Harbin Ice and Snow Festival
The well-known Harbin Ice and Snow Festival is held in Heilongjiang province, the northernmost of China. Due to its geographical position, the weather is directly influenced from the cold winter wind from Siberia. The average temperature in summer is 21.2℃ but drops to -16.8℃ in winter and has even dropped to as cold as -38.1℃. Subsequently, the Ice and Snow World of Harbin is recognized as the cradle of ice and snow in China and is famous for the exquisitely crafted ice and snow sculptures. The Harbin festival is now the world's largest ice and snow festival.
Activities of the Harbin Ice Festival
Ice Lantern and Sculpture
The 'ice lantern' was created by the peasants in Songnei Plain in Heilongjiang province. In order to work at night, poverty stricken peasants created hollow balls of ice and put the light inside it to prevent the wind affecting it. Nowadays the term 'ice lantern' has a much broader sense, with it referring to plastic art combined with ice and snow, as well as ice artworks with colourful lights accompanied by splendid music. The patterns decorated on the lanterns often include ice and snow sculptures such as ice flowers and architecture made of ice.
Many consider the highlight of the festival to be the ice lantern and sculpture exhibitions, which provide visitors a good opportunity to appreciate and admire the galaxy of unique ice and snow art. Thousands of exquisitely-made ice lanterns, ice carvings and snow sculptures grace the snow-covered parks, public squares and major streets, turning the city into a dreamlike world of pure whiteness and gleaming crystal. These ice and snow artworks come in all shapes and sizes; they can be as small as a mouse or as big as a bus. The designs range from life-size human figures, animals and flowers to towering castles, delicate pagodas and many other ingenious creations. Some of the most impressive are the intricately detailed replicas of famous buildings, such as the Potala Palace, the Eiffel Tower and even the Great Wall!
The Sun Island Park is the site of the Snow Sculpture Exposition that displays the wonderful snow world. It's home to the world's largest indoor ice and snow art museum and it's open to the public from November every year.
Every year, ice sculpture experts, artists from America, Canada, Japan, Singapore, Russia and China gather in Harbin to participate in ice sculpting competitions, which regularly draws in a large crowd. Also, Harbin's ice lanterns have been exhibited in most of China's main cities as well as in many countries in Asia, Europe, North America, Africa and Oceania. For more than 40 years, Harbin's natural resource of ice and snow has been fully explored to provide joy and fun for visitors to the city. Now during the festival, winter sports like ice-skating and sledding have increased in popularity. Weddings, parties and other entertainments are now very much a feature of this ice world, showing how diverse and dynamic the site has become.
Skiing and Winter Swimming
Heilongjiang province is an ideal place for skiing and winter swimming. Yabuli is the famous and well-equipped skiing resort in the province. Located halfway between Harbin and Mudanjiang in Chinas's most northern province Heilongjiang (formerly known as Manchuria) it was China's first ski resort and has expanded into China's first ski town with multiple resorts on 3 mountains with a selection of 2 to 5 star hotels along a main access road. The two large areas are Yabuli Sun Mountain and Yabuli Ski Resort. A third small ski area, Avaunce, offers terrain for beginners on a smaller hill. A final third large mountain is still used by the Chinese national Ski Team and will undergo development in the future.
Winter Swimming involves those brave enough to jump into a pool carved out of ice from the Songhua River. "Polar bear" swimming is traditionally popular in China's northeastern areas, where the weather is extremely cold; the temperature can go as low as minus 35℃. It's especially popular for the elderly and retired as it's believed to improve circulation and benefit health. It's also said to increase the level of mental awareness, release stress, remove aches and pains, increase vitality and keep skin looking younger - and of course the overall feeling of well-being.