Changchun (长春; Chángchūn; lit. Long Spring)  is the capital of Jilin Province and was formerly the capital of the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo. With a population of more than 6 million, it is one of the major cities in Northeast China (东北; Dōngběi), and is the largest center for China's automotive industry. In 2007, the city hosted the Asian Winter Games.
The ancient period
Changchun in its present form is a new city with only about 200 years of history. But there used to be a city thousands years ago known by different names. The ancient city had changed its name several times, 'Xidu','Helong', 'Tiangang'（Han Dynasty）, 'Shushan'（Tang Dynasty）,'Longzhou'（Liao Dynasty）, and 'Kuancheng'(Jin Dynasty). At last, Kuancheng was destroyed by the Mongolian army, leaving nothing except mention of their conquering in the annals of history .
In 1800(Qing Dynasty), Emperor Jiaqing decided to build a town, as one of the junctions on the way from the capital Beijing, to the Changbai Mountains, the holy mountain of the Qing royalty. The Emperor gave the reborn town a name with blessing : 'Changchun'. In some tales, this new name came from a couplet made by the Emperor Qianlong, the father of Jiaqing. This couplet was made when the old emperor on his way to the Changbai Mountains, to praise the spring-like summer of the Changchun area.
The Semicolonial period
After defeating China in the first Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), Japan had desires to expand, including plans to overtake the eastern lands of Fengtian Province (Liaoning Province today) from China. This expansion clashed with the wishes of Russia, France, and Germany; Japan had to settle for money from China instead (about 30 million liang). For their part, Russia got the rights to build a railway in the sought-after lands.
In 1896, Russia built a railway station and a settlement in Changchun.
In 1906, Japan defeated Russia in the Russo-Japanese War, and gained the right of the railway in southern Northeast China. Changchun became the junction between the Japanese-owned South Manchurian Railway and the Russian-owned Chinese Eastern Railway, which had different rail gauges and permit licenses. There were railway repair shops, and branch lines originating in Changchun extended into Korea and Inner Mongolia. An epidemic of pneumonia occurred in many parts of Manchuria from 1910-11.
On 18 September, 1931, Japan invaded Manchuria. The leader of the area, Zhang Xueliang, commanded his army to retreat without counterattack, and pinned all his hopes on the intercession of the League of Nations.
The city's name was changed on 1 March, 1932, to Xinjing (新京), the capital of Manchukuo, and Pu Yi, the last emperor of the Qing Dynasty, was its designated overseer. The new tenants gave it a grand blueprint with broad avenues and modern public works. The city underwent rapid expansion in both economy and infrastructure and provided materials for Japan's wars.
The Chinese people were forbidden to learn their own language and culture, as they were now under the control of the Japanese Empire. Life for those living in the newly controlled areas was cruel.
The Civil War
The area changed hands again when on 20 August, 1944, the Soviet army took over the city. They stayed until 4 April, 1946, and took away all the machines and materials they could move. At that time, the army of the Republic of China took over the city. Two months later, the Chinese Civil War began, and Changchun once again became a battlefield.
From May to October of 1948, the Kuomintang army was besieged by the Communist army. The Kuomintang army looted food from citizens and the Communist forbade anybody to leave. At last, the Kuomintang army surrendered and the Communist army got the city.
After the Civil War, Changchun became the capital of Jilin Province in September of 1954. Nowadays, it is a quiet northern city having short, windy springs and cool summers, as it has enjoyed since before all the wars. It is also an important domestic optical research centers, along with automobile and train manufacturing bases.
New train tracks have been laid, decades after world powers fought for resources. On 27 May, 2010, China's fastest high speed train, the 380A which can reach 380 km/hr, began operations as the city continues to make its own history.
Changchun has a total of 6 districts, 3 other cities and 1 county. Five of the districts are close to the city centre:
Further afield are:
The city is home to the following special economic zones:
Changchun has a monsoon-influenced climate, with great seasonal temperature extremes. Winters are long, very cold, and windy, with a January high of −10 °C (14°F). However there is little snow and the air is dry. Summers are very warm and humid, with extended periods of 30°C (86°F) highs, though the average high in July is 28°C (82°F).
