A largely artificial geographical term corresponding roughly to the northeastern Chinese provinces of Liaoning, Jilin, and Heilongjiang, as well as portions of Inner Mongolia. The Chinese refer to the region simply as dongbei, “the northeast.” Historically, the region of Manchuria was the home of various nomadic ethnic tribes of Mongol or Tungus origin that frequently posed a threat to more established Chinese dynasties to the south. In 1644, the newly centralized state of the Manchu, a Tungus tribe descending from the Jurchen, overthrew the Chinese Ming dynasty in 1644 to establish the Qing dynasty, which ruled China to 1912. Under the Qing, until the late nineteenth century the Manchu homelands - hence Manchuria - were off limits to those of non-Manchu ethnicity, as the Qing emperors sought to preserve and promote the region as sacred to Manchu identity even as the Manchu imposed their rule over China.
   With heightened imperial rivalries in Northeast Asia from the nineteenth century, the region became a bone of contention between a declining Qing state, Meiji Japan, and late imperial Russia. With the decline of Chinese power, Japan and Russia simultaneously developed a keen interest in Manchuria for its abundant natural resources. The Japanese check of Russian interests in Korea in the course of the early and mid-1890s further spurred Russian interest in Manchuria. With the laying of the Russian Trans-Siberian Railway, begun in 1887, that state began to seek out an ideal warm water port as the railway’s terminus. One such candidate was the naturally protected harbor of Port Arthur at the tip of China’s Liaodong Peninsula in southern Liaoning province. On the strength of its decisive victory in the First Sino-Japanese War, 1894–1895, fought partly in Manchuria, Japan seized the Liaodong Peninsula as part of its peace settlement with China but was forced to retrocede it with the 1895 Triple Intervention of Russia, France, and Germany. Japan’s diplomatic reversal was followed soon thereafter in 1898 by a Russian forced lease from China of railway rights through eastern Manchuria. To administer its newly leased territories along the railway line, Russia developed both Port Arthur and the nearby city of Dalny, present-day Dalian. In 1900, Russian troops, along with those of six other Western powers and Japan, helped suppress the largely antiforeign Boxer Insurrection.
   Following the Boxer’s defeat, Russian troops proceeded to seize large portions of northeastern Manchuria, including the entire Liaodong Peninsula, heightening Russian-Japanese tensions. Such imperial rivalries came to a head in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905, which witnessed the defeat of Russia and the reestablishment of Japanese control over the Liaodong Peninsula in the form of a lease with China for the so-called Guandong Territory, a term referring roughly to northeast China. Japan soon thereafter established the Guandong governor-general and Guandong Army with the duty of administering and protecting the Japanese-leased territories there.
   Through the early twentieth century, Japanese interest in Manchuria continued apace with the development of the South Manchurian Railway Company, the influx of large numbers of Japanese migrants and officials, and the development regional industry. Also of increasing influence was the Guandong Army headquartered at Port Arthur. The army became a political tool of more radical elements in the Japanese government and military. In 1931 elements of the Guandong Army staged the Manchurian Incident, leading to the establishment of the puppet state of Manchukuo, headed by the last Qing emperor, the full seizure of Liaodong, and the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1931.
   See also <>; <>.
    Lensen, George Alexander. Balance of Intrigue: International Rivalry in Korea and Manchuria, 1884–1899. Tallahassee: University Presses of Florida, 1982;
    Stephan, John J. The Russian Far East: A History. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1994.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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