I arrived in Changchun, capital of Jilin Province, after a 2 hour high speed train journey from Harbin. China is now rapidly laying a high speed rail network across the country in yet another move that is transforming its economy and its citizens' life.
With more than 3.5 million people, Changchun is now the automobile capital of China. It is the headquarters of China FAW Group Corporation, or the First Automobile Works, now one of the world's largest emerging automobile manufacturers. Between 1931 and 1945, Changchun was the capital of Manchukuo, a Japanese puppet state, headed by Puyi, the tragic last emperor of China's Qing Dynasty.
I checked into Hotel Chunyi just opposite the train station. This was once Hotel Yamato, once the number one hotel in town. Founded by the Japanese in 1908, this was where Manchukuo & Japanese used to host envoys from Nazi Germany, Italy and miscellaneous spies, adventurers and quislings.
I visited Puyi's Japanese palace complex, known as the "Puppet Manchukuo Palace Museum". I had expected to see a dusty 20th century palace but instead found a massive and fascinating museum complex. The interior decor might seemed somewhat dull, in a style best described as Japanese functionalist-minimalist of the type I have seen in the parts of the Tokyo imperial palace opened to the public, but it has not one but two interesting museums full of multimedia display, fascinating artifacts and diorama.
One was devoted to the life of Puyi and how he lost his Qing dynastic throne, Japanese manipulation of him as a puppet emperor of a new Manchu state and finally, his transformation into an ordinary citizen in Communist China. The second museum is enormous and very fascinating to those interested in military and modern Chinese history. It was devoted to the Japanese invasion of Northeast China in 1931-1945 - and Chinese resistance. The Chinese Government has obviously invested alot to establish this amazing museum with its illuminating displays. I spent an unexpected 4+ hours at the whole complex.
I also bought 2 books on Manchukuo and 2 sets of a total of 100 B3 size posters of Mao and the Cultural Revolution.
I will spend most of tomorrow in Changchun before taking the 9pm overnight train to Changbaishan.