Changchun Longjia International Airport (长春龙家国际机场; IATA: CGQ) has been in operation since September 2005 and is around 30 km east of city center. It replaced a smaller military airport that had been adapted for commercial use. The airport is large and clean, and passengers can find standard amenities such as restaurants, cafes, shops, lounges, credit card acceptance, etc. For first class passengers there are two lounges available, but the standard is far below of the lounges of international airports.
Different local flight destinations are available, but the major routes throughout the day are to domestic destinations Shanghai (2:20 hours) and Beijing (1:40 hours). There are also some international flights to Incheon and Nagoya.
From the airport there are regular coach services (¥20-30 one way) available to the center (e.g. People's Square (人民广场)). Travel time is around 45 minutes. A taxi to/from the city costs around ¥80 including toll, but from the airport to the city most of the taxi drivers reject a drive if you are not willing to pay at least ¥100 (do not discuss it, do it or take the bus).
Changchun has three passenger railway stations: Changchun Railway Station (长春站), Changchun East Railway Station (长春东站) and Changchun South Railway Station (长春南站). The latter two stations are very small and only local trains stop there.
Changchun Railway Station (长春站; Changchun Zhan) is situated at the north end of Renmin Avenue (人民大街). Although it is large and chaotic, providing you read Chinese and speak some Mandarin and are prepared to fight through the queues, you can buy a ticket to almost anywhere in China from here.
Thanks to the railroad-building efforts of Japanese in the early- to mid-1900s, the rail network in Northeast China is extensive and no place is very far by rail. (All times approximate.)
Rail travel is by far the cheapest way to travel in and out of Changchun. If you do not want to go to the train station yourself, you can go to any good travel agent who will do this on your behalf, usually for ¥10-20 extra.
There are long distance coaches that regularly go from/to Beijing available from the coach station on Huanghe Road (黄河路), just off Renmin Avenue (人民大街). There is also a long distance bus station at the south end of Renmin Avenue (take bus Z306 from the train station).
You can also catch coaches and buses from pretty much anywhere in Jilin Province, though they have a reputation for being dangerous and are slightly more expensive, though faster, than the train.
The main Long-Distance Bus Station is at 226 Renmin Avenue.
Changchun is a very compact city planned by the Japanese with a layout of open avenues and public squares (guǎngchǎng). It is pretty easy to travel from one place to another; however, with the increase in private car ownership, traffic is getting worse by the day.
Taxis are by far the best way to get around. They are cheap but you should have a piece of paper with the address in case you do not speak Mandarin. Taxi fares start at ¥5 up to 2.5 km (plus a mandatory ¥1 fuel surtax), after that ¥1.30/.5 km. Several taxi companies are serving the city and they will not try to cheat you. It is common for drivers to pick up other passengers who might be going in the same direction if there are unused seats.
However, in case driver is taking you in circles - in this case complain for example at the hotel drop-off point. The staff there normally will support you in such cases. For other cases simply pay not more then shown on the meter. In general: Make sure you know the name of the places you are going to in Mandarin or have a paper with the Chinese address with you. It would not hurt either to travel during the day and have one of Shangri-La's English maps, or even one in Chinese from Xinhua bookstore.
From May to October, Changchun is a decent walking city, as the weather is fine and there are no hills. The city does tend to be spread out, so travelers should plan on using other forms of transportation. During the winter months temperatures are too cold to walk longer distances in Changchun, so other forms of transport should be considered.
By light rail
The light rail (轻轨; qīngguǐ) currently goes from the west side of the train station (长春站) to Changying Movie Wonderland (长影世纪城). It travels past Changchun University (长春大学) approximately half-way along the route, and takes 63 minutes to complete the entire journey. A ticket, purchased at any light rail station, costs ¥1-4 each way, based on the distance traveled. Operates 6AM-9PM daily.
A new south-north route is under construction, but the completion date is not fixed yet. Currently (August 2009) the main construction is in Linhe Street, south sector. It is a good idea to avoid this section, if possible, for the moment.
An extensive bus network and most of the buses cost ¥1; however, those who can not read Chinese will find it nearly impossible to use the network.
Most buses go to the bus station outside the train station, and other central areas such as Guilin Road (桂林路), Chongqing Road (重庆路) and Hongqi Street (红旗街). Be aware that the buses are often extremely crowded and especially uncomfortable during the hot summers as there is no air conditioning.
