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Frozen fantasy in Harbin attracts thousands of tourists

Every winter, Harbin city holds its world-famous International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. During this time, the city becomes an ice wonderland. Tourists can visit fantastic theme parks and take part in many interesting winter activities and sports.

The northeastern city of Harbin is transforming itself into a winter wonderland. Outside a pedestrian mall, sculptors and carvers work their magic at a giant block of snow, and slowly something else here is brought to life.

Using scrapers, rakes, and other hand tools, workers chip away at the snow while crowds of shoppers watch. Among them is sculptor Ji Huailong, a native of Harbin who’s experienced in making art from winter’s precipitation. But that experience doesn’t mean snow sculpting is an easy process.

“The most difficult parts to sculpt are the face and the eyes. We are carving Cupid and so he has to look like an angel coming from the sky, he represents love. His features need to be cute, soft and harmonious,” Sculptor Ji Huailong said.

Elsewhere in Harbin, visitors are already arriving to check out the snow sculptures at the International Snow Sculpture Art Expo at the city’s Sun Island Park.

The ice and snow world features sculptures, towers and entire buildings made from blocks of ice. They’re lit from the inside with colored lights. The effect at night is a spectacle.

Braving temperatures as low as -20 Celsius, visitors wander around ice creations, breeze down ice slides, and of course there is always a picture perfect moment.

We don’t have any winter in Thailand so I want to come here and enjoy the very freezing weather. Also they have the snow architectures, the ice palaces, so it is very beautiful.

Meanwhile, for the adventurous at the Harbin Ice Festival, there are ice swimming competitions in sub zero temperatures. The internationally acclaimed festival in China draws thousands of visitors who brave up to minus 20 Celsius weather conditions to watch swimmers battle it out in the pool.

We have some seniors around 50, 70 or even 80 years old who also take part in winter swimming. Even us, we are encouraged by them. So we think, at our age, it’s a really good time. I’m extremely comfortable, extremely fresh. Thanks!

The annual Harbin Ice Festival runs through Feb 28.