I'm not sure how it happened, but I've become a big fan of the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival.
I've never been to Harbin, which is practically in Siberia as I understand it. In fact, I've never been to China at all. The closest I've ever been was either Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur, whichever is closer. Which means, I've only admired these sculptures from afar.
However, the pictures I've seen of their ice sculptures are really extraordinary. Before learning about the festival, my only experience with ice sculptures constituted seeing guys standing at hotel entrance ways chipping away to create dolphins and such. Very nice, very artistic, and very small.
|Opening ceremonies, January 2015|
Well, Harbin changed all that for me. There is something about the sheer audacity of people who would even think to create something as massive as their sculptures - and all along knowing that they are doomed to melt away by summertime. It's quite imaginative.
Anyway, the 31st Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival opened with a theme "Ice Snow Harbin, Charming China Dream" on January 5 in 2015. There was a grand opening ceremony, a fireworks display and a series of theatrical performances, ice snow activities in Sun Island, Ice and Snow Amusement World, Zhaolin Park and more venues around the ice city Harbin.
There seems to be some competition for the snow sculpture crown these days, with some other Chinese cities getting into the act as well. However, the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival remains the largest of its kind.
Apparently, the Festival began in 1963, when it started life as a traditional lantern and garden party before transforming into the extravagant event we see today. Now, it is composed of mountain-sized representations of figures out of Chinese mythology and even entire, life-sized buildings.
In general, the sculptures - at least the smaller ones - are carved from giant blocks of ice taken directly from the frozen surface of the Songhua River. However, for some of the larger, more elaborate sculptures, the builders cheat a bit by using steel frames and molds and spraying water on them, which of course freezes immediately in the frigid temperatures. The builders still, though, have to get up on the sculptures and smooth all the rough edges and do other fine-tuning. There also are elaborate swimming pools and other outdoor facilities that some of the more adventurous citizens and tourist can use if they can brave the cold.
|The temperature and weather outlook in Harbin as I type this. That's the high for the day! That temperature is Fahrenheit, all the Celsius temperatures are way negative.|
I'll almost certainly never make it to the actual festival - but it would be awfully cool to try some day. I'd like to try for the Iditarod someday, too. If only it didn't look so cold!