This year’s Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, commonly known as the Harbin Ice Lantern Festival, is a larger-than-life ice extravaganza chock full of beautiful creations. The gleaming ice feast vividly showcases artistic snow sculptures, ice lanterns and ice castles – all brilliantly lit from within.
Harbin is located in Northeast China under the direct influence of the cold winter wind from Siberia, where the average winter temperature is -16 degrees Celsius. Officially, the festival started on January 5 and will lasts one month. However, the exhibitions often stay up longer if the weather permits. Ice sculpture decoration technology ranges from the modern (using lasers) to traditional (with ice lanterns). While there are numerous ice sculptures throughout the city, there are two main exhibition areas: Enormous snow sculptures at Sun Island (a recreational area on the opposite side of the Songhua River from the city) and the separate “Ice and Snow World” that operates each night. Ice and Snow World features illuminated full size buildings made from blocks of 2–3 feet thick crystal clear ice directly taken from the Songhua River.
The glowing festival has been held since 1963, but briefly interrupted for a number of years during the Cultural Revolution, resuming again in 1985. Along with Japan’s Sapporo Snow Festival, Canada’s Quebec City Winter Carnival, and Norway’s Ski Festival, China’s Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival is listed as the top 4 ice and snow festivals in the world.
The festival plans to entertain the masses with interactive activities and events such as the ice and snow carnival, international ice sculpture competitions, ice lantern shows, sliding, ice-sailing, sledging, ice hockey, ice football, speed skating, cross-field skiing and Alpine skiing competitions, fishing, swimming, ice and snow film art show, painting exhibition, calligraphy display, photo exhibition, folk song and dance performances, wedding ceremonies on ice, trade talks, trade fairs and all kinds of national and international sports events.
For years, the ice fair has become the world’s most important winter tourist destination and a photographers’ paradise. During the months of January and February, thousands upon thousands of tourists will flock to the ice city to experience the electrifying glow of the winter wonderworld first hand. 2014 marks a particular special year for the event, as the festival is joyfully celebrating its 30th anniversary.