The annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival has been held since 1963, interrupted for a number of years during the Cultural Revolution until it was resumed in 1985. Harbin is the capital of Heilongjiang province, in northeastern China. It is nicknamed "Ice City" and aptly so for winter January temperatures that average minus 18 degrees Celsius, under the influence of the cold winter wind from Siberia. The festival officially starts January 5th and lasts one month, although exhibits often stay open longer, weather permitting. Harbin is one of the world's four largest ice and snow festivals, along with Japan's Sapporo Snow Festival, Canada's Quebec City Winter Carnival and Norway's Ski Festival.
Tourists visit ice sculptures during the testing period of the 13th Harbin Ice and Snow World in Harbin, Heilongjiang province. The Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival officially launched January 5, 2012. (Sheng Li/Reuters)
A newly married husband and wife celebrate after a group wedding ceremony as part of the 28th Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival. The wedding was organized by the city government, and 18 couples from Nigeria, Russia and China participated in the ceremony, local media reported. (Sheng Li/Reuters) #
Ice sculptures displayed at the annual Ice and Snow festival in Harbin. Fairy tale palaces, towering pagodas, and even an Egyptian Sphynx -- all carved from ice -- are among the sights at the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. (Stringer/AFP/Getty Images) #
The Harbin Ice and Snow festival, an annual event, now in its 26th year, draws crowds from across China and even a few visitors from overseas, drawn to the unique visions of an international roster of sculptors who illuminate their creations with multicolored electric lights encased in the translucent ice. (Stringer/AFP/Getty Images) #
Harbin, known as "Ice City" - a nickname well-earned - for winters that are dry and bitterly cold, with a 24-hours average in January of only minus18.4 degrees celcius. Workers install a tree with lights near buildings made from blocks of ice. (