The Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, held in Harbin, China, is an annual winter festival with a theme. It is said that the festival is the largest of its kind in the world. Officially, it is held from January 5 to February 5 every year. However, depending upon the weather condition, exhibits often open earlier and stay longer. The festival includes an international competition of ice sculptures, and illuminated buildings made from the huge ice blocks, ice lantern show, ice sailing, winter swimming in Songhua River and speed skating.
The Snow and Ice Festival originated during the winter of 1963, during Harbin’s traditional ice lantern show and garden party. It was interrupted for a number of years during the Cultural Revolution, but started again, when an annual event at Zhaolin Park was announced on January 5, 1985. At the initial stage, the participants of the festival were mainly Chinese. However, it has since become an International event.
During the festival, ice sculptures are erected throughout the city. But actually, there are two main exhibition areas, viz., Sun Island and the Ice and the Snow World. Sun Island is situated on the opposite side of the Songhua River, and it features an expo of enormous snow sculptures. The Ice and the Snow World, on the other hand, is an area open at night, featuring illuminated full size buildings. The structures of the buildings are made from blocks of thick ice, transported directly from the frozen Songhua River. Multicolored lights are also used for illuminating the gigantic ice buildings at night.
As Harbin city generally has an Arctic type of climate, it offers abundant supply of natural ice and snow and is recognized as the cradle of ice and snow festival in the country. This festival promotes tourism in Harbin city, as it attracts thousands of foreign visitors every year in the city.