Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival 2012

Harbin is the capital and largest city of Heilongjiang Province in Northeast China, as well as the tenth most populated city in the People's Republic of China. Harbin serves as a key political, economic, scientific, cultural and communications hub in Northeast China. Harbin is originally a Manchu word meaning "a place for drying fishing nets." 

It is known for its bitterly cold winters under the direct influence of the cold winter wind from Siberia and is often called the "Ice City". The average temperature in summer is 21.2 degrees Celsius, -16.8 degrees Celsius in winter. It can be as cold as -38.1 degrees Celsius in winter. Lying on the southern bank of the Songhua River, Harbin is well known for its beautiful ice sculptures in winter and its Russian legacy and still plays an important part in Sino-Russian trade today. 

The Harbin local culture is based on Han culture, combined with Manchu culture and Russian culture. In the 1920s, the city was considered China's fashion capital as new designs from Paris and Moscow reached there first before arriving in Shanghai. Due to its early influences, the architecture style of Harbin shows a unique combination of oriental and European architecture styles especially from Russia. 

The annual "Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival" is one of the four largest ice and snow festivals in the world. It has been held since 1963 and had been interrupted for a number of years during the Cultural Revolution until it was resumed in 1985. Officially, the festival starts January 5th and lasts one month or even longer. 

Swing saws are used to carve ice into blocks, taken from the frozen surface of the Songhua River. Chisels, ice picks and various types of saws are then used by ice sculptors to carve out large scaled ice sculptures, many of them intricately designed and worked on all day and night prior to the commencement of the festival. 

Deionised water can also be used, producing ice blocks as transparent as glass to make clear sculptures rather than translucent ones. Multicoloured lights are also used to give colour to ice, creating variations on sculptured spectacles when lit up especially at night. 

Some ice sculptures designs made in previous years includes buildings and monuments of different architectural types and styles, figures including animals people and mythical creatures, slippery dips or ice slides and lanterns. These exquisitely-detailed, mass-produced ice sculptures are the main draw card in attracting tourists around the world to the festival.

There are record-sized snow sculptures longer than two football fields, and some ice buildings, palaces, monuments, or statues about 50 meters tall (160 feet high). These displays are technologically sophisticated, using computer controlled LED and regular lighting to put on stunning displays of changing color and design. For example, there was a replica of the Great Wall of China that people could slide on. Many of the architecture replicas have ice slides. 

Here are some of the beautiful photos taken from the net for your viewing.....