Harbin is famous for its ice and snow sculptures, ski resorts, unusual architecture, and freezing winters. In fact, the city of Harbin has become world-famous for having the largest ice and snow festival. The Harbin Ice Festival also called the Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival falls every January 5. Lasting for more than two months, this festival is also the longest snow festival globally.
Moreover, it is a fact that the Harbin Ice Festival transformed many portions of the city into a winter wonderland. The most popular and impressive place is the Harbin Ice and Snow World, like a frozen Disneyland. In that place, you can see the big ice and snow castles and cartoon sculptures and enjoy the widest variety of snow sports and activities in the world.
Furthermore, the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival is a prominent event that attracts foreign and local tourists each year. Later, the event evolved into a cultural celebration with traditional folk music and dances performances.
You can also see the ice and snow sculptures exhibitions on Sun Island and an ice lantern show in Zhaolin Park. This festival is indeed unique and charming. We hope these fantastic Harbin Ice Festival facts will make you fall in love more with this festival.
1. Chillest Ice Festival Originated from Lantern Garden Party
The Harbin Ice Festival began in 1963 with an ice lantern show and garden party and happens every winter. Many people traveled to Harbin to view the ice lanterns. Meanwhile, some residents began participating in winter sports such as ice skating, snow skiing, sledding, ice sailing, and winter swimming. During these years, they also held various ice sculpture competitions.
However, the Harbin Ice Festival was put on hold from 1983 to 1984 during the Cultural Revolution. It was revived after a few years when Zhaolin Park announced an annual celebration on January 5, 1985. It was later confirmed as a yearly event that would span over two months, ending in late February. Moreover, Harbin Ice Festival combined with Heilongjiang International Ski Festival in 2001, the new name China Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival was born.
2. World’s Biggest Ice Sculpture
The Harbin Snow Sculpture Exhibition features the world’s largest snow sculpture, “Romantic Feelings,” which stands 115 feet tall and 656 feet long. In fact, it was part of the annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, which began on December 20, 2007, in Heilongjiang Province, China.
In addition, a team of 600 sculptors from 40 countries collaborated to create this work of art. It has an Olympic-themed environment, portraying a French cathedral, an ice maiden, and a Russian church in 120,000 cubic feet of snow.
3. Winter Swimming Tradition
In Harbin, winter swimming is a sport with distinct cultural aspects. It demonstrates the people of Harbin’s strong will. In the winter, the outside temperature can drop to -10°C or even -20°C. Winter swimmers break the ice on the Songhua River to create ice swimming pools. Before the sun rises, many go swimming around 5 or 6 a.m. Meanwhile, swimming performances in the winter are generally held between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
All forms of Harbin winter swimming performances and competition games are sponsored by the Harbin Municipality’s Winter Swimming Association. These events draw numerous winter swimming fans from all around China and from over 30 countries. Furthermore, tourists can enjoy a variety of attractions at the Harbin Ice Festival, ranging from hilarious diving exhibitions to professional swimming contests.
4. The Best Location To Celebrate The Festival
It is a fact that Harbin Ice and Snow World is the premier location for ice and snow activities, particularly during the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. In a 750,000 square meters area, this theme park has 300,000 cubic meters of ice and snow. It has become the world’s most popular winter attraction.
You see the stunning colorful illuminated ice and snow sculptures in this surreal theme park. You can also participate in various exciting cultural activities and winter sports. Visitors can enjoy ice and snow activities such as ski fields and slides.
Harbin city officials devised a unique scheme to commemorate the new millennium in 1999. As a result, this gleaming ice and snow Disneyland world of fairy tales has emerged as one of Harbin’s municipal emblems.
In this location, you may see glistering and shimmering ice sculptures. Under each sculpture, colored lights illuminate the ice blocks, providing a lighting effect unique to the qualities of ice. Sculptures in this area can be as large as buildings, castles, and palaces.
5. The Ice Collected from Frozen Songhua River
Harbin is a terrifying place. The average temperature in January is between -13 and -24 degrees Celsius. Therefore, this city is a fantastic place for the most chill ice festival. In fact, at the Harbin Ice Festival, you can see stunning art from ice. However, did you know where the ice for the sculpture came from? Thanks to the Songhua River, we can see fantastic ice sculptures and art.
Harbin Ice and Snow World is a daytime and nighttime attraction that includes full-size lit structures of 2–3′ thick ice blocks obtained directly from the Songhua River. The sculptures were made with approximately 220,000 cubic meters of ice blocks retrieved from the adjacent Songhua River. Every December 7, the Ice Collecting Festival also begins on the frozen Songhua River.
6. Harbin Special Delicacies
The Ice Lantern Festival isn’t complete without food. While celebrating the Harbin Ice Festival, the food may also help to warm up the frigid winter air. With a soft and refreshing stuffing and a non-greasy taste, Sam sun dumplings are the most famous Harbin dumplings. Guobaorou is also world-class. It is made of sliced and marinated fried tenderloin, sweet, sour, and crispy.
Furthermore, Harbin is the most fantastic spot in China to try authentic Russian dishes due to its close ties with Russia. Harbin’s Russian restaurants have a “Moscow of the Orient” feel to them, both decor and cuisine. Usually, Russian food has a flavor that is rich and hearty, salty, and also sour from pickles.
7. The Wonderful Tale of The Ice Lanterns
The first Ice Lanterns were lit during the Qing Dynasty, which lasted from 1644 to 1911. Local peasants and fishermen used to build ice lanterns by filling a bucket halfway with water and freezing it. The ice in the shape of a bucket was removed. They created a windproof lantern by drilling a hole in the top and inserting a candle inside. The art of crafting ice lanterns has become widespread since then.
