Kwantung Leased Territory

The Kwantung Leased Territory (Japanese: 關東州, Kantō-shū; traditional Chinese: 關東州; simplified Chinese: 关东州; pinyin: Guāndōng zhōu; Wade–Giles: Kwan1-tung1-chou1) was a leased territory of the Empire of Japan in the Liaodong Peninsula from 1905 to 1945.

Kwantung Leased Territory
Coat of arms
Kwantung Leased Territory in 1921 including the Japanese area of influence and neutral zone.
StatusLeased territory
of the Empire of Japan
 1905–1912 (first)
Ōshima Yoshimasa
 1944–1945 (last)
Otozō Yamada
Historical eraEmpire of Japan
17 April 1895
23 April 1895
5 September 1905
14 August 1945
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Russian Dalian
Soviet occupation
of Lüshun base
Today part ofChina
Kwantung Leased Territory
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese關東州
Simplified Chinese关东州
Japanese name

Japan first acquired Kwantung from the Qing Empire in perpetuity in 1895 in the Treaty of Shimonoseki after victory in the First Sino-Japanese War. Kwantung was located at the militarily and economically significant southern tip of the Liaodong Peninsula at the entrance of the Bohai Sea, and included the port city of Ryojun (Port Arthur/Lüshunkou). Japan lost Kwantung weeks later in the Triple Intervention and the Qing transferred the lease to the Russian Empire in 1898, who governed the territory as Russian Dalian and rapidly developed infrastructure and the city of Dairen (Dalniy/Dalian). Japan re-acquired the Kwantung lease from Russia in 1905 in the Treaty of Portsmouth after victory in the Russo-Japanese War, continued to rapidly develop the territory, and obtained extraterritorial rights known as the South Manchuria Railway Zone. Japan extended the lease with the Republic of China in the Twenty-One Demands and used Kwantung as a base to launch the Second Sino-Japanese War. The Kwantung Leased Territory ceased to exist following the Surrender of Japan in World War II in August 1945.


The name Kwantung (traditional Chinese: 關東; simplified Chinese: 关东; pinyin: Guāndōng; Wade–Giles: Kwan1-tung1), means "east of Tong/Dong/Shanhai Pass", a reference to part of Qinhuangdao in today's Hebei province, at the eastern end of the Great Wall of China. The name originally referred to all of Manchuria but later came to be used more narrowly for the area of the leased territory. In Japanese it is pronounced Kantō and it is often referred to as Kantō-shū to avoid confusion with the Kantō region surrounding the capital Tokyo.


In Qing dynasty China, the Liaodong Peninsula (simplified Chinese: 辽东半岛; traditional Chinese: 遼東半島; pinyin: Liáodōng Bàndǎo) was administratively part of Liaoning Province. In 1882, the Beiyang Fleet established a naval base and coaling station at Lüshunkou near the southern end of the peninsula.

The Empire of Japan occupied the region during the First Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895), and under the terms of the Treaty of Shimonoseki signed by Japan and China ending the war in April 1895, Japan gained full sovereignty of the area. However, within weeks, Germany, France and Russia pressured Japan to cede the territory back to China, in what was called the Triple Intervention.[1]

Kwantung Prefectural Office
Dairen City Hall
Dairen Station
Dairen Yamato Hotel

In December 1897, Russian naval vessels entered Lüshunkou harbor, which they began to use as a forward base of operations for patrols off of northern China, Korea and in the Sea of Japan. The Russian Empire renamed the harbor Port Arthur. In March 1898 Russia formally leased the region for 25 years from China. The leased area extended to the northern shore of Yadang Bay on the western side of the peninsula; on the eastern side it reached Pikou; Yevgeni Ivanovich Alekseyev, chief of Russian Pacific Fleet, became the head of this territory. The peninsula north of the lease was made a neutral territory in which China agreed not to offer concessions to other countries. In 1899, Russia founded the town of Dalniy (meaning "distant" or "remote"), just north of the naval base at Port Arthur. This would later become the city of Dalian (Dairen).

In 1898 Russia began building a railroad north from Port Arthur to link Dalniy with the Chinese Eastern Railway at Harbin; this spur line was the South Manchurian Railway.

Under the Portsmouth Treaty (1905) resulting from the Russo-Japanese War, Japan replaced Russia as leaseholder. Port Arthur was renamed Ryojun (旅順), and Dalniy was renamed Dairen (大連). Japan also obtained extraterritorial rights in the region north of the territory adjacent to the 885 kilometers (550 mi) South Manchurian Railway in 1905 (i.e. the South Manchuria Railway Zone), which was extended north of Mukden to Changchun. These rights, along with the railway and several spur lines were passed to the corporation known as the South Manchurian Railway Company.[2]

Japan established the Kwantung Governor-general (關東都督府, Kantō Totokufu) to administer the new territory, and based the Kwantung Garrison to defend it and the railway. The Kwantung Garrison later became the Kwantung Army, which played an instrumental role in the founding of Manchukuo. In negotiations with the Republic of China under the Twenty-One Demands, the terms of the lease of the Kwantung Leased Territory were extended to 99 years.

After the foundation of Japanese-controlled Manchukuo in 1932, Japan regarded the sovereignty of the leased territory as transferred from China to Manchukuo. A new lease agreement was contracted between Japan and the government of Manchukuo, and Japan transferred the South Manchurian Railway Zone to Manchukuo. However, Japan retained the Kwantung Leased Territory as a territory apart from the nominally-independent Manchukuo until its surrender at the end of World War II in 1945.

After World War II, the Soviet Union occupied the territory and the Soviet Navy made use of the Ryojun Naval Base. The Soviet Union turned it over to the People's Republic of China in 1955.


In a reorganization of 1919, the Kwantung Garrison was renamed the Kwantung Army and separated from the civilian administration of the territory, which was designated the Kwantung Bureau (關東廳, Kantō-cho). The Kantō-cho initially directly reported to the office of the Prime Minister of Japan; later it was subordinated to the Ministry of Colonial Affairs. Internally, the Kwantung Leased Area was divided into two districts, with two cities and nine towns. The city assemblies were in part elected, and in part appointed by the governor.[3]


Massive capital investment was concentrated in Dairen (now the capital of the territory), wherein Japanese firms developed a significant industrial infrastructure, as well as creating a first class port out of the mediocre natural harbor. The facilities of the port at Dairen and its free trade port status made it the principal trade gateway to northeast China. The South Manchurian Railway Company was headquartered in Dairen, and some of the profits from its operation were channelled into transforming Dairen into a showcase city of modern city planning and modern architecture, with hospitals, universities and a large industrial zone.[4]


In the Japanese national census of 1935, the population of the Kwantung Leased Territory was 1,034,074, of whom 168,185 were Japanese nationals. The numbers excluded military personnel. The area of the territory was 3,500 square kilometres (1,350 sq mi).


1General Baron Yoshimasa Ōshima (大島義昌)10 October 190526 April 1912
2Lieutenant General Yasumasa Fukushima (福島安正)26 April 191215 September 1914
3Lieutenant General Akira Nakamura (中村覺)15 September 191431 July 1917
4Lieutenant General Yujiro Nakamura (中村雄次郎)31 July 191712 April 1919
5Gonsuke Hayashi (林權助)12 April 191924 May 1920
6Isaburo Yamagata (山縣伊三郎)24 May 19208 September 1922
7Ijuin Hikokichi (伊集院彦吉)8 September 192219 September 1923
8Hideo Kodama (兒玉秀雄)26 September 192317 December 1927
9Kenjiro Kinoshita (木下謙次郎)17 December 192717 August 1929
10Masahiro Ōta (太田政弘)17 August 192916 January 1931
11Seiji Tsukamoto (塚本淸治)16 January 193111 January 1932
12Mannosuke Yamaoka (山岡萬之助)11 January 19328 August 1932
13General Nobuyoshi Mutō (武藤信義)8 August 193228 July 1933
14General Takashi Hishikari (菱刈隆)28 July 193310 December 1934
15General Jirō Minami (南次郎)10 December 19346 March 1936
16General Kenkichi Ueda (植田謙吉)6 March 19367 September 1939
17General Yoshijirō Umezu (梅津美治郎)7 September 193918 July 1944
18General Otozō Yamada (山田乙三)18 July 194428 August 1945

See also


  1. Hsu, p. 546
  2. Coox, Nomomhan, p. 1
  3. Quigley, Japanese Government and Politics, p. 141
  4. Low, p. 106


  • Coox, Alvin (1990). Nomonhan: Japan Against Russia, 1939. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-1835-0.
  • Hsu, Immanuel C.Y. (1999). The Rise of Modern China. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-512504-5.
  • Low, Morris (2005). Building a Modern Japan: Science, Technology, and Medicine in the Meiji Era and Beyond. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 1-4039-6832-2.
  • Quigley, Harold S (2007) [1932]. Japanese Government and Politics. Thomson Press. ISBN 978-1-4067-2260-4.
  • Young, Louise (1999). Japan's Total Empire: Manchuria and the Culture of Wartime Imperialism. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-21934-1.
  • Young, C. Walter. The International Legal Status of the Kwantung Leased Territory (1931) online

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