Welcome to a Mini-City of Ice!
The result of much expertise and industriousness, Harbin’s International Ice and Snow Festival (Hā’ěrbīn Guójì Bīngxuě Jié), has got to be the most exciting winter celebration on earth! And it’ s the perfect place–in Northern China, not far from Russia, with winds blowing in from Siberia. Yup, Harbin’s a cold place in the winter and it’s wonderful!
Heida Ice Dragon 2005
The Harbin Ice and Snow Festival involves ice and snow carving displays on Sun Island and Zhaolin Park. It also includes what others throughout the city have created, such as what I dubbed “the Heida Ice Dragon” in front of Heilongjiang University. I’m shown with it, pictured above.
(For anyone interested: Heilongjiang is the name of the province in which Harbin is the capital. Daxue is the word for university. Hence, the university’s nickname Heida. Heilongjiang, incidentally, means “Black Dragon River.”)
What was extra special for me was seeing some of the process of its creation:
1. A truck arrives with ice cut from the Songhua River, which flows (when it’s not winter) through Harbin.
2. Here I am standing amidst ice blocks cut from the Songhua River.
3. I saw these men cutting the ice but did not actually see how they hoisted it up the scaffolding.
4. Not only were these men sculpting the ice; they were also installing the blue, yellow and red lights that would illuminate the dragon at night. See first photo above.
Like the dragon, ice lanterns throughout the city of Harbin were striking too, but in a softer, more poetic way. I took this photo just off campus from where I worked at the Harbin University of Science and Technology (HUST). These lanterns were modest in size and design but they delighted me. Kind of like appreciating tiny delicate flowers hidden away in a lavish garden. I’d happily return to Harbin in the middle of any winter to see these kinds of ice lanterns again. And I’d also be sure to visit Zhaolin Park!
Photographer R. Todd King and the Zhaolin Park “Ice Lantern Party”
Near the Russian area of Harbin, Zhaolin Park can be found. I have never been to this park, at least not yet. I’m happy to say I still have photos to share with you, taken by a superb photographer named R. Todd King.
I wish to publicly thank Mr. King for granting me permission to use some of his photos and for unknowingly helping me out several years ago. Way back in the summer of 2004, I thought I was going to Tianjin to teach, that is, until my Canadian employer said, “Uh, no. We need you to go to Harbin.” “But I don’t want to go to Harbin. It’s too cold.” (I’d read about its sometimes -40 degree climate.) I resisted only until discovering Mr. King’s online photos of Harbin in winter. “Why am I resisting? Harbin looks amazing!” He had me hooked.
Please click here to see many of Mr. King’s other stunning photos. You may get an idea of how I could get so excited about going to a -40 climate! While you’re at it, you may like to see his beautiful book, Hot Ice and Wondrous Strange Snow, The Winter Festivals of Harbin, China.
Zhaolin Park Winter 2007, Enter into a World of Magic
“Harmony“ is the name of this delicate ice carving of geese, as fragile-looking as fine china. I wonder if it was as strong as fine china though. Click here in order to see the geese illuminated with pink, green, gold and blue lights (Be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page.) Which do you prefer? The photo of the geese as shown here with the natural light or the photo with the colored lights? Let me know in the comments section below!
The Coolest Show on Earth!
Now that we’ve seen the Heida Ice Dragon and some Zhaolin Park photos, here are festival ground photos taken on Sun Island, situated in the middle of the Songhua River.
A Chinese Blessing, these two young children hold a character considered very special in China. 福”
January 2005 was still the Year of the Monkey, not the Year of the Rat (or mouse). Someone had fun creating this cheesy sculpture. Not spectacular; I just liked it.
“Year of the…?”
One of my students told me about the coming of the “Year of the Cock.” (Yes, I see the inadvertent pun.) Technically, there was absolutely nothing wrong with his statement. I did however tell him that “rooster” might be a more appropriate translation. So here is my pictorial “Heralding the Year of the Rooster, February 9, 2005 – January 28, 2006″! Click on the photo to see a more splendid version! (To return to the site, just hit escape.) Don’t the colored lights show this strutting bird in all its glory?
It was a rough go for my poor little digital camera. Though not designed for sub zero temperatures, it held up. I had an arsenal of fully charged batteries in warm inner pockets. Within minutes of putting them in the camera, the batteries froze. This necessitated my removing them to warm up in a pocket. Battery rotation was the name of the game. In the evening at the ice portion of the festival (when the temperature dropped even more), the problem became more pronounced.
And Now for the ICE!
As I neared the ice festival grounds with friends, I could hardly contain myself. Talk about exciting! I was never so bedazzled in my life! The next few hours was a time of “release of the inner child,” and not just for me. Just about everyone I saw was having a lot of fun. 🙂
As for this “festival ambassador,” I wonder how long he managed to stay outside barely clad and still smiling.
Fun to be Had!
Chinese friends taught me an old familiar Chinese saying: “Three feet of ice does not result from one day of cold weather.” (冰封三尺，绝非一日之寒, Bīng fēng sān chǐ, jué fēi yí rì zhī hán). The meaning: It takes time to develop the attributes necessary for success/mastery. I do believe this saying fits Harbin’s winter festival. An English equivalent is roughly “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
Harbin Ice and Snow Festival 2007, R. Todd King Photos
Can you imagine the planning and construction of this icy Hulan Catholic Church, sometimes called “the Notre Dame of the Orient”?
The crescent moon appears between the towers of this ice replica of Hulan Catholic Church. Apparently the real church celebrated its centennial in China in 2008.
About this ice maze, R. Todd King wrote, “When the temperature’s well below freezing, as it is by this time of night, getting lost in here is not a good idea.” Though a hexagram rather than an octagon, this maze is reminiscent of the Taoist symbol called a bagua, used in the I Ching. Very clever!
Here is a video I hope you enjoy.
Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival – Lonely Planet travel video
In closing, I’d like to say hooray for the Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival 2014, happening right now in Harbin, China! I hope you have enjoyed my blog. 🙂
I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Zhídào xià yīcì (直到下一次 ), wǒ de péngyǒu (我的朋友),
Until next time, my friends,From my heart to yours, Ramona