The world’s largest ice festival began in January 2018 in Harbin (哈尔滨 – Hā’ěrbīn – Harbin) a city in the north-eastern part of China in the Heilongjiang province.
The Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival features thousands of incredible ice sculptures. The most spectacular of these works are the massive and elaborate recreations of castles, historic landmarks and famous figures, lit up at night in dazzling bright colours.
What is perhaps the most extraordinary fact regarding the event is that the ice is sourced exclusively from Harbin’s Songhua River! According to a China Daily report, more than 50 farmers worked for 20 days to supply Harbin International Snow and Ice Festival’s sculptors with blocks of ice from the river.
The city first introduced the icy event in 1963 with the Ice Lantern Garden Party, which was a celebration of the long-standing tradition of creating lanterns out of hollowed-out blocks of ice. The first iteration of the larger festival began in 1985 and added sculptures, which have subsequently grown in both number and size year on year. The city also currently holds the Guinness World Record for the largest snow sculpture, measuring in at a massive 656-foot-long and 115-foot-tall landscape, which was created at the 2007 festival.
In 2017, 18 million people attended the festival with the 2018 event poised to eclipse even that! Temperatures in the past at the festival have reached as low as -31 degrees Fahrenheit, but that doesn’t stop visitors from partaking in the festival’s activities, which include ice swimming and mass ice weddings.
In 2018 attendees can expect an ice replica of Moscow’s Red Square and Bangkok’s Temple of the Emerald Buddha, as well as works by artist Han Zhenkun based on the country’s famous Silk Road.
Han Zhenkun stated that “Back then, through the Silk Road, exquisite art works from China like potteries were transported by camels and horses to the Western world,” Han added, “Art has no borders. It’s an abstract language. We communicate with our works in this international competition. It means a lot”.
Facts and Highlights
- The festival brings in between a staggering 10 to 15 million visitors annually!
- Last year, the ice festival bought in ¥28.7billion (£3.62billion) in tourism revenue for Harbin.
- It is the largest ice sculpture festival of its kind worldwide! With the site making up over 600,000 square metres!
- Not only ice, but Harbin Ice Festival is also one of the world’s biggest snow sculpture festivals.
- Some of the tallest ice sculptures reach an incredible 46 metres high.
- It takes a small army of 10,000 workers to cut and haul the blocks of ice using cranes, chainsaws, picks, lasers and LED lights.
For more information on the icy going-ons in Harbin, read some of our premium articles including:
HSK 3: 哈尔滨启用冰邮筒 – Ice Postboxes Launched in Harbin
HSK 1: 哈尔滨零下20度冬泳乐 – Residents Swim in Harbin River at -20℃
HSK 3: 黑龙江设“全民冰雪活动日”发展经济 – Heilongjiang Launches Annual “Ice and Snow Day” to Boost Economy