The region stretching north and east of the Great Wall towards the steppes of Inner Mongolia was traditionally the domain of the Manchu hordes whom the wall was intended to keep out. By the 1640s, however, the Manchus were too powerful to be dispelled by mere bricks and mortar, sweeping south to annexe Beijing and establish the Qing Dynasty. Later, Manchuria – or Dongbei as it’s called these days – was fought over by the Japanese and Russians, whose colonial architecture still defines larger towns and cities such as Harbin, a former railway outpost that nowadays is most famous for its spectacular winter ice festival.
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