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The Manchurian Conduit


    A Fairytale TOwn

   Many Chinese cities appear similar, lacking unique characteristics that set them apart from each other. However, Manzhouli is a notable exception - largely because its distinctive buildings were heavily influenced by RLrSsian architecture.

   Though smaller than countless other Chinese cities, the town is ranked as the nation´s largest inland port and has been dubbed one of the ten most charming Chinese cities. From south to north, only six major avenues line the town. and it is not difficult to get around on foot. The population of its urban area is less than 60,000, a level even lower than that of most ordinary counties in China.

   However, the small city is brimming with exotic charm. Even many modern buildings. such as shopping malls, banks, hotels, and residences, feature Russian architectural elements, such as pointing spires and onion shaped Byzantine domes. Against the clear, blue sky, the entire city resembles a sort of fairytale castle.

   Along with its stunning architecture, Manzhouli is also known for an easygoing, colorful lifestyle that com* bines Han, Mongolian and Russian culture. Here, one can not only experience nomadic customs of northeastern China, but also taste exotic foods from Russia.Gerwrally speaking, Manzhouli has become a tiny ilaternational hub. Locals claim that only decades ago, cattle and sheep could be seen wandering through town. But now, Russian cars roar down the streets, passing through on their way to inland China. In far eastern Russia, 90 percent of cars are right-hand drive due to influence from Japan, and in Manzhouli, to cater to such Russian drivers, many roads are designed to be one-way lanes.

  The town´s exotic ambience infuses Asian and European flavors. Strolling down its streets, one can hear pedestrians conversing in Russian, see cars with either Mongolian or Russian license plates, and meet Russian girls and Buryat young men leisurely roaming. The strong exotic charm injects romanticism, seemingly making it easier to fall in love. Classical piano music reverberates through the air, due to speakers at roadside shops. stir ring up a desire for passersby to dance with it. In a town that blends East and West, tradition and modernity, such a world seems removed from reality and more like a figment of someone´s imagination.

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