A flirty province, Jílín (吉林) teases with the ancient and the modern, the artificial and the supernatural. Travellers tired of great walls and imperial facades can explore Japanese-influenced architecture on the trail of the puppet emperor Puyi and the ruins of an ancient Korean kingdom. In fact, much of the far-eastern region comprises the little-known Korean Autonomous Prefecture, home to more than one million ethnic Koreans. Kimchi and cold noodles dominate the menu here and there’s an easy acceptance of outsiders.
Although known for its motor cities and smokestack towns, Jílín is also a popular ski destination and boasts China’s largest nature reserve. So go for the contrasts? No, go for the superlatives. Heaven Lake, a stunning, deep-blue volcanic crater lake within the country’s largest reserve, is one of China’s most mesmerising natural wonders. Yes, Jílín can be a little rough around the edges at times, but its rewards are pure polished jewels.