The Imperial Palace of Manchukuo is originally Japanese-ish. In the 1930s, Japan had just gotten out of an economic downturn (their version of the Great Depression). They had resources to invade surrounding countries once again. A strategic location was Manchuria, also known as Northeast China. With a well-timed attack, they took over the Heilongjiang, Jilin, and Liaoning Provinces. They essentially forced that area, renamed Manchukuo, to declare independence from China. They also installed a Puppet regime, which was headed by a man named Puyi. Those three provinces, as well as other areas in northern China (think Beijing, Tianjin, etc.) bear scars of that time today.
If you travel to northern China, learning about this history is absolutely worthwhile. You can understand the viewpoint of modern Chinese from museums and exhibits, including the Museum of the Imperial Palace of Manchukuo! This is a large museum in Changchun, the capital of the Jilin Province. It was the site of Puyi’s palace during this Puppet regime rule, and you can see artifacts of the extravagance of Puyi and his family and advisors. This is a sharp contrast to the everyday lives of ordinary citizens during this time.
Even if you only have one day in Changchun, you should consider going to this Museum of the Imperial Palace of Manchukuo. The Changchun World Sculpture Park and Jingyuetan are awesome, but if you can fit this museum into your itinerary, you definitely should.
What is Changchun’s Museum of the Imperial Palace of Manchukuo?
In September 1931, the Japanese launched the Mukden Incident. They detonated an explosive on a railway track of their own trains. This was so they could blame Chinese dissidents, and used that excuse to invade. That eventually led to the Second Sino-Japanese War that ended with their WWII surrender. During that time, northern China was known as Manchukuo. Japan did whatever they could to impose Japanese culture, including incentivizing immigration and mandating the use of Japanese instead of Mandarin and local dialects. By 1932 the puppet regime had Puyi as its emperor.
During that time, Puyi had several places to stay, one of the largest of which was the Imperial Palace of Manchukuo. He also had Jingyuan (Garden of Serenity) in Tianjin. Since he spent most of his time at the Imperial Palace of Manchukuo, this is the best place to visit! Jingyuan is also informative, but unfortunately most of the information there is solely in Chinese.
The Imperial Palace of Manchukuo is:
- A National 5A Tourist Attraction
- A National Key Relic in the Key Cultural Relics Protection Unit
- A Patriotism Education Base
Getting to the Museum of the Imperial Palace of Manchukuo
There are two main transportation options for the Imperial Palace of Manchukuo. You can take a taxi, but that isn’t cost effective. There are several bus stops, but the main roads are farther away. The walk from bus stop to the entrance is about 10-15 minutes.
The best option is light rail! Line 4 has the Weihuanggong stop, named for the Imperial Palace of Manchukuo. You can go here directly from Changchun train station too! When you exit, make sure to turn left (not right!) for the entrance.
Travel Tips for the Museum of the Imperial Palace of Manchukuo
The external layout for the Imperial Palace of Manchukuo is a bit confusing. When you arrive, you must first buy tickets at the visitor’s center. They are ¥80, so not cheap but not expensive. The ticket includes free luggage storage if you need it! The booth is in the back corner, and also includes a water dispenser. Be sure to bring a map (available in English!) so you can navigate.
Opening hours are 8:30 AM all year. In summer it closes at 5:20 PM. Winter closing time is 4:50 PM. Last tickets are sold about an hour before closing time.
When you exit the visitor’s center, you can walk towards what looks like an entrance (Laixun Gate). The one you see is actually the exit (confusing, but it means you can go directly from the exit to the visitor’s center for your luggage if needed). Keep going left to get to the Imperial Palace of Manchukuo entrance (Baokang Gate). As you enter, you’ll see the horse racing track! You don’t have to go left, as what you’ll see is just barracks – you can’t even go in. Though, the Hall for Imperial Guards houses a little warm shop with jade carvings of all shapes and sizes.
Turn right to go through the Xingyunmen Gate, which separates the soldier quarters from the royal quarters. You’ll get your ticket checked again, so have it ready! In terms of the specific route to take, the map has a fantastic suggestion to let you see everything.
What to See at the Museum of the Imperial Palace of Manchukuo
The Imperial Palace of Manchukuo still exists largely in its original form. There are barracks and horse stables on the outside, and a large horse racing track. On the right side and larger than the barracks and racing track is the actual living space of Puyi and his family. There are several different places that you can visit, but outside you should stop in the Eastern Imperial Garden. It takes up a large part of the living area, and even has a swimming pool at the side! It’s not as pretty during the winter because the trees are all bare, though.
The main places you should see are the buildings. The Jixi Building is one of the Russian-style living quarters.
The Qinmin Building was Puyi’s main office building. He conducted his foreign affairs there, including meeting with ambassadors and consuls. You can see historical documents and photographs from Puyi’s life in it, as well.
Tongde Palace is luxurous, with a main hall meant for dancing. Puyi thought it was bugged, so he avoided it. However, you can see the Throne of Manchukuo as well as symbols of wealth and status, such as replicas of crown jewels in the halls.
After you visit these places, you’ll walk out through the side gate. You can go to the free Historical Museum of Japanese Occupation of the Northeast. Even without a ticket you could go here, and also see the century-old locomotive head at the side. The museum is good because it details more of the background of the Imperial Palace of Manchukuo. Most of the information is Chinese, but there are enough English translations for you to get a general idea of the history. Much of the language is politically invoking, such as “traitors”, “national betrayal”, and “implicit” to describe Chinese citizens who joined the puppet regime. However, the information at its core seems to be accurate.
Photo Gallery for the Museum of the Imperial Palace of Manchukuo
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