Chuang Guandong - Historical Background

Historical Background

Inner Manchuria, also called Guandong (literally, "east of the pass" referring to Shanhai Pass at the eastern end of the Great Wall of China) or Guānwài (關外; "outside of the pass"), used to be a land of sparse population, inhabited mainly by the Tungusic peoples. In 1668 during the reign of the Kangxi Emperor, the Qing government further decreed a prohibition of other people getting into this area of their origin.

The sparse population of the Qing Empire's northeastern borderlands facilitated the annexation of the so-called "Outer Manchuria" (the regions north of the Amur and east of the Ussuri) by the Russian Empire, finalized by the Treaty of Aigun (1858), and the Convention of Peking (1860). In response, the Qing officials such as Tepuqin (特普欽), the Military Governor (jiangjun) of Heilongjiang in 1859-1867, made proposals (1860) to open parts of Guandong for Chinese farmer settlers in order to oppose the conquest of Russia. The Qing government subsequently changed its policy encouraging poor farmers from the nearby Zhili Province (the present-day Hebei) and Shandong to move to and live in Manchuria, where one district after another became officially opened for settlement.

The exact numbers of migrants can't be counted, because of the variety of ways of travel (some simply walked), and the underdeveloped government statistics apparatus. Nonetheless, based on the reports of the Chinese Maritime Customs Service and, later, the South Manchurian Railway, modern historians Thomas Gottschang and Diana Lary estimate that, during the period 1891-1942, some 25.4 million migrants arrived to Manchuria from China south of the Great Wall, and 16.7 million went back. This gives the total positive migration balance of 8.7 million people over this half a century period. This makes the scale of the migration comparable to the westward expansion in United States, the advance to Siberia in Russia or, on a smaller scale, the move to Hokkaido in Japan.

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