People began to make ice lanterns and hang them outside their homes during several ancient festivities. Not to mention, they also gave them to youngsters to play with. As a result, the ice lantern began its long journey of evolution. Today, thanks to technological advancements, one can marvel at the different delicate and creative lanterns on show.
8. Songhua River as The Playground During The Festival
You’re incorrect if you think the festival is only an ice and snow show. There’s more to do than that, including skating, motorcycling, and riding small tanks around Songhua’s frozen surface.
The Songhua River, frozen solid in the winter, transforms into a playground during the festival. While tickets are required for the more extensive and more sophisticated ice sculpture exhibits, ice sculptures may be found all around the city. You can find it along the river and along the pedestrian-only Zhongyang Dajie.
Furthermore, Songhua River Ice and Snow Happy Valley is the festival’s newest theme park. On January 5, 2011, the park opened to the public for the first time. Since then, it has been held on the Songhua River every year on the same day and lasts roughly two months. Its customary venue runs from the riverbank near the Flood Control Monument to the riverbank near Tongjiang Street.
9. Russian Flavor Influences The Festival
Visitors unfamiliar with the Harbin Ice Festival may believe this event is in a Russian town. Russians flocked to Harbin to flee the Bolsheviks during the Russian Revolution, eventually infusing the city with Russian architecture and cuisine. After all, Harbin grew to become the largest commercial city in North-Eastern Asia.
With the building of Harbin, once a fishing village, Russia began to exert its influence. Even today, people love to eat pelmeni or Russian dumplings, just like eating Chinese dumplings. Not to mention, train-themed cafes with a treasure chest of vodkas and souvenir shops along Zhongyang Dajie crammed with Russian kitsch provide some Russian flavor.
10. Snow Steam Train Sculpture Symbolizes Heart of The Town
One of the more striking sculptures at the Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival was a train-shaped ice sculpture. The train is a reminisce about the construction of this city. In fact, before the snow festivals, Harbin was a peaceful backwater until the Chinese Eastern Railway line propelled it into the limelight. Furthermore, there were tussles for control of Harbin as its value as a trading station grew.
Although the Russians who negotiated the railway line’s construction suffered a crushing defeat against the Japanese in the Russo-Japanese war, Russian immigration and influence continued. Today, Harbin is a major stop on the Trans-Manchurian Railway. It connects Beijing, China’s capital, with Chita, Eastern Siberia, where the line joins the Trans-Siberian Railway and runs to Moscow, Russia’s capital.
11. The Oldest Church In Harbin
During China’s Cultural Revolution, the golden Orthodox churches of Harbin, steadily built up by the Russians, were plundered. But there is one treasure left: the majestic Church of St Sophia, the oldest church in Harbin. It looks iconic with its dark green onion domes and gilded spire-top crosses.
The inner splendors of this 1907 cathedral may have been stripped away. However, it is now a museum with a photo display of Harbin’s history. During the Harbin Ice Festival, this church will beautifully be covered by snow. As a result, it serves as a dramatic place of the city’s Russian origin and a must-see photo opportunity for visitors.
12. The Home of Jewish
Harbin is home to the largest Jewish community in the Far East. Around 20,000 Jews, mostly Russians, moved to the city in the 1920s. Despite the harsh surroundings, they mostly fled persecution in Russia and thrived in Harbin. Hence, they built two synagogues along the route.
In fact, the community declined throughout the First and Second World Wars. The last Harbin Jew died in 1985. Nevertheless, the synagogues remain relics of Harbin’s Jewish heritage. You can see it at the Huangshan Jewish Cemetery in Harbin’s eastern suburbs. During the Harbin Ice Festival, you can take a Jew Tour to learn more about the long history.
13. It Took 18 Days to Build Ice Wonderland
In 2020, 600,000-square-meter snow and ice wonderland in Northeast China was finished in only 18 days. Ice for the celebration is mainly collected from the Songhua River, which runs through the city. The main reason is that man-made ice typically contains air bubbles and is not strong enough to cut.
In addition, each block of ice must be 80 centimeters wide, 40 centimeters thick, and 120 centimeters long to meet the quality standard. Furthermore, the 22nd Harbin Ice and Snow Worldbuilding involved about 10,000 sculptors and employees. The park, made of ice and snow, usually opens until the end of February as part of the annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival.
14. Harbin Ice Festival Celebrates Beijing Winter Olympics 2022
The 23rd Harbin Ice Festival started on December 25, 2021, commemorating the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games. Compared to past years, the Harbin Ice and Snow World will be built on a larger scale this year. It spanned 820,000 square meters and featured 65 ice and snow sculpture groups displaying Olympic-themed ice sculptures such as mascots and the five rings.
At the festival gates, snow statues of the Beijing 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games mascots, Bing Dwen Dwen and Shuey Rhon Rhon greet visitors. There are around 100 ice sculptures in over 60 groupings, including the Olympic rings.
15. Yangge Dance In Harbin Ice Festival
You can also enjoy several traditional performances such as folk dancing competitions, not just seeing ice sculptures. The Yangge dance is a traditional folk group dance performed for amusement. People have loved performing the Yangge dance on Harbin’s streets for many years. In addition, Yangge dance competitions are held in all districts during this festival.
Yangge is a Chinese folk dance that evolved from a dance known as Village Music during the Song dynasty. It is a prominent form of folk art in northern China and is one of the most representative.