China Tourist

Raducanu’s Shenyang ties

Your need-to-know about the new US Open champ’s Chinese ‘hometown’


One of Emma Raducanu’s first media initiatives after winning the US Open on Saturday was to record a short video on Sina Weibo in fluent Mandarin for her fans in China. She thanked them for their support and soon the hashtag “18 year-old Chinese teenager wins the US Open” had been viewed more than 200 million times on the social media platform (Raducanu is British, having lived in the UK since she was two, but her mother is from China and her father is from Romania).

“I think confidence comes from just inner belief. My mum comes from a Chinese background, they have a very good self-belief,” she told the British edition of Vogue. She later added of her mother, “For me having a Chinese mum definitely instilled from a young age hard work, discipline.”

Shenyang, in northeastern China, is the hometown of Emma Raducanu’s mother. Over the years the new champion has been a regular visitor to the city, where she has trained with local tennis players at the Shenyang Institute of Physical Education. She has even honed her hand-eye coordination playing table tennis there.

Here’s our quick guide to Shenyang for those who’ve never been.

Raducanu with the US Open trophyRaducanu with the US Open trophy

A brief history of Shenyang

Shenyang as a city can date its history back over 7,200 years, when it was home to the Xinle, an ancient civilisation which was among the earliest to practice agriculture and produce wood carvings.

Shenyang became a cultural and political hub again when Nurhaci, a Manchu chieftain who laid the foundations of China’s Qing Dynasty, made it his imperial capital in 1625 (partly because he saw its potential as a military stronghold; together with the provinces of Jilin and Heilongjiang, it would form Manchuria).

Shunzhi, the third Qing emperor, moved the imperial capital to today’s Beijing. But even then Shenyang retained a special status as an auxilliary capital for nearly three hundred years until the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911. The city’s Manchurian name was Mukden.

Japan invaded Manchuria in 1931 and occupied it till 1945. Today, Shenyang is the capital of the northeastern province of Liaoning.

Population and weather

The city has a population of 9.07 million, that’s accustomed to sweltering summers and bitterly cold winters. The temperature experiences a huge range, with highs of 39.3 °C and lows of minus 33.1 °C.

The city’s economy

Shenyang and its hinterland in the northeast was China’s main manufacturing hub in the early twentieth century. It was said to be the place that manufactured China’s first machine tool, first crane and first jet aircraft. In more recent times its reliance on state-owned enterprises – a legacy of being an early hub for heavy industry – has been a drag on the local economy. Last year its GDP grew just 0.8% to Rmb657.2 billion ($102 billion). For comparison Shanghai’s GDP was around Rmb3.9 trillion.

A view of Shenyang’s city centre

The city’s Shengjing Grand Theatre, by the Hun River (photo by Liu Xu  柳旭)

What to see in the city

Shenyang boasts three World Heritage sites:

The Imperial Palace of Shenyang: Built in 1625 by Nurhaci, it was the home to the first three Qing emperors until 1644. The architecture of the palace is reminiscent of the Forbidden City in Beijing but also integrates Manchu, Tibetan and Mongolian styles. The palace spreads out across 114 ancient buildings, with over 300 rooms and courtyards.

Fulinh Mausoleum: Built in the eastern suburbs of Shenyang, the mausoleum is the burial ground of Nurhaci and his empress wife. Throughout the Qing Dynasty it served as the main site for ritual ceremonies conducted by the imperial family. Its numerous edifices, statues, carvings and murals combine traditional Han Chinese features with those of Manchuria.

Zhaoling Mausoleum: Located in Beiling Park, the largest park in Shenyang, it is one of the best preserved imperial tombs, and is the burial site the first Qing emperor Huang Taiji and his empress. It is notable for its ornate gates and scenic gardens.

Entrance to the imperial tomb of the first Qing Emperor Huang Taiji

Entrance to the imperial tomb of the first Qing Emperor Huang Taiji (photo by Liu Xu  柳旭)

Shenyang also features China’s National Museum of Industry. Most of China’s ‘national’ museums are in Beijing, so it is a relative rarity for other cities to play host to one. This is a tribute to Shenyang’s key role in China’s early industrial development. The museum is spectacularly housed in a former steel factory (see WiC201).

What to eat

People in Shenyang enjoy classic northeastern Chinese cuisine. Some of the more popular items include laobian dumplings, suancai (also called Chinese sauerkraut), stewed chicken and mushroom, shredded potatoes, caramelised sweet potatoes and tanghulu (a candied fruit snack). New tennis champ Emma has sampled tanghulu on a previous visit to Shenyang (see the photo above, top left, which was widely shared by her Chinese fans on WeChat).

A photo widely forwarded on WeChat of Emma Raducanu eating a candied fruit snack in Shenyang

Raducanu: as seen in Shenyang

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