Harbin International Snow & Ice Festival






Every January and February in the northeastern city of Harbin the long, dark and brutally cold winter months are illuminated by spectacular displays of ice and snow sculptures.  The festival’s roots stem from hundreds of years ago in the Qing Dynasty, when local peasants and fishermen made ice lanterns for light during the winter months. Today the festival is a major international event and competition, transforming the city into an icy winter wonderland.


Preparations for the occasion start months in advance, when workers dig up enormous blocks of ice from the frozen Songhua River and then begin the carving.  Teams of ice sculpture experts and artists arrive from all around the world to participate in the competition.  The festival consists of three theme parks. Sun Island, the first to open, has the world’s largest indoor ice and snow art museum, and Zhaolin Park exhibits the ice lanterns.  The most spectacular is the Ice and Snow World, showcasing a huge variety of sculptures such as buildings, gardens, flowers, churches, waterfalls, the pyramids, castles, giant Buddhas and animals.  Life-size creations of famous landmarks around the world enable the visitor to hike to the top of the Acropolis and gaze into the gates of the Forbidden City.  At night, fireworks illuminate the sky and colored lights from inside and outside the sculptures create a magical world.


In addition to exploring the sculptures, the festival offers other activities such as sliding down a giant ice slide on to the frozen river, alpine skiing, ice golf, and ice archery.


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