In ancient times the area was inhabited by many tribes that lived in Manchuria including the Donghu, the Xiongnu, the Xianbei, the Khitan, and the Mongols. During the decline of China's last dynasty, the Russian Empire forced the house of Qing (1644–1912) to cede the Outer Manchurian territory in the 1858 Treaty of Aigun. That treaty effectively made the Argun River, which originates in this area, the border between the China and Russia.
In 1901, the China Far East Railway was completed in accordance with the Sino-Russian Secret Treaty of 1896, linking Siberia, northeast China ("(Inner) Manchuria"), and the Russian Far East. A settlement then formed around Manchzhuriya Station, the first stop within Manchuria for Russians. It was the beginning of the modern city of Manzhouli and the name of Manzhouli came from Russian Манжули (Manzhuli).
In 1905, Manzhouli was designated a trading center in the Sino-Japanese Treaty of 1905, greatly boosting Manzhouli's growth. In 1908 the Manzhouli customs was set up. Under the Republic of China, Manzhouli came under the jurisdiction of the province of Hsingan. In 1927, Manzhouli was designated as a city. Although with Hsingan and surrounding areas, Manzhouli came under Japanese control in 1931, and was part of the Empire of Manchukuo from 1932 to 1945. It became part of Inner Mongolia under the China from 1946.
In 1992, Manzhouli became one of the first land border cities opened up by the People's Republic of China. It has since experienced somewhat of a boom as a center of border trade between China and Russia.
Manzhouli is located in the western part of the Hulunbuir prefecture-level city. To the east, south and west it borders New Barghu Left Banner and New Barghu Right Banner, also in Hulunbuir, and Russia to the north, with which it shares a border 54 kilometres (34 mi) long. The Russian townlet of Zabaykalsk is situated immediately north of Abagaitu Islet and Manzhouli.
Manzhouli is located on the Hulunbuir grasslands. Lake Hulun to its immediate south is the PRC's fifth largest freshwater lake with an area of 2,600 square kilometres (1,000 sq mi) and an average depth of just 5 metres (16 ft).
Manzhouli has a rather dry, monsoon-influenced humid continental climate (Köppen Dwb), with temperatures in winter capable of plummeting below −40 °C (−40 °F). However, in each month there is more than 55% of possible sunshine, and over three-fourths of annual precipitation occurs from June to August.
Manzhouli is divided into ten subdistricts and one town. Six of the subdistricts of Manzhouli are grouped into a district. Technically however, only a prefecture-level city (half a level higher than Manzhouli) can have districts, so Manzhouli's lone district is not officially listed.
Manzhouli Ice & Snow Festival takes place every winter from some time in February to early March. This is a smaller version of Harbin's Ice and Snow Festivals.
Manzhouli is China's busiest land port of entry, and is responsible for 60% of all imports from and exports to Eastern Europe.
Ninety-five percent of Manzhouli's population is Han Chinese. The remainder are Buryat, Russian, Mongol, Manchu, or of other ethnicities.
Trains from Beijing to Moscow on the Trans-Manchurian branch of the Trans-Siberian Railway pass through Manzhouli Railway Station. There are also tourist lines to Chita, Krasnokamensk, Irkutsk, and Ulan Ude.
A break of gauge multi-modal transshipment facility was completed in 2008 across the Russian border in Zabaikalsk.
Manzhouli Airport is located in the western part of the city. Passengers can fly to Beijing and Inner Mongolia's capital city Hohhot from the airport as well as the Russian city of Chita and the Mongolian capital city Ulaanbaatar via Choibalsan.By China National Highway 301 linked to Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang cities.
Manzhouli is twinned with the following sister cities.