While the rest of China’s frigid northeast makes its mark in the winter, Liaoning changes it up and puts on some of the best summertime fun of the Middle Kingdom. Sure, the south is fun in the summer, but if you’re not into seriously sweltering heat, then make your move for Liaoning’s awesome golden beaches and an indulgent beer festival on the sands of Dalian.
In between hitting the surf and making sand castles in your flip-flops, don’t forget that Liaoning’s major cities pack a historical punch as well, with former imperial palaces packed into walled Ming Dynasty cities and a host of world class museums. Plus, the most northern section of the Great Wall runs right along the edge of the North Korean border here, giving you the chance to peek into the utopian paradise that is the Democratic Republic of North Korea. It’s as close as you can get to Kim Jong-un without actually going in to his “communist utopia.” On the Chinese side of the border, there’s also a large Korean population, presenting endless feasts of Korean-style BBQ and plenty of ancient Korean culture.
After the Ming expelled the last of the Mongolians from Beijing and established the Ming Dynasty in 1368, they looked to their border in Liaoning – then known as Liaodong – with concern. Liaodong, plus the areas of Heilongjiang and Jilin further north were together known at the time as Manchuria, and it was the Manchurian hordes that the Ming needed to worry about. The Great Wall was expanded into an enormous section known as the Liaodong Wall, and it ran from Inner Mongolia all the way to the North Korean border.
Unfortunately, the wall could not stop the determined Manchurians forever, and Liaoning was one of the first areas to fall when the Manchus drove through to Beijing and established the Qing Dynasty in the mid-17th century. By the 18th century, Beijing and more southern areas of China were being dished out to Western powers, while the Japanese and the Russians fought great battles for control of the area, each taking turns occupying Liaoning. In fact, the largest land battle at the time – the Battle of Mukden – was fought at the location of modern day Shenyang.