Shenyang

Shenyang Overview

Shenyang (Shényáng, 沈阳), the capital of China's northeastern Liaoning Province, is as famous in the 21st century for its overly aggressive drivers as it was in the 17th century for its overly aggressive Manchu cavalry. At that time it was known as "Mukden" and was the capital of a Manchu state that first broke away from Ming Dynasty China, then conquered it, taking Beijing in 1644 and establishing China's last imperial dynasty, the Qing.

Today, historical Shenyang is largely lost beneath the familiar organized chaos of China's post-Mao economic boom times. Still, the patient and persistent traveler will be rewarded. Amidst the flyovers and highways, office towers and neon signs, smog and famously awful Shenyang traffic, remnants of Manchu glory remain. 

First among Shenyang attractions is the Shenyang Imperial Palace (Mukden Palace). Begun in 1625 by Nurhaci, the founder of the Manchu state, the palace combines elements of the Forbidden City with Manchu, Mongolian and Tibetan flourishes. Guaranteed never to be as crowded as Beijing's famed imperial palace, Shenyang's is almost as impressive. 

Manchu enthusiasts and casual visitors alike will also find the Manchu Tombs, a UNESCO World Heritage site, worth a visit. The North Tomb, situated in pleasant Beiling Park (Běilíng Gōngyuán, 北陵公园), is the final resting place of Nurhaci's son Huang Taiji; his father's body lies in the East Tomb in wooded Dongling Park (Dōnglíng Gōngyuán, 东陵公园). 

Pre-Manchu history is well preserved in the Liaoning Provincial Museum (Liáoníng Shěng Bówùguǎn, 辽宁省博物馆); ancient buildings are few, but the venerable 13-story Pagoda of Buddhist Ashes (Shèlì Tǎ, 舍利塔), not far from the North Tomb, impresses both outside and inside (be sure to gain entrance for a viewing of a rather racy pair of entwined Buddhas).

For a taste of the unusual, go to the Strange Slope (Guài Pō, 怪坡). Like the Strange Slope in Xiamen, this is a seemingly gravity-defying hill where parked cars are reportedly drawn uphill by forces unknown, while finding descent a challenge.

Aside from hopping in a taxi, the easiest way to navigate the city for non-Chinese speakers is the two line Shenyang Metro running north-south and east-west and hitting a number of the key tourist destinations. City buses can be caught at both the North Train Station (Shěnyáng Běizhàn, 沈阳北站) and Shenyang (South) Train Station (Shěnyáng Huǒchēzhàn, 沈阳火车站). Bus No. 203 runs between the two.

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