The History of Dalian

The History of Dalian


From a small fishing village at the end of the 19th century to a famous summer holiday destination and a city rich in industry and international trade.

InternChina - Squares of Dalian
InternChina – Squares of Dalian

The city which now boasts around 3.3 million people was first established as an official town in the 1880s and is thus a relatively young city with only around 100 years of history – especially in comparison to ancient capital cities such as Beijing or Nanjing which possess numerous historical relics and ruins, temples and museums.

Due to its strategic location for both trade and military, although far away from the central government Dalian has become an important harbour. Its rapid development recently granted it the honour of being renowned as the trading and financial centre of north-eastern Asia and as a result has gained the name the ‘Hong Kong of Northern China’.

A brief rewind

Even though development has been somewhat recent, according to historical records, the area around Dalian was first inhabited as early as 221 BC.

InternChina - Dalian in the 19th Century
InternChina – Dalian in the 19th Century

Dalian is a city bound up in the events of the creation of modern China and was throttled by one invasion after the other. Therefore, the command of the city changed numerous times during wars between China, Japan and Russia.

During the Opium Wars in the mid 19th century, the city was occupied by the British, and in 1895, due to the Sino-Japanese War, the Eastern Liaodong Peninsula fell for the first time into the hands of the Japanese.

The location of Dalian was of such great strategic value as it was an important passageway into China and regarded as a foothold to protect the capital, Beijing.

InternChina - Old Dalian
InternChina – Old Dalian

In 1898, the Russian Empire leased the area around Dalian Bay and Lushnkou and linked it to the Trans-Siberian Railway. That year is generally viewed as the beginning of Dalian as a consequence of beginning construction on Dalian harbour.

InternChina - Soviet Troops Entering Dalian
InternChina – Soviet Troops Entering Dalian

With the defeat of Tsarist Russia in the Russo-Japanese War, control was transferred back to Japan and from then on the city had to go through the colonial rule of Japan and Russia for decades.

Until the surrender of Japan in 1945, it remain under their power and only at the end of World War II, was Dalian eventually returned to China without compensation by the USSR in 1950. However, a strong Russian influence continued until 1955and the hardest period in Dalian’s history ended as recently when the Chinese government took over sovereignty of Lushun in that year.

InternChina - New Port of Dalian
InternChina – New Port of Dalian

Both China and Russia contributed greatly to develop Dalian as a maritime port and it became a major shipbuilding centre soon after the Russians left.

In 1985 the city got endowed with provincial level decision-making powers after the State Council approved for Reform and Opening up in 1984.

InternChina - History of Dalian
InternChina – History of Dalian

Evidence of previous invastions still visible today

In the colonial periods, the Russians and Japanese dreamed of establishing a city of their own which is reflected in the architecture of city today. Russian architects fascinated with French culture came to Dalian and built an assortment of western-style fountains, lush greenery and elegant squares with artistic sculptures, taking squares as the centre and radiating outwards.


Features of the city nowadays are the nifty female troopers patrolling the squares and…

InternChina - Liaoning Dalian
InternChina – Liaoning Dalian

…the old tramlines built by Japanese colonists.

InternChina - Old Tram Lines
InternChina – Old Tram Lines

‘A City built in Gardens’

Thanks to a ‘Green Storm’ – an environmental campaign initiated by Bo Xilai, the former mayor of the city – Dalian is a now city of numerous green squares, forest parks and seaside scenic spots. As a result people call it

Dalian – ‘Oriental Brazil’ and Fashion Cosmos

InternChina - Aerial View of Dalian
InternChina – Aerial View of Dalian

The city has earned two marvellous reputations over the past years: the first is for football and the second is for fashion. Dalian has the most successful Chinese football team and hosts many Chinese football matches. This is why it was given the name: ‘Oriental Brazil’.

InternChina - International Fashion Festival
InternChina – International Fashion Festival

In addition to that, thousands of designers, clothing merchants, celebrities and pop stars from home and abroad get together to celebrate Fashion. Consequently, the city is a paradise for shopping lovers and provides all sorts shopping malls and markets.


To sum it up, after years of being involved in many wars, Dalian nowadays offers a relaxed atmosphere by the sea with clean air as well as plenty of shopping opportunities, restaurants and bars.


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