Province of northeast China, bordered to the north and east by Russia, to the south by Jilin, and to the northwest by Inner Mongolia; area 463,600 sq km/178,950 sq mi; population (2013 est) 38,350,200. The capital is Harbin; other main cities are Qiqihar, Hegang, and Jiamusi, but much of the province is thinly populated. China's largest oilfield is located in the province, at Daqing, and coal is mined in the east of Heilongjiang; other industries are engineering, including the manufacture of machinery, tools, and building materials, food-processing, timber and wood products, and also ice-skates, of which the province is one of the world's leading producers. Agriculture is based on wheat, maize, sugar beet, soya beans, dairy farming, and sheep rearing.
History The borders of Heilongjiang were disputed by the Russians and the Chinese from the 17th to 19th centuries, when China ceded large territories to the province's north and east to Russia. From 1900 to 1917 it was occupied by the Russians. In 1931 the Japanese seized the area when they invaded Manchuria, and it became part of the Japanese-controlled state of Manchukuo (1932–45). The Japanese were responsible for developing much of the region's industry and infrastructure.
Topography The Lesser Hingan Mountains cross the province from the north to the centre, reaching a maximum height of 1,429 m/4,688 ft at Pingdingshan, near the southern end of the range. In the south of the province, extensions of the Changbai Shan run from southwest to northeast. In the east is the northern extension of the Dongbei (or Manchurian) Plain; and in the west lies a marshy area in the angle between the confluence of the Amur and Ussuri rivers, with an average elevation of less than 50 m/160 ft.
Climate Heilongjiang experiences long, bitterly cold winters with January average temperatures ranging around −20°C/−4°F. Rainfall is moderate, occurring mostly in the summer. Both temperature and rainfall are higher in the south and east.
Economy Agriculture is limited by the climate. Cereals, sugar beet, flax, and other temperate-zone products are grown as cash crops. Animal husbandry is very important, and China's largest dairy farming and dairy products industry is in the valley of the Nen Jiang River near the centre of the province. Average land holdings are the largest in China and there are many huge state farms; agriculture is more mechanized here than in the rest of China. Parts of the north and east of the province were only developed as cropland after 1949. Much of Heilongjiang is forested, and logging and timber-processing are important to its economy.
Natural resources include oil, gold, coal, copper, zinc, lead, cobalt, and timber. Although most of Daqing's oil is transported by pipeline to be refined elsewhere, other locally produced raw materials are processed in the province. Timber is used for papermaking, milk for the processing of cheese and milk powder, sugar beet for sugar-refining, and cereals for flour-milling. The chief cities of Harbin, Qiqihar, and Jiamusi have a greater diversity of industry based on heavy industry and engineering.