Wednesday, February 16, 2011


   The annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival has been held since 1963.  It had been interrupted for a number of years during the Cultural Revolution,  until it was resumed in 1985.
   Harbin, the capital of Heilonjiang province of China, it is one of the main sources of ice and snow culture in the world.  Geographically, it is located in Northeast China under the direct influence of the cold winter wind from Siberia.  The average temperature in summer is 21.2 degrees Celsius, -16.8 degrees Celsius in the winter.  It can be as cold as -38.1 degrees Celsius in the winter.

Niagra falls sculpture

   The festival lasts the whole month.  However the exhibits often open earlier and stay longer, weather permitting.  Ice sculpture decoration technology ranges from the modern (using lasers) to traditional (with ice lanterns).  There are ice lantern park touring activities held in many parks throughout the city.  Winter activities in the festival include Yabuli alpine skiing, winter swimming in the Songhua River, and the ice lantern exhibition in Zhaolin Garden.

   The Harbin festival is one of the world's four largest ice and snow festivals, along with Japan's Sapporo Snow Festival, Canada's Quebec City Winter Carnival, and Norway's Ski Festival.
   The 2007 festival featured a Canadian theme, in memoriam of Canadian doctor Norman Bethune.  It was also a Guinness Record of the largest snow sculpture:  over 500 feet  long and 28 feet high, using over 13,000 cubic meters of snow.  The composition consisted of two parts: "Niagara Falls" and "Crossing the Bering Strait" (the latter depicting the migrations of the First Nations).


   Swing saws are used to carve ice into blocks, taken from the frozen surface of the Songhua River.  Chisels, ice picks and various types of saws are then are used by the ice sculptors to carve out large scaled ice sculptures, many of them intricately designed and worked on all day and night prior to the commencement of the festival.  Deionized water can also be used, producing ice blocks as transparent as glass to make clear sculptures rather than translucent ones.  Multicolored lights are also used to give color to the ice, creating variations on sculptured spectacles when lit up especially at night.  Some ice sculptures made in previous years include: buildings and monuments of different architectural types and styles.  Figures include animals, people and mythical creatures,there is also some slippery dips,  ice slides and lanterns.  Apart from winter recreational activities available in Harbin, these exquisitely detailed, mass produced ice sculptures are the main draw in attracting tourists from around the world to the festival.