The ‘Manchu Style’ within The Campuses of Jilin University

The Manchu Empire was a short-lived (1932-1945) Japanese protectorate in Northeast China before and during the 2nd World War, having its capital in Changchun, then renamed as Xinjing, and Puyi as its emperor. Changchun is now the provincial capital city in Jilin and home to the enormously large national Jilin University. Japan in the first half of the 20th century had great ambitions for Northeast Asia, having annexed Taiwan, Korea and Manchuria (roughly what includes now Heilongjiang, Jilin and Liaoning), determined to forge a prosperous and firm puppet empire out of Northeast China. Urban planning and development was elaborate and meant to serve the long life of a perpetuate empire, under such context the Manchu Style, which is an architectural trend of mixed Japanese contemporary and Chinese traditional traits, was born and therefore to dominate the landscape of Changchun for about 10 years. The Manchu Style was as short-lived as the empire that bore the same name, as a result, it exists only largely in Changchun and sporadically in a few major cities in the region.

Japan was painfully defeated in 1945, hence had lost its grip on Manchuria the same year, however, remains of the olden days have contributed to some of the most recognisable features of Changchun, in which a great deal of its architecture has been in the care of Jilin University, one of the most prominent national universities in China.


The State Council, built in 1930s, now part of the Bethune Medical School of Jilin University

The Manchu Style appears grim, stout and cold, often has a symmetrical plan with a central tower set on the axis next to which are corps de logis, in most cases only in large prominent buildings are there side wings attached of right angle to the corps de logis.


Entrance view of Medical School



Formerly Ministry of Justice, now one of the Medical School buildings

The Ministry of Justice building design was first brought up by its architect to compete for the State Council project, failing to win the bid, it was built in compromised scale and complexity to serve as Ministry of Justice. That is why we see great formality and intended grandeur in it.


Formerly Shinbuden for the local Japanese military and civil communities, now theatre of the university. The Shinbuden was a temple where the Japanese military and nationalist groups were to practice martial arts and worshiping of the Shinbu Teno. 

The Shinbuden looked from afar is all roofs, only when walking close to it one sees the gates and eaves under the roof. Light is extremely scarce, so that its mystery and grimness are guarded.


Formerly Central Police School, now storage house, built in 1930s

The central facade of this building has quite some borrowings from the rococo style of Europe, whereas the corps de logis still go back to stick with the Manchu Style.


One of the teaching buildings of the university, supposedly built in 1930s, obviously of Manchu Style


Facade decoration patterns detailed



Intended Imperial Palace for Puyi, now university museum

The building was ambitiously intended to be the grand Imperial Palace with a large square in the front and imperial gardens in the back. However by the time Japan surrendered it was only done in the basement. Communist China resumed the work in the 1950s, finishing it largely in the traditional Chinese style, therefore making it the sole more or less pure Chinese building from that era.


Lobby hall detailed