Important bus numbers include:
Despite the city once having the most complex tram system in Northern China, there is now only one remaining route still open. The number 54 runs down Hongqi Street (红旗街) to the far west of the city (where there really is not much). Many of the trams still in use today are the original cars from 1940, so it is worth the ¥1 ride just for the experience of yesteryear.
If you are in need of an adrenaline rush, look no further than one of the minibuses that tear around the city streets. Some places out in the suburbs are only serviced by such buses, and the fare is usually ¥1-2, but the drivers seem to think that they are on a giant racetrack most of the time and you will get thrown around. Expect the front passenger to sit at the side-door, calling out to potential customers, and to be encouraged to hop on the bus while it is moving ever so slowly. If you were old, they would probably stop, or expect you to take a taxi for a little more. Very crowded at times.
Travelers should be cautious of bicycling in Changchun. For half the year it is generally too cold and during the summer months, too dangerous. Unlike other big cities in China, Changchun does not separate cycle lanes from the main traffic, which leads to buses, taxis, cars, and motorcycles sharing the same space as the cyclists. The whole situation is dangerous and this is perhaps the reason why by Chinese standards there are few people who regularly cycle here. The other problem is that because of the city's layout, there are plenty of large roundabouts where 4 or 5 busy roads converge on one another, making it extremely difficult to cycle without having to continually dismount.
If you want to bike around, it is recommended that you follow closely behind one of the local people on cargo-bike, merchant-bike, or donkey. There are off times during the day when biking would be less challenging. Drivers are not overly aggressive towards bikers.
There are brightly coloured three wheel plastic taxis, available from near Changchun University (长春大学), which only operate for short distances in the south of the city. If you are in the Jingyuetan (净月潭) part of town, this is the easiest mode of transport as there are few taxis operating there. It is fairly easy to find a taxi anywhere in Jingyuetan. They are cheaper and slower than regular taxis. There is no meter, so expect to negotiate with the driver. A typical ride should not exceed ¥3.
If you need to get somewhere fast then jump on one of these. They generally hang around in the south of the city and out in the suburbs. They are unlicensed to carry fare paying passengers, so bear in mind that if there is an accident, you might find yourself in trouble. However, they tend to drive in the cycle lanes at quite low speeds and so are safer than you might expect. Expect to pay as little as ¥1 for a short trip.
Changchun is a very good place to study Mandarin. The following places provide various courses for all levels:
There are also private training centers that will provide either small group Mandarin lessons, one-on-one lessons, or even a home tutor. The rates are around ¥40 for a one hour or longer lesson with a professional teacher.
Currency exchange is available at the airport, various hotels and banks, including Bank of China on Xi'an Dalu (西安大路）.
There are three major shopping areas: Chongqing Road (重庆路; Chóngqìnglù), Guilin Road (桂林路; Guìlinlù), and Hongqi Street (红旗街; Hóngqíjiē).
Very good flatbread is available in Changchun. Look for it on the streets or in markets.
Beer (啤酒）is probably the cheapest and safest thing to drink - and being Northeast China - comes in many varieties and is available almost anywhere. A big bottle (630 ml) should cost between ¥1-5. In the summer months good draft beer is available from most small restaurants, the black beer(黑啤) being particularly good.
Huadan (华丹), Jinshibai (金士百） and Yinpu (银浦) beers are all brewed in Jilin Province. There are also various Harbin beers (哈尔滨啤酒) available, as well as Bing Chuan (冰川) from the Korean prefecture of Jilin Province.
Like all cities in China, avoid drinking bottled water from street vendors and try instead at a supermarket or convenience store.
There are a number of western-style pubs in Changchun. There is a really big bar and club scene on Longli Lu (隆礼路) which are pretty hot during weekends. The beer there is cheap, about ¥6/cup. Occasionally there are some parties which are organized by "Changchun friends" or foreign teachers. Usually, they play the music themselves. The atmosphere is quite comfortable and people are very nice.
Not many true budget options exist, number of hotels will not accept foreigners; for example Home Inn next to Train station. Good areas with lots of hotels are south of the train station (along Renmin street) en the north part of Hongqi street.