Harbin Ice and Snow Festival is essentially an exhibition of ice art works. The festival was established in the year 1985 and held annually in January. It lasts for over a month. Harbin is located in the Chinese province of Heilongjiang and is the original ice festival of China. It attracts visitors from the world over. Harbin is located in the north-east part of China and hence has an arctic climate that provides the natural ice and snow for the event. The Ice Lantern Festival which precedes the Harbin festival is one of the best loved parts of the overall celebration.
The ice sculptures are exhibited in 5 main places of Harbin namely: Ice and snow world, Sun Island Scenic area, Ice Lantern Garden Party, Zhaolin Park and Yabuli International Ski Resort.
The first ice lanterns used in the traditional Chinese celebrations were made by fishermen. They were made by pouring water into buckets that were then put out to freeze. The frozen buckets were then removed by applying gentle heat creating a hollow ice lantern. This tradition lasted from 1644 – 1911during the rule of Qing dynasty. Present day ice lanterns are made from a combination of plastic and ice.
At the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival, ice sculpture decoration is made using modern technology. The two main exhibition venues which display enormous snow sculptures are – Sun Island and the Ice and Snow world. The ice and snow world has illuminated ice buildings built using ice from the frozen Songhua River. Various types of saws and chisels are used to construct the sculptures. Multicolor lights are used to light up the buildings at night. Monuments, animal and mythical creatures are the most often sculpted images. Apart from these the festival also has many recreational activities lined up for the visitors. They organize winter sports and art events as part of the show.