The fifth day of the New Year marks the start of China’s long-running winter festivals held in the northeastern city of Harbin. With its massive and beautifully carved ice statues and snow structures that are open to the public until the warmth of spring melts these lanterns, the event has become one of Harbin’s top tourist destinations attracting both local and foreign travelers.
The Harbin Ice Festival has been held since 1963, although it has been interrupted several times during the Cultural Revolution until the government allowed the festival to resume in 1985. The city of Harbin has been a great place for these ice sculptures, as its winter temperature could get as cold as -38.1 degrees Celsius thanks to the Siberian wind.
Ice lanterns have been a tradition in Harbin, where during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) both peasants and fishermen created lanterns made of ice to serve as jack lights during the winter months. It was first done by simply pouring water into a bucket then left into the open cold to freeze.
The ice was then pulled out before freezing completely to create a hole on the top where the candle is placed. These lanterns have also become sites where children like to play during the very cold winter. As immense advancements in technology and techniques emerged, these ice sculptures became bigger and even more grandiose as they were created using a range of technologies from lasers to snow sculpting materials.
Today, the Ice Festival in Harbin consists of different locations each having its own entrance fee. You can either try going to all of them or simply choose what you think is the best exhibit. The Sun Island Park displays a wonderful snow world, featuring the world’s largest indoor ice and snow art museum.
Meanwhile, Harbin Ice and Snow World was founded in 1999 and is considered as the world’s largest ice architecture parks. Here you can seem brightly illuminated buildings from the Great Wall to Egyptian Pyramids, from massive bridges to tall pagodas.
Zhaolin Park is also a must-see because of its beautiful ice lanterns that are still created as close to the traditional as possible. Its numerous ice artworks have different themes such as Chinese classical art and European folktales, which become an enchanting venue at night as the lights sparkle from inside these lanterns.
Harbin’s Ice Festival has also become a showcase of the best ice sculptors from around the world as they participate in different ice sculpture competitions. The ice lanterns of Harbin are also brought to other cities in China.