Join hundreds of thousands of tourists trooping to Harbin, the largest city and the capital of Heilongjiang province in China. Its “arctic weather” gives it the moniker “The Ice City” and the resources (ice and snow) from which “frozen art” can be crafted. The city has been annually celebrating its International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. These ice sculptures considered the largest celebration of its kind in the world are Harbin’s festive winter draw. During the event, domestic and International visitors are regaled with exquisite and one-of-a-kind ice and snow sculptures. The most looked forward event is the Ice Lantern Festival, the forerunner of the entire festivity.
This year, the festival is slated from January 5 to the last week of February. Learn more about it in “Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival 2015” posted in China Highlights – Culture Section. The festival is officially held from January 5 to February 5 each year.
“The Harbin International Ice Festival only started about 10 years ago, and it is already one of world’s four biggest such ice and snow festivals, along with the famous ones in Sapporo, Norway, and Quebec. Harbin is called “Ice City”, and the winters are bitterly cold, but the conditions are right for the ice festival.”
For the highlights expect the following:
“Walking around the three venues, you’ll see world-record-sized snow sculptures longer than two football fields, and some ice buildings, palaces, monuments, or statues about 50 meters (160 feet) tall, which you can walk and slide around in and on. For example, there was a replica of the Great Wall of China that people could slide on. Many of the architecture replicas have ice slides. .
These displays are technologically sophisticated, using computer controlled LED and regular lighting to put on stunning displays of changing color and design.”
There are three main venues for the ice and snow sculptures:
- Sun Island Scenic Area: This is a recreational area located across Songhua River that houses and displays the world’s largest exposition of indoor ice and snow art museum. It opens as early as November each year and can be only visited during the day.
- Ice and Snow World: This is an ice architectural park that make use of 2-3’ blocks of ice and snow from Songhua River. It features large ice sculptures reminiscent of buildings, fairy tales and iconic landmarks such as the Great Wall of China and Egyptian Pyramids. This is best visited at night when all the lights are aglow
- Zhaolin Park: This ice park in the city center is kid-focused and is the site for the Ice Lantern Festival. It is a must-see for families with kids in tow as it features miniature ice and snow sculptures of magical characters, animals and ice lanterns that children love. There are also numerous attractions here that would make kids shriek with excitement and joy.
Harbin’s International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival have gone beyond being just an exposition of ice and snow art; it has also become the venue for international exchange. Today, ice sculpture experts and buffs from far and wide gather here in the Ice City to take part in ice sculpting contests as well as to exchange ideas and learn from each other.
The city has also attracted ice sports aficionados to organize tournaments such as ice-skating, sledding and so on. Like any “resort,” the magic of winter in this place has also been embraced by so many so that entertainment, parties and fun have become closely woven to this great festival of art, culture, sports and tourism.