— Mukden (Мукден) ~ 1925-1926

[July 30, 1925 – December 16, 1926]

Mukden is one of the oldest towns in China. It was known as Shen-yang-lu under the Yuan Dynasty.

The wall around Mukden

The wall around Mukden (Click to enlarge)

In 1621 Nurhachi, the Manchu emperor, captured Mukden, the largest city in Manchuria, and four years later, in 1625, made it its capital city and changed its name to Shenyang. However in 1644, the Chinese capital was transferred to Peking. Then in 1657 Feng-Tien Province was established in that area and Mukden was occasionally called either Feng-Tien and Shenyang.

The city proper was surrounded by a lofty brick wall about 48.2 metres (30 feet) high and 25.7 metres (16 feet) wide at the top and about 41.8 metres (26 feet) thick near the base.

Phoenix Tower

Phoenix Tower (Click to enlarge)

The wall was about 1.6 kilometres (1 mile) in circumference and had a total of 8 towered gateways. The Imperial Palaces Governor General’s Offices and many other important buildings were within the wall.  There was also an outer wall made of mud, which enclosed an area of about 25.9 square kilometers (ten square miles).

Although Shenyang was the official name, by the early 1900s most Europeans referred to the city as Mukden (Moukden) and this continued for most of the 20th century.  The name, Mukden, comes from the Manchu word, «mukdembi», meaning “to rise”.


Street of the Jewellers

Street of the Jewellers (Click to enlarge)

A street in Mukden

A street in Mukden (Click to enlarge)

It seems like there was trouble bubbling up everywhere in the world in the early 1900s. In 1904-05 there was the Russo-Japanese War, a result of Russia’s and Japan’s ambitions over Korea and Manchuria.

The major theatres of operations were Southern Manchuria, specifically the area around the Liaodong Peninsula and Mukden; the Yellow Sea and the seas around Korea and Japan.

Russia wanted a warm water port and as Vladivostok was only open during summers, they thought Port Arthur would be a good all-weather port.

Russia and Japan couldn’t come to agreement about this so Japan decided to stop the Russian encroachment by going to war with them.

The Japanese Navy attacked the Russians at Port Arthur, which was leased to Russia by China. Unfortunately for Russia, they lost both land and sea battles to the Japanese.

Soldiers of the Russian Imperial Army entering Mukden in 1905

Soldiers of the Russian Imperial Army entering Mukden in 1905 (Click to enlarge)

All this happened just twenty years before George headed to Mukden, but at least there was some semblance of peace when he travelled across Manchuria to this city.

1925 – Nov 16. George with a friend in Mukden Click to enlarge

According to a Thomas Cook & Son’s travel booklet called «Peking and the Overland Route» printed in 1917, the Yamato Hotel in Mukden was under the direct management of the South Manchuria Railway Company.  In fact, the hotel occupied the upper floor of the station.

There were Yamato hotels in every city which the South Manchuria Railway passed through and Mukden was no exception.

I wonder if George Pio-Ulski stayed there when he arrived in 1925? Perhaps all the members of the orchestra he played with were put up there, or perhaps they had to find their own “digs”.

Yamato Hotel

Yamato Hotel (Click to enlarge)

He started work at a place called Maxim, on July 30, 1925 – still only 14 years old.  I searched to see if I could find out if it was a restaurant, a café or ballroom, but struck out 🙁

There were things happening during those two years as Japan was itching to conquer Manchuria.


The Sheheigai Dept Store (Click to enlarge)

China had disintegrated into regional warlord states after the 1911 Revolution. The Nationalist Chinese Army began a march to retake control, and, from 1926–1928, made some great gains.

Their feelings were high as the Army moved father north towards the Manchurian border. The Japanese felt the Nationalists intended to challenge their control of Manchuria so things must have been fairly tense in that area.

This would have been the time when George was in Mukden so it probably was pretty unsettling. Or was he so used to upheaval that it didn’t bother him?

He finished his stint at Maxim’s on December 16, 1926 and 3 days later, on December 19th, he started work at a place called Alkazar in Peking.

South Manchuria Railway Station

South Manchuria Railway Station


Photos showing what Mukden was like when George was there

*NB – when you click on the album, the screen will show the top of this page. Please just scroll down to see the pictures.



A 1920s travelogue that shows Manchuria during the Japanese occupation, just prior to the outbreak of WWII.




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