Yanji, Yanbian
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Yanji, Yanbian | China Travel Guide

Yanji, Yanbian


Yanji, Yanbian: Introduction

Yanji (Mandarin: 延吉,Yánjí| Korean: 연길,yeongil) is a city in Jilin province that serves as the seat of Yanbian (Mandarin: 延边,Yánbiān| Korean: 연변,yeonbyeon), China’s Korean Autonomous Prefecture. 

It is arguably the most Korean-influenced region in the world, outside of Korea itself, with an estimated one-third to one-half of the population being ethnically Korean. 

Yanji houses an interesting mix of Chinese, Chinese-Korean, North Korean and South Korean culture that is not found to this extent anywhere else in the world. 

The city even has two official languages to account for this – Chinese and Korean – with Korean usually being shown above Chinese on signs around the city. 

However, the Korean influence is slowly weakening as residents find that acculturating to Chinese culture and society provides them with more opportunities and benefits throughout the rest of the country. 

Yanji, Yanbian: Location

Yanji is the seat of the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture of Jilin province, China. 

Jilin province is located in China’s Dongbei (Northeast) region along with Liaoning and Heilongjiang provinces.

Yanji is located in the southeast of Jilin province very close to the border with North Korea

Parts of Yanbian also sit along the Russian border, including Hunchun which hosts a triple border viewing area where one can stand in China while looking out into both Russia and North Korea simultaneously.

Yanji also serves as a key stopover point for those travelling to/from Rason (SEZ), North Korea.

Getting to Yanji might be slightly more tedious compared to other major cities in Dongbei but is achievable nonetheless and definitely worth the trip if you are in the area.

Yanji’s railway offers daily trips to Beijing that take 24 hours. 

However, other cities in the Dongbei region can be reached with relative ease (e.g. Changchun [2.5 hours], Harbin [4 hours] and Shenyang [5.5 hours]).

The city is also home to an airport that offers domestic flights around the country as well as to South Korea. 

Yanji, Yanbian: Background

Much like the rest of the Dongbei, the population of the region increased as the Qing Dynasty promoted migration in order to counteract Russian imperialist ambitions.

Yanji was occupied with the rest of Dongbei by the Japanese in the early-mid 1900s. 
Due to its proximity to North Korea, the region was a common site of anti-imperialist cooperation between the two countries against Japanese forces. 

During the time of occupation, as well as during the Korean War, a large influx of Koreans made their way to China through routes throughout Yanbian and the majority of those who stayed in China have now settled in and around Yanji and Yanbian.

The region was established as a Korean Autonomous Region in 1952 at the end of the Chinese Civil War and subsequently upgraded to an Autonomous Prefecture.

Despite the influence and encroachment of Chinese culture on the population of Yanji, the city continues to be a major hub of Korean diasporic culture and customs which can clearly be seen in any part of the city and its surrounding regions.

Today, the city hosts an annual festival to celebrate Korean culture and folk customs that takes place every year in September. 

Yanji is also the host of two Korean-language TV stations that can reportedly be reached from parts of North Korea.

Yanji is now mainly known in Dongbei for its delicious foods. 

The Korean influence has resulted in a love of BBQ which has been fused with Chinese cooking methods to create several locally renowned chain restaurants where visitors can cook meat skewers themselves over a tabletop BBQ. 

Yanji, Yanbian: Highlights

  • Ryugyong Hotel and Restaurant – A popular North Korean hotel and restaurant with friendly Korean staff, traditional Korean cuisine and performances.
  • Antique Market – A multi-story building housing various shops selling old Chinese, Korean and Russian memorabilia.
  • Folk Custom Amusement Village – A site where visitors can learn about, experience and participate in different aspects of traditional Korean culture.
  • Yanbian University – A local university that promotes both Korean and Chinese academia and has ties to institutions in both North and South Korea, as well as students from both countries among many others.
  • The Museum of Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture – A museum that exhibits the history of the region as well as the unique ethnic makeup of the Prefecture and explanations of how it came into being. 
  • Feng Mao BBQ – A famous chain of BBQ restaurants that are known throughout the region for their meat skewers which visitors cook themselves over a tabletop BBQ. A chain of this restaurant can also now be found in Beijing.
Interested in learning more about this region of China?
Check out this blog about Yanji.

Koryo Tours
China Travel Guide


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