The Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, commonly known as the Harbin Ice Lantern Festival or simply as the Ice Lantern Festival, is an annual ice-sculpture event that takes place in Harbin, China. It includes a variety of ice sculpture competitions, snow casting competitions, winter fishing events, winter sports activities, festivals, parades, activities, and five theme parks: Sun Island International Snow Sculpture Art Expo, Harbin Wanda Ice Lantern World, Zhaolin Park Ice Lantern Fair, and Songhua River Ice and Snow Carnival.
Traditionally, the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival has opened on December 24-25 and lasted until the end of February. However, the official opening ceremony is usually held on January 5th each year. It is very famous in China with visitors numbering more than a million people. Visitors come not only from all over China but also worldwide to get a chance to see this unique festival.
The event itself has a long history – starting out as an ice lantern exhibition on the frozen Songhua River (also known as Sungari) during the early 1930s. The first snow festival was held in 1963, which eventually became what we know today as the International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. Due to weather conditions it sometimes takes place earlier or later than usual; usually late December or early January.
The Ice and Snow Village, which includes more than 100 monuments created by artists from 12 nations, is a theme park dedicated to ice and snow, with the impressive main sculpture reaching 108 feet high and over 325 feet long. The entire park is illuminated at night, generating a breathtaking spectacle. Workers spent tireless hours cutting ice from the Songhua River over the weeks preceding the festival.
Visitors can enjoy a wide range of winter activities that take place during the festival including skating on sun island, snow rafting, skiing, snowmobiling, dog sledding tour, etc. Also, there is a lot to eat here with over 150 types of food stalls selling some very tasty treats such as roasted whole lamb, beef hotpot, boiled mutton leg, deep-fried braised abalone, etc.
The ice and snow sculptures, which range from fantasy castles and animals to recreations of historical structures, are stunning technical achievements that allow visitors to recapture their childhood. An ice and snow post office where you may send postcards, as well as an ice restaurant is among the other highlights.
Before the fun melts away, take a look at some photographs from the previous festivals to get yourself acclimated for a future visit.
more info: Ice Festival Harbin