The Harbin Ice Festival takes place every year in Harbin, Heilongjiang, China. It is also known as “The Ice City of China.”

The international winter festival and competition attract visitors from all over the world.

History

The Russian architecture of Saint Sophia's Church in Harbin

Harbin has a rich culture influenced by Russia, Europe and Japan. The small fishing village grew into one of the largest cities in its province.

The ice festival originated from a local Harbiner's ice lantern show. The locals visited to take part in the festival and it grew in popularity.

Process

Thousands of workers carving out ice from the Songhua River.

The arduous ice carving process isn't well known.

Workers use chisels, ice picks and saws to cut all the ice from the Songhua River. Within three to four weeks, thousands of workers collect the ice blocks to pass onto artists.

Over 200,000 cubic meters of ice, the size of roughly 80 Olympic swimming pools, are used for the three-month short-lived project.

The winter wonderland transformation in Harbin takes place at three different main venues.

Harbin Ice and Snow World: A Frozen Disneyland

Fireworks with lit up ice sculptures at Harbin Ice and Snow World

This venue has more than 2,000 ice sculptures displayed over an area of 600,000 square meters.

The Ice and Snow World also holds LED light shows along with ice and snow sports. These sports include sleighing, ice biking, figure skating and ballroom dancing.

Sun Island: An Ice Museum

Sculptures of snow on Sun Island

Interested in iconic snow sculptures? Sunglasses are recommended to protect your eyes from intense sun reflection.

Sun Island sits on the opposite side of the famous Songhua River. It is an ice museum that showcases ancient architecture, modern cartoon characters and landscapes.

Zhaolin Park: A Vast Sea of Ice Lanterns

Ice sculptures lit up at Zhaolin Park

Zhaolin Park has provided the annual Ice Lantern Garden Party since 1963.

More than 1,500 icescape works are displayed. Large-scale pagodas, pavilions and animal sculptures emphasize the local Chinese culture to visitors.

Themes

Ice laterns at Zhaolin Park

In 2019, Harbin celebrated its 35th annual ice festival. The theme was “20-year Grand Ceremony and Review.” This is because it had been 20 years since Harbin Ice and Snow World opened. Ice sculptors from 12 different countries came to carve more than 100 landmarks.

In 2020, the theme was “Ice Snow Integration, Happy to Go Together.” The festival ranked with top winter festivals in Japan, Canada and Norway.

This year, the Harbin Ice Festival will pay tribute to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Six Olympic-hosting cities will be recreated using ice and snow.

A Snowflake Ferris Wheel has already been built inside the park that visitors may ride on by early 2023.

Harbin is an underrated city worth traveling to in the winter. If you enjoy winter scenes but hate the cold, Harbin also offers hotpot restaurants inside an ice house and hot springs!

Would you visit Harbin?


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Julia Kim

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