• COUNTRY China
  • POPULATION 6.3 million (urban area, 2010)
  • LANGUAGES Mandarin Chinese (Shenyang Dialect), Manchurian
  • NOTABLE LANDMARKS Mukden Palace; East Mausoleum; North Mausoleum; Xiaonan Cathedral; Strange Slope; Botanical Garden

Although not a popular extra stop on the Trans Manchurian rail route, if you have the time then this city boasts some important connections to China’s history and a slightly wacky attribute that draws stone circle ‘sitters’ from afar – read on!

Shenyang is one of the most significant cities in China, both historically and currently. Shenyang is where the Qing Dynasty was born in 1644. The city’s two-thousand-year lifespan can be traced back to 476 B.C. and the Warring States Period.

Aside from its ancient history it has a significant link to the Japanese expansionism which ultimately led to World War Two. Shenyang also has an area outside the city of a highly ‘unusual’ natural occurrence.  The Guaipo is a 82 meter slope that seemingly reverses gravity. Pedestrians, vehicles and bicycle riders have to accelerate to go down hill, but roll up to the top of the hill with ease.

Japanese Occupation of Manchuria

With the building of the South Manchurian Railway, Shenyang, then known as Mukden, became a Russian stronghold. During the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), the city was the site of the Battle of Mukden from 19 February –10 March 1905, the largest battle fought anywhere since the 1813 battle of Leipzig in the Napoleonic Wars. Following the Japanese victory, their concession at Mukden became one of the chief bases for Japanese economic expansion into southern Manchuria. It was also the seat of the Chinese viceroy of the three Manchurian provinces. In the 1920s, Mukden was the capital of the warlord Zhang Zuolin, who was killed when his train was blown up near the city at a Japanese-guarded railway bridge.

The Mukden Incident (18 September 1931) represented an early event in the Second Sino-Japanese War, although full-scale war would not start until 1937. On that date, a section of railway owned by Japan’s South Manchuria Railway near Mukden was dynamited. The Imperial Japanese Army, accusing Chinese dissidents of the act, responded by invading Manchuria, leading to the establishment the following year of the puppet kingdom of Manchukuo. While the responsibility for this act of sabotage remains controversial, the prevailing view is that Japanese militarists staged the explosion to provide a pretext for war. In Japan the Mukden Incident is known as the Manchurian Incident.

And events rolled on from here – World War Two; Communist take over… etc..

Although Shenyang is a sprawling metropolis, the Metro system is easy to navigate.

Because the city is so old and so culturally significant, you will discover many relics and landmarks. Legacies of the Qing Dynasty here include the Shenyang Imperial Palace, Fuling Tomb and the Zhaoling Tomb.

Guaipo – Strange Slope – Shenyang

Shenyang is also home to one of the unusual (and not fully researched) natural wonders of the world.

In April 1990, the discovery of the Strange Slope in Shenyang drew attention worldwide. Its fame continues to spread as visitors from home and abroad flock to see this rare sight. Strange Slope is located 30km (18.6 miles) from the northeastern portion of Shenyang. The slope descends eastwards from its western peak, occupying an area of 9 km2 (5.6 sq miles). It is 80 metres (262.5 feet) long and 15 metres (49.2 feet) wide.

The Slope’s uniqueness lies in its apparent violation of gravity. If a car stops at the foot of the slope, it will run to the top of the slop without any difficulty. The contrary occurs when cars attempt to drift downwards. Experts and scholars have, so far, failed to explain the mystery of the Strange Slope, other than to blame magnetic fields and optical illusions, but hard evidence is still lacking.

Today, Strange Slope lies at the heart of the Strange Slope Scenic Area, which also features a number of other natural attractions, including two more which comprise the area’s well-known ‘Three Mysteries’, plus the ‘Five Great Mountains’.

Xiangshan is located on a hillside 100 metres (328 feet) from the Strange Slope. Here, when one stomps on the hillside, a loud sound is heard resonating from the earth below. The name Xiangshan derives from this sound. Wongding is another hilltop located close by. Similarly, its name (pronounced ‘wong’) describes the sound which results from a wooden hammer or a stone hitting the ground. Together with the Strange Slope, these sights comprise the ‘Three Mysteries’ of Shenyang.

The area surrounding the Strange Slope Scenic Area is lush and mountainous. Yunmaoshan Mountain is usually tranquil yet prominent with its lofty peak remaining veiled by clouds year-round. Wolongshan Mountain winds up and down like a crouching dragon with valleys on its foot covered with Chinese scholar trees. Every year during May and June, petals whirl around covering the whole valley with a snowy mantle. Guibeishan Mountain, which looks like three tortoises floating in the water, together with other two mountains, Changkongshan Mountain and Dagushan Mountain, make up the famous ‘Five Great Mountains’.

There are many other attractions around the Strange Slope such as enchanting lakes and a fresh spring, Xiamei Spring. There is a labyrinth between the Strange Slope and Xiangshan, as well as a path with 518 steep steps. The view from atop the steps is fully worthwhile; here visitors can view a panorama of the scenic area as well as the nearby Wolong Temple.