Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival

The Harbin International Ice and Snow festival (Chinese: 哈尔滨国际冰雪节; pinyin: Hā'ěrbīn Guójì Bīngxuě Jié) is an annual winter festival that takes place with a theme in Harbin, Heilongjiang, China, and now is the largest ice and snow festival in the world. At first participants in the festival were mainly Chinese, however it has since become an international festival and competition, with the festival attracting 18 million visitors and generating 28.7 billion yuan ($4.4 billion) of revenue.[1] The festival includes the world's biggest ice sculptures.[2]

Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival
Harbin Ice Festival.jpg
During the 2003 festival
GenreWinter festival
Location(s)Harbin, China
Years active1963–present
Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival
Traditional Chinese哈爾濱國際冰雪節
Simplified Chinese哈尔滨国际冰雪节

The festival exhibits open from late December to late February.[3] While ice sculptures are erected throughout the city, there are two main exhibition areas:

  • Sun Island is a recreational area on the opposite side of the Songhua River from the city, which features an expo of enormous snow sculptures.
  • Ice and Snow World is an area open in the afternoon and at night which features illuminated full size buildings made from blocks of 2–3' thick ice taken directly from the Songhua River. The park usually opens from late December to late February. In 1999, the first Ice and Snow World opened to public to celebrate the millennium. Each year the park has to be rebuilt with newly designed ice buildings and snow and ice sculptures. In recent years, the park has been as large as 800 meters (80 hectares).

During the festival, there are ice lantern park touring activities held in many parks in the city. Winter activities during the festival include Yabuli alpine skiing, winter-swimming in the Songhua River, and the ice-lantern exhibition in Zhaolin Garden.

Harbin is located in Northeast China and receives cold winter wind from Siberia. The average temperature in summer is 21.2 °C (70.2 °F), and –16.8 °C (1.8 °F) in winter. Annual lows of -25 °C (–13 °F) are not uncommon.[4][5]


Ice sculpture erected in the 2010 Ice and Snow festival

The festival originated in Harbin's traditional ice lantern show and garden party that takes place in winter, which began in 1963. It was interrupted for a number of years during the Cultural Revolution, but has since been resumed when an annual event at Zhaolin Park was announced on January 5, 1985.[6]

In 2001 the Harbin Ice Festival was merged with Heilongjiang's International Ski Festival and got its new formal name, the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival.

In 2007, the festival featured a Canadian themed sculpture, in memory of Canadian doctor Norman Bethune. It was awarded a Guinness World Record for the world's largest snow sculpture: 250 metres long, 28 feet (8.5 m) high, using over 13,000 cubic metres of snow. The composition consisted of two parts: the "Niagara Falls" and the "crossing the Bering Strait" (the latter depicting the migration of the First Nations).

In 2014, the festival celebrated its 30th anniversary with the theme "50-Year Ice Snow, Charming Harbin". Various fairs, competitions and expos were held from December 20, 2013 to February 28, 2014.[7][8]

In 2015, the 31st Harbin Ice Snow Festival opened on January 5 and was themed "Ice Snow Harbin, Charming China Dreams around the world" with opening ceremony, firework show, ice lanterns , birthday parties, snow sculpture competitions and expos, as well as winter swimming, winter fishing, group wedding ceremony, fashion shows, concerts, ice sport games lasting from December 22, 2014 to early March 2015.[9]

2019 Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival

At the 35th annual festival held in 2019, the festival's most popular attraction, the Harbin Ice and Snow World, took up over 600,000 square meters and included more than 100 landmarks. It was made from 110,000 cubic meters of ice and 120,000 cubic meters of snow. The festival also included ice sculptures by artists from 12 different countries competing in the annual competition.[6]

Celebrating its 36th year in 2020, this festival is presently viewed as one of the world's top winter celebrations, joining the ranks of the Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan, Canada's Quebec Winter Carnival and Norway's Holmenkollen Ski Festival. In 2020, the sculptures were produced using roughly 220,000 cubic meters of ice blocks, all pulled from the nearby Songhua River.[10]

In 2021, the festival did not take place in full capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[11]


Ice sculpture of the Sphinx erected for the 2010 festival

Swing saws are used to carve ice into blocks, taken from the frozen surface of the Songhua River.[12] Chisels, ice picks and various types of saws are then used by ice sculptors to carve out large scaled ice sculptures,[13] many of them intricately designed[12] and worked on all day and night prior to the commencement of the festival. Deionised water can also be used, producing ice blocks as transparent as glass to make clear sculptures rather than translucent ones.[14] Multicoloured lights[15] are also used to give colour to ice, creating variations on sculptured spectacles when lit up especially at night. Some ice sculptures made in previous years include: buildings and monuments of different architectural types and styles, figures including animals people and mythical creatures, slippery dips or ice slides and lanterns.[16][17] Apart from winter recreational activities available in Harbin, these exquisitely detailed, mass-produced ice sculptures are the main draw card in attracting tourists around the world to the festival.[15]


See alsoEdit

Other large ice and snow festivals include Japan's Sapporo Snow Festival, Canada's Quebec City Winter Carnival, and Norway's Holmenkollen Ski Festival.[18]


  1. ^ "The world's largest ice festival features massive, stunning sculptures.the festival holds many annual events such as mass weddings, and ice pool plunging". Hindustan Times. Associated Press. January 6, 2018. Retrieved July 19, 2018.
  2. ^ "Harbin Ice and Snow Festival". Retrieved 27 December 2014.
  3. ^ "Harbin Ice Festival 2022 - 2023". icefestivalharbin.com.
  4. ^ "HARBIN CLIMATE (CHINA)". en.climate-data.org.
  5. ^ "Monthly weather forecast and climate Harbin, China". weather-atlas.com.
  6. ^ a b "World's largest ice and snow festival opens". CNN Travel. 2019-01-03. Retrieved 2019-01-06.
  7. ^ "Harbin Ice Festival 2014 Dates". IceFestivalHarbin. 2014. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
  8. ^ "The 30th Harbin Ice and Snow Festival 2014". Harbin Ice. Retrieved 27 May 2014.
  9. ^ "The 31st Harbin Ice and Snow Festival 2015". Harbin Ice. Retrieved 2 March 2015.
  10. ^ "World's largest ice and snow festival kicks off in China".
  11. ^ "Harbin Ice and Snow Festival halted by new COVID-19 cases". euronews. 2021-01-06. Retrieved 2023-05-19.
  12. ^ a b AFP (13 November 2008). "Ice is money in China's coldest city". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 26 December 2009.
  13. ^ BBC (6 January 2007). "In pictures: Harbin ice festival". BBC News. Retrieved 26 December 2009.
  14. ^ Zeitvogel, K. (18 December 2009). "Chinese-sculpted winter wonderland in Washington". AFP/Google. Retrieved 26 December 2009.
  15. ^ a b Strum, J. (22 December 2009). "Northern Chinese city embraces cold and ice". The State Journal, Frankfort, Kentucky. Archived from the original on 7 March 2011. Retrieved 26 December 2009.
  16. ^ Taylor, A. (9 January 2009). "Icy days and nights". Boston.com/AP/Getty Images/AFP/Reuters. Retrieved 26 December 2009.
  17. ^ Mullen, N.; Lin, C-C. (2005). "Chinese Folk Art, Festivals, and Symbolism in Everyday Life" (PDF). Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology/University of California, Berkeley. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 August 2009. Retrieved 26 December 2009.
  18. ^ "Harbin (Heilongjiang) City Information". hktdc.com. 28 Jan 2014. Retrieved 16 April 2014.

External linksEdit