On the map of the People's Republic of China, Heilongjiang Province looks like a flying swan with spread wings while Harbin resembles a dazzling pearl under the neck of the swan.
Harbin is famous for its bitterly cold winters. With 190-day freezing season, the northeastern city of Harbin is known as a "City of Ice". But the bitter cold never cools the local people’s enthusiasm for enjoying the winter scenery and all kinds of winter activities. Harbin is best known for its appealing winter landscape, stimulating winter sports and various dazzling ice and snow art works, such as ice lanterns, snow sculptures and ice carvings.
Harbin is the cradle of the ice-and-snow culture in the world, gradually become China's ice and snow tourism center. Having ice and snow everywhere for one third of the year, the locals really know how to make the best use of their wintry treasures: all is white, but their lives are as colorful as ever. Harbin is using its rich winter resources of ice and snow to attract more tourists and sports fans. They have developed their chilly city into the country’s major winter sports base and the home of unique ice and snow art.
Local Harbiners have developed a long tradition of making ice lanterns. In the old days, farmers and fishermen used to partially freeze a block of water, dig a hole on top of the ice block, tip out the unfrozen water at the centre and then put the lamp inside to keep it from the wind. These were the earliest ice lanterns.
No longer pure lighting tools for daily use, ice lanterns have developed into a form of art that combines traditional craftsmanship with modern technology, mirroring people's aesthetic value and reflecting the spirit of the era.
Ice lanterns are not necessarily "lantern-like." In a broad sense, they refer to any work of art made of ice and light, including buildings, carvings, slides, waterfalls, calligraphy and advertisements. These ice and snow art works 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.
The ice lanterns and sculptures are illuminated inside with colored lights and lamps. By day, they sparkle like crystal in the winter sunshine. When the night curtain falls, they gently glow, a spectrum of gorgeous colors glistening against the dark sky.
To enhance the city’s image and boost its tourism industry, since 1985 the city has hosted the grand Harbin Ice and Snow Festival. On January 5, 1985, the first Harbin Ice and Snow Festival was unveiled. Since then it has become an annual event, which is highly acclaimed around the world. The festival is now one of the most popular local festivals in China, as well as one of the largest ice and snow spectaculars in the world, making Harbin a favorite destination for nu