The north-eastern Chinese city of Jilin is also called ‘river city’–江城 jia-ng chéng in Chinese–after a poem written about the Songhua River by the Qing dynasty’s Kangxi Emperor during a visit there in 1682. The name comes from the line ‘连樯接舰屯江城’(lián qiáng jie-jiàn tún jia-ng chéng), which translates as ‘the fleet is gathered together at the garrison of the river city’. The river is depicted as tense and tumultuous as Kangxi inspects his navy and urges them to defend the country against Tsarist Russia’s expansion. The poem must have proved inspiring because after a series of battles over the next several years China and Russia signed the Treaty of Nerchinsk, which established a border between the two countries and gave China a large strip of territory. On a summer evening centuries later, the section of the Songhua running through central Jilin remains a hive of activity.