumpling Restaurant are two of Heping's more popular dining stops. The Liaoning Provincial Museum displays a mind-stretching variety of artifacts that includ some of the earliest forms of writing known to man. Northwest of Zhongshan Square lies the Xita Korean Neighborhood, where neon nightlife rivals that of Nanjing Road in Shanghai.

Shenhe Just east of downtown, this district is noted for harboring the Imperial Palace, Shenyang's most famous attraction, as well as the Shengjing Ancient Culture Street.  The four star Gloria Plaza Hotel and the Times Plaza highlight its lodging offerings. Youth Park offers plenty of opportunities to get out and stretch your legs on a portion of the scenic Canal Walkway. Nearby five star Kempinski Hotel offers the Paulaner Brauhaus among its dining options. The peaceful Ci'en Temple is hidden off an alley along Da'An Street. Shoppers, get ready for the early opening of Wu Ai Market the largest wholesale market in Asia. Also worth seeking out is the Former Residence of Zhang Xueliang with its mixed architecture and fascinating story.

Huanggu Situated directly north of downtown, this district is best known for being home to the North Tomb, the burial site of the Qing dynasty's animal loving Huang Taiji in Beiling Park. Not to be missed on a stay in Shenyang is the Xinle Relics Museum located next to Beiling Park. Also in Huanggu are some Qing-era pagodas that have been turned into parks, the Sheli Pagoda and the Northern Pagoda. 

Dadong The 9.18 Museum and the Old Longkou Wine Museum are the attraction highlights of this district located northeast of downtown.

Sujiatan Coined as the "Southern Gate of Shenyang," this district enjoys a huge reputation for its economic and industrial bent. Rice and corn prosper on its plains, while trees with medicinal qualities canopy its eastern hills. The mining of coal, iron and limestone also reigns large. Tourist amenities are few.

Xinchengzi Positioned about 20 miles north of downtown this district harbors the wildly popular Mount Qipanshan Scenic Spot. Its boating and swimming opportunities on Xiuhu Lake and fan of hiking trails in the surrounding mountains makes it a prime city escape. The Shenha Expressway lends for quick access to and from downtown Shenyang.

Tiexi  The industrial heart of Shenyang is in the Tiexi district, directly west of Heping's refined urban center.Tiexi was the setting for Wang BVing's documentary West of the Tracks, a look at how modernization is changing the industrial areas of northern China. 

Dongling  Southeast of downtown is the expansive Dongling district. While it now houses suburban families, it is also home to the Fuling tomb of Nurhaci and his emperess, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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