The Harbin Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival is the largest of its kind in the world. Here some of the most impressive works of Chinese and international artists are put on show every year.

The art of sculpting ice and transforming it into a work of art is a feat like no other. While paintings, photography, watercolors, drawings, sculptures, and other forms of art are beautiful and unique in their own right, few things are quite as stunning as a masterful, glistening ice sculpture. Learning and mastering this technique requires a tremendous amount of time, practice, patience and a magic touch. Instead of brushes, cameras or paints, ice sculptors take up chisels, ice picks and saws. You might know about this from the movie Groundhog Day!

Taking something so ordinary as frozen water and turning it into something extraordinary demands incredible skill. Each artist, as with any medium of art, has their own style and ability to create mesmerizing works. If you’ve never seen an ice sculpture, or you are already a committed admirer and want to immerse yourself in as much of it as possible, keep on reading to find out  about the Harbin Ice Festival.

Harbin Ice Festival

Harbin Ice Festival History

Harbin, Heilongjiang, China hosts this annual event that runs for a few months. In recent times it has expanded to include international competitors from diverse cultures. The Harbin Ice Festival first started in 1963 during Harbin’s garden party and ice lantern show; which took place every year during winter. The lantern show and garden party were always significant events, but when the ice festival was established it added an extra dimension of art and culture for visitors from around the world. Jumping forward to the year 2001, the Harbin Ice Festival merged with the Heilongjiang International Ski Festival to become bigger and better. With this merger came a new name  and so the world-famous Harbin Ice Festival was born. It is now the largest winter festival in the world.

Harbin Ice Festival Facts

While there’s no doubt it’s fascinating to learn how the Harbin Ice Festival set its roots, what we have to talk about next is even more exciting. The Harbin Ice Festival has been home to some of the greatest ice sculptures in the world, and some of the works of art that made their appearance at the event have been mind blowing to say the least.

  • The Harbin Ice Festival has been taking place for over 30 years and it currently takes up 750,000 square meters of land.
  • There are three venues – one for day viewing, one for night and the third is mostly for children.
  • The festival needs 10,000 people to move the blocks of ice before sculpting.
  • Ice sculptures of all sizes are amazing, but the bigger they are, the more awe inspiring they become. Can you imagine how spectacular an ice sculpture 48 meters in height would be? The Crystal Castle was such a creation, and it holds the world record as one of the tallest ice carvings ever created.
  • During the time of the Harbin Ice Festival, the Songhua River is completely frozen over. During festival time, the river becomes filled with bike rides, ice skating, miniature tanks and pony rides, and so much more. While some of these activities cost money, they are both fun and unique ways of getting around the festival and moving from sculpture to sculpture.
  • No sculpture can do without lighting. Many of the larger sculptures are lit with computer-controlled LED lights to create jaw-dropping effects!
  • While some of the more larger sculptures cost money to see, there are plenty of smaller ice carvings scattered throughout the entire town. It is quite easy to go through the entire festival without paying for anything and still have the time of your life!

If ice sculptures are your thing, then there really isn’t reason for you to not experience the joy and wonder that the Harbin Ice Festival has to offer. If you have never seen an ice sculpture then please seize this opportunity! The event is filled with copious amounts of culture, artwork, fellowship, and so much more. A flight from Beijing takes just 3 hours. You will need to wear lots of warm clothes to beat the sub-zero temperatures as well as dark glasses to prevent snow blindness.

Harbin Ice Festival

Although you will have to wait until January for the 2017 festival, the wait is worth it. You can use the time to plan your trip, work out a budget and figure out what you want to see when the time comes round. Make sure you plan your time well, as it can be nearly impossible to see everything that this large event has to offer!

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