The origin of Yanshan University can be traced back to the Harbin Institute of Technology (HIT) founded in 1920. In 1958, the Department of Heavy Machinery of HIT and its related specialties moved to the strategic industrial town of Fulaerji, Qiqihar in Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province and was renamed the School of Heavy Machinery of HIT.
In 1960, the school became independent as the Northeast Heavy Machinery Institute, and in 1978, it was accredited as one of the eighty-eight national key institutions of higher learning. From 1985, it began to move southward to the historic resort city of Qinhuangdao, and completed the process in 1997 when it was accredited by the former State Education Commission and adopted the present name of Yanshan University (YSU).
The YSU campus covers an area of 5,000 mu (or 330 hectares) with a total construction area of nearly 1,000,000 square meters. At present, the university has a faculty and staff of 2700 members, including 1,700 teachers, of which 317 are professors (including 113 doctoral supervisors) and 381 are associate professors. The university has a student population of 37,000.