One of the coldest places in China is Harbin, the capital of the Province of Heilongjiang in the northeast of China.
The temperature here can reach a constant -40 degrees, which is the same in both Centigrade and Fahrenheit, and it can stay that way for many months. The reason for the sustained cold conditions is because the city is the direct course of the cold winter winds from Siberia. Even though it is just 300 kilometres from the Russian city of Vladivostok, it is actually north of that city, and isn’t warmed by the Pacific currents as is Vladivostok.
You’d imagine that Harbin may be a somewhat miserable place due to the cold, but, in fact, it is the very opposite. Since 1963 the residents of Harbin have celebrated the cold by holding an annual Ice Festival, which turns the city into a huge outdoor art gallery.
Officially, the festival lasts from just month each January, but most of the sculptures are now so elaborate they remain in place a lot longer than that. The quality of sculptures is so good, it has become a major tourist attraction with over one million visitors arriving each year to view the entries.
One of the main exhibition areas is on Sun Island, a misnomer if there ever was one, which is on the Songhua River. There is also an Ice and Snow World display which features illuminated full size buildings that have been carved out of huge blocks of ice.
As the Ice Festival takes place in winter, when nights are long, light plays an important role in the displays, with colourful lighting displays created by using modern laser technology that is combined with the ancient tradition of illuminating displays with lanterns.
An enormous number of people are involved in building and maintaining the displays. As many as 7,000 workers toil to create a veritable city of ice.
As well as the sculptures and light displays, there are plenty of other activities to keep visitors amused. As you would expect, skiing and skating are popular pursuits, but there are shows and displays that are also held. For refreshments, a number of temporary ice bars are built so that patrons can quench their thirst.
Harbin is well connected to the rest of China, and it also has an international airport to cater for foreign visitors. It has good rail and road facilities and has long been an important trading city so is well serviced by good accommodation.