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Harbin’s ice festival celebrates winter tourism

Editor: Tong Xinxin 丨CCTV.com

01-20-2016 11:15 BJT

By Tom McGregor, CNTV Commentator

Many people who brave the cold and snow every winter, may dream of escaping to a tropical island. However, Harbin residents in Heilongjiang Province, northeast China take pride in enduring the frigid weather, where average daytime temperatures in January range from -14 to -20 degrees Celsius.

The city has become famous for celebrating cold winters and on Wednesday they heralded the opening ceremonies of the 32nd annual Harbin Ice and Snow Festival, with the theme, “Pearl on the Crown of Ice and Snow.”

City officials hope to draw over one million tourists from China and abroad. The festival covers over 800,000-m. of land area, where hundreds of sculptors have designed - castles, cathedrals, landmarks and iconic images from Chinese fairy tales - carved from ice and decorated with LED lights.

Regular visitors say the best time to view the ice sculptures would be at night.

Making ice cool

Harbin’s ice festival is a sight to behold, while the Chinese have taken a greater interest in winter sports. Beijing and Zhejiang were selected as host cities for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games. The Chinese government is encouraging its citizens to participate more in winter athletics.

Harbin stands as an ideal location to engage in such activities where the weather stays well below freezing for three to four months out of the year. It’s a winter wonderland with fathers and sons bonding on ice fishing excursions.

The ice festival allows for parents and children to play together in the midst of an iced-theme fun park and parades.

World-renowned ice sculptors

The Harbin festival showcases a dazzling array of ice sculptures lit with LED light decorations. Organizers annually sponsor a contest to judge the best ice sculpture and light designs. Hundreds of artists from all over the globe are expected to compete this year.

The highlight will be the construction of a 51-m. tall crown of ice that smashes world records for the tallest and heaviest ice structure of its kind. LED lights add a more brilliant flare.

The sparkling ethereal colors remind visitors that even in the frozen confines of northeast China, Harbin symbolizes a modernized city of the future. Visitors can partake in unique cultural events, such as attending wedding ceremonies in ice cathedrals or swimming in the frigid Songhua River. They can spend the night at a luxury ice hotel too.

Re-igniting Harbin’s economy

A few cities around the world celebrate ice festivals, including the Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan, Canada’s Quebec Winter Carnival and Norway’s Holmekollen Ski Festival, while the ice and snow festival in Harbin is growing in global popular acclaim.

That’s good news for the local economy that had been hard hit by a slowdown in China’s industrial production sector. Harbin is coming to terms with a transitioning economic phase that favors more service-oriented investment to boost regional consumption and tourism.

The local government is encouraging many winter enthusiasts to visit Harbin’s ice festival, which can pour more cash into regional shops, restaurants and hotels that generate more tax revenues.

Ice for the ages

More and more international tourists are coming to Harbin to witness its spectacular ice festival. The city stands nearby the Russian border and welcomes throngs of visitors from the north as well.

Local residents love the frigid air and have discovered entertaining ways to rejuvenate its economy. Each major city in China has their own unique character traits and Harbin will continue to be recognized as the land of ice sculptures even long after they melt when spring arrives this year.

Tmcgregorchina@yahoo.com

 

( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )

 

 

Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.


 

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