The Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival is a festival held annually in Harbin (located in north-eastern china), Heilongjiang, China. This festival is a winter festival and often has a theme associated with it. It has considered being the largest Ice and snow festival in the world and includes the world’s most prominent ice sculptures.
Officially the festival starts on the fifth of January and goes on till late February. Moreover, it can extend for longer if the weather permits.
History of Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival
The festival started as a part of the traditional ice lantern show and a garden party that began in 1963. During the cultural evolution, it has interrupted for a few years but was then has resumed as an annual event in January of 1985.
In 2001, the ice festival has merged with the existing International Ski Festival of Heilongjiang and has renamed the Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival.
Sculptures in Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival
As the name suggests, the festival features Sculptures made from blocks of Ice. These blocks of Ice have procured from the frozen surface of the Songhua River. Moreover, the festival is famous for housing sculptures that often go beyond the height of even twenty feet. The ice sculptures are erected throughout the city, but there are two main exhibition areas.
1. Sun Island: This area is a recreational area located on the opposite side of the Songhua River and features an expo of enormous snow sculptures.
2. The Ice and Snow World: The space is primarily open in the afternoon and at night. It features illuminated full-size buildings made from blocks of ice that are about two to three inches thick. These Ice blocks are directly taken from the Songhua River.
The Festival often has different themes that garner international attention. These themes vary from anniversary special editions to themes more central to china. In 2007, the festival featured a Canadian themed sculpture in the memory of Norman Bethune.
The festival has even won a Guinness Record for the world’s largest Snow Sculpture that has stood tall at 8.5 meters high and 250 meters long. This sculpture used up almost thirteen thousand cubic meters of snow.
Making of the sculptures
The ice blocks have procured from the Songhua River had made into various forms. The tools used range from Swing Saws and chisels to ice picks. Many of these sculptures had intricately designed and carved and require meticulous effort from the ice sculptors. The sculptors often end up working all day and all night as the festival draws closer.
Many sculptures had also made from ice made from deionized water, which produces ice blocks as transparent as glass. As a result of this, some sculptures are transparent as compared to the other translucent ones. Multi-color lights had used to add some dynamism to these sculptures and are a sight to behold at night. The sculptures vary from buildings, monuments, and even mythological creatures.
Apart from the enamoring ice and snow sculptures, the festival is a venue for other activities. Many parks in the city conduct Ice lantern touring activities. Other activities include the Yabuli alpine skiing and winter swimming in the Songhua River.
Also read, Semana Santa.