Shenyang: Northeastern Cultural Center

Editor’s note: In February, we are praying for Shenyang. With a population of more than 8 million, Shenyang is the largest city in northeastern China, and an important industrial center for the whole country. To help us pray, a group of pastors shares some of their observations about Shenyang’s people and culture, and speak about some of the changes they have seen in recent years.

This is the first of a two-part interview, and responses have been edited and slightly rearranged for clarity and length.


A City of Outsiders

China Partnership: How is Shenyang unique among China’s cities?

Yuan Yi:  The city is named Shenyang because the city is on a river, and the city is on the “sun side” of the river.[1] An older name of the city was Shengjing, which sounds like the Chinese word for Bible.[2]

Han Liang: I am not local, but come from another province. I moved her after I got married, and started planting a church here about 10 years ago. I think Shenyang is a city of immigrants. A lot of people are not actually from Shenyang; true local people are very rare. Most people in Shenyang came from other places in China, such as Shandong Province or Harbin.[3]

Especially during Spring Festival, we know that a lot of people return to their hometowns. At church, our attendance drops down a lot because a lot of people go home to celebrate the new year. Shenyang is a better city than other cities in the north of China, and people like to move here.

I think Shenyang is a city of immigrants. A lot of people are not actually from Shenyang; true local people are very rare. Most people in Shenyang came from other places in China.

Bai Jun: I am local Shenyang people. I started to serve in the church when I was 15, and now it has already been about 15 years. I served and was trained in several other cities around China. About a year ago, I came back to Shenyang to build a church.

I think my city is very interesting. One of the interesting things is that Shenyang is one of the only cities with multiple minority communities. There are buildings in the Han style, and also in the Tibetan style. There are the four Tibetan towers surrounding the city, and when you go to visit Shenyang’s version of the Forbidden City, you can also see the Tibetan-style top. Beijing is an extension of Shenyang, because the Qing dynasty moved from Shenyang to Beijing.

The modern idea for the city was actually brought here by the Japanese, who brought factories and military to Shenyang. In those days, Shenyang was one of the most prosperous cities in the whole world.

After 1949, another phase of our city began. At that time [when the Communist Party founded the People’s Republic of China], we started to live collectively. Shenyang used to have a lot of heavy industries and factories. People here had stable lives, and because of that, people in Shenyang are very relaxed. They don’t have as much ambition to make money as people in the southern part of China.


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The biggest concern for people here is how to enjoy life. If you visited Shenyang, you would see the most bars. I am not talking about small bars: I am talking of huge bars, hotels. We call these bars centers: you can have a buffet there, you can exercise and work out, you can take a shower. It is really amazing!

Five years ago, you would still see many foreigners in Shenyang. But now, the foreigners in this city are so limited. Now, it is rare to see a foreigner, while I used to often see them on the street.

If you look at geography, Shenyang can be seen as the traffic center of northeastern China. Ironically, people here only get information from one channel: the Communist Party. The people here, they are so committed to the Communist Party. People here are not very fresh, and the city does not always feel very alive. Information is very limited. There is a lot of bureaucracy. The government system here is rigid and inflexible.

People here had stable lives, and because of that, people in Shenyang are very relaxed. They don’t have as much ambition to make money as people in the southern part of China. The biggest concern for people here is how to enjoy life.

We think the central government does not want the people in this part of the country to become too alive, because if they are very energetic, they might take the place of Beijing. The people in Dongbei [northeastern China] used to be very energetic and straightforward. They can fight! It is so easy for you to see two Dongbei people fighting against each other.

Also, the persecution in this area is not as serious as in other cities.

Changing Shenyang

CP: How has Shenyang changed over the last five years?

Yuan Yi: In my eyes, the population is the first change. All of the provinces in the Dongbei area are decreasing. But we see Shenyang as the center of Dongbei, and Shenyang’s population has grown a little bit in that time. The reason is that people from Jilin, Heilongjiang, Inner Mongolia, and people from other provinces come to Shenyang to live. Other people, especially those of the younger generation, have moved to the south of China to live and hunt for jobs.

Another change is that the city has put a lot of effort into building construction over the past five years. Even though the economy is not going well here, still Shenyang has put a lot of effort into construction. The transportation is very convenient for the local people. Right now there are five subways lines, and the government is planning to put in a total of 13 lines.

All of the provinces in the Dongbei area are decreasing. But we see Shenyang as the center of Dongbei, and Shenyang’s population has grown a little bit in that time.

Shenyang is the center of culture in the northeastern part of China. More and more travelers are coming to visit the city.

Lan Kangxi: I came to Shenyang 20 years ago. In the last 20 years, the city has really changed a lot in the infrastructure. A lot of things have been built, and the city is becoming more and more beautiful. Many buildings have been built on the riverside, so the people here have more places to visit and have fun.

[1]or yang actually means “sun” in Chinese; Shenyang sits on the yang or “sun” side of the Shen River.

[2] The older name was 盛京 or “rising capital.”

[3] Shandong is a northeastern Chinese province to the south of Shenyang, while Harbin is another northeastern city, located to the north of Shenyang.


Yuan Yi, Han Liang, Bai Jun, and Lan Kangxi are pseudonyms for Chinese pastors who live in Shenyang.

Pray for the people of Shenyang to encounter the God who loves and made them.

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Further Reading

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LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

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ABOUT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

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About Guangzhou

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About Chengdu

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About Beijing

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About Shanghai

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