A flirty province, Jílín (吉林) teases with the ancient and the modern, the artificial and the supernatural. Travellers tired of great walls and imperial facades can explore Japanese-influenced architecture on the trail of the puppet emperor Puyi and the ruins of an ancient Korean kingdom. In fact, much of the far-eastern region comprises the little-known Korean Autonomous Prefecture, home to more than one million ethnic Koreans. Kimchi and cold noodles dominate the menu here and there’s an easy acceptance of outsiders.
Although known for its motor cities and smokestack towns, Jílín is also a popular ski destination and boasts China’s largest nature reserve. So go for the contrasts? No, go for the superlatives. Heaven Lake, a stunning, deep-blue volcanic crater lake within the country’s largest reserve, is one of China’s most mesmerising natural wonders. Yes, Jílín
From the bus stop, walk up to a small hot spring where you can soak your feet or buy delicious boiled eggs (cooked in the spring). Past that a 1km trail leads to the viewpoint for the magnificent 68m Chángbái Waterfall. In the past you could follow the dramatic-looking caged trail beside the falls up to the base of the Heaven Lake, but that route is now officially sealed. And don’t bother trying to sneak in; park staff will quickly call you back.
If the 3.5km-long boardwalk running through birch forests from the falls to the Green Deep Pool area is open, it's worth the walk.
Wandu Mountain City
First built in AD 3, this city became capital of the Koguryo kingdom in 209, after the fall of the first capital, Guonei city (on the site of present-day Jí’ān). There’s little left of the original buildings, but the layout has been cleared and it’s immensely enjoyable scrambling about the terraces and taking in the views that surely must have been a deciding factor in establishing the capital here.
Down on the plains below the city, on a large shelf above the river, sits Jí’ān’s largest collection of giant stone cairns. Erected after the destruction of Wándū, this vast cemetery for the city’s noblemen is so far unaffected by mass tourism. The sight of the massive rock piles in fields of Spanish needle (Bidens pilosa) is probably the most photogenic in all Jí’ān.
Wándū is a 6.5km drive west of the train station.
Museum of Imperial Palace of Manchu State
The Museum of Imperial Palace of Manchu State is a museum in Changchun of Jilin Province in northeast China. From 1932 to 1945, it once served as the residence of China's last emperor Puyi and the head office of puppet Manchukuo set up by the Japanese Army intruding into the Northeast of China.
In 1908, at age two, Puyi became the 10th Qing emperor. His reign lasted just over three years, but he was allowed to remain in the Forbidden City until 1924. He subsequently lived in Tiānjīn until 1932, when the Japanese installed him at this palace as the ‘puppet emperor’ of Manchukuo. After Japan’s defeat in 1945, Puyi was captured by Russian troops. In 1950 he was returned to China, where he spent 10 years in a re-education camp before ending his days as a gardener in Běijīng. Puyi died in 1967.
While you're here, look out for the swimming pool (Puyi never used it as an emperor was never allowed to show his body in public) and the dank underground air-raid shelter where he retreated with his family when the bombs fell.
Jilin Rime Ice and Snow Festival
Jilin Rime Ice and Snow Festival has been held since 1991, sponsored by Jilin Provincial Tourism Administration and Jilin municipal government. 2017 Jilin Rime Ice and Snow Festival is held from December 18, 2016 to the end of February, 2017, with the theme of "Summer goes and winter comes - welcome to Jilin". A series of activities will be held during the festival, including the sports activities on Songhua Lake Ski Resort, Beidahu Ski Resort, Zhuque Mountain Ski Resort, Wujiashan Ski Resort, Mingshan Oasis Ski Resort, Beishan Ice and Snow World and Qilinshan Ski Resort.