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Harbin Snow and Ice Festival

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Snow and ice sculpture in Harbin dates back to Manchu times, ... with multiple attractions and food hawkers and kids running around and people lined up for bathrooms. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Harbin Snow and Ice Festival


1
Harbin Snow and Ice Festival
by Cindy holdemqueen_at_hotmail.com 2004
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  • The temperature in Harbin reaches forty below
    zero, both Fahrenheit and centigrade, and stays
    below freezing nearly half the year.  The city is
    actually further north than notoriously cold
    Vladivostok, Russia, just 300 miles away.  So
    what does one do here every winter?  Hold an
    outdoor festival, of course!  Rather than suffer
    the cold, the residents of Harbin celebrate it,
    with an annual festival of snow and ice
    sculptures and competitions.  This is the amazing
    sculpture made of snow greeting visitors to the
    snow festival in 2003.

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  • Snow and ice sculpture in Harbin dates back to
    Manchu times, but the first organized show was
    held in 1963, and the annual festival itself only
    started in 1985.  Since then, the festival has
    grown into a massive event, bringing in over a
    million tourists from all over the world every
    winter.  The sculptures have become more
    elaborate and artistic over time this bear and
    cub are just one small part of a fifty-meter-wide
    mural sculpture.

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  • Most of the sculptures appearing at the snow
    festival are competitive entries.  Each team
    starts with a cube of packed snow that appears to
    measure about three meters on a side, and then
    starts carving away.  Teams come in from all over
    the world - Russia, Japan, Canada, France, even
    South Africa.  Part of the fun is guessing the
    nationality of the team, based on their
    sculpture's artistic style, before reading the
    signs.  I believe this was a Russian entry.

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  • The sun begins to set behind the magnificent
    entryway sculpture.  The snow festival is
    actually separate from the ice festival both
    take place on the wide open spaces of Sun Island
    Park north of Harbin's river, Songhua Jiang. 
    Harbin is situated south of the river, so it's a
    chilly ride over to the sites.  It seems even
    chillier when crossing the bridge over the very
    wide and very frozen Songhua Jiang.

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  • I was surprised to discover this sculpture of a
    Native American sitting in the frozen northeast
    of China sure enough, I read on the sign that a
    Canadian team sculpted this entry.  Chinese teams
    had many sculptures at the festival as well, off
    in another section, but a vast majority didn't
    measure up to these amazing works.

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  • Even the sunsets in Harbin look cold.  Though
    only mid-afternoon, the sun was setting over the
    snow festival and the temperature was falling
    even further below freezing.  But the coming
    darkness was actually good news, because it meant
    that the ice festival was about to begin.

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  • The ice festival, a few miles away from the snow
    festival, is anything but dull and colorless. 
    Crowds flocking to the entrance are greeted by
    dance music booming in the distance, as if at an
    outdoor pop concert.  And bright neon colors
    shine everywhere, buried within huge blocks of
    ice forming structures as high as thirty meters,
    such as this huge structure beyond the entryway. 
    You can just make out people standing atop its
    blue and red stairway.

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  • A view from atop that structure, looking back on
    a Russian-styled building and a mock Great Wall,
    both constructed out of ice.  Making it to the
    top of this structure is an accomplishment in
    itself - imagine walking up a stairway of solid
    ice for two floors with no handrails.  The yellow
    block wall on the right and the balcony work on
    the lower left are all ice, with no internal
    support structure - just lights.

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  • The Great Wall doubles as a long ice slide just
    sit and go.  You can pick up some serious speed
    and wipe out spectacularly at the bottom if
    you're wearing a slick coat, but you won't go
    anywhere if you're wearing corduroy pants.

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  • An overview of the ice festival from atop the
    Great Wall of ice.  It's like a Disney theme
    park, with multiple attractions and food hawkers
    and kids running around and people lined up for
    bathrooms.  The only differences are that the
    temperature is about a hundred degrees colder
    than the typical Disney park, and all the
    structures are made out of ice rather than
    plastic - and slipping and falling here doesn't
    result in tremendous lawsuits.

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  • An entire ship constructed of ice, with
    passengers onboard.  Though it might not be
    seaworthy, the ship would certainly float - after
    all, it's made of ice.  Hundreds of years ago
    during the Manchu days of ice lantern art, the
    sculptures were lit only by candles.

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  • One of the popular activities at the festival is
    climbing a wall of solid ice.  Amazingly, I
    didn't see a single person fall, and most
    everyone made it to the top.  All the ice comes
    from Songhua Jiang, the nearby river, which
    provides a limitless supply huge chainsaws are
    required to cut through the ice, which can be
    meters thick.

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  • The snow festival is mostly a display of art the
    ice festival is mostly a display of
    architecture.  Nevertheless, a number of
    sculptures can be found at the ice festival, such
    as this life-sized horse.  Agile youngsters with
    good balance climb atop the horses to have their
    pictures taken.  Notice the layers of ice in the
    horse blocks of ice are fused together to form
    larger blocks so that sculptures - or huge
    buildings - can be made.

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29
  • A Thai temple of ice, complete with hallways and
    rooms inside.  Long ago, Disney made a
    Circle-Vision 360 film called "Wonders of China"
    - still showing at the China pavilion in the
    World Showcase at EPCOT - which includes a brief
    section on Harbin's ice festival.  In the movie,
    the sculptures are quite low-key, little more
    than blinking light bulbs inside small globes and
    ice carvings.  Things have changed a bit since
    those days.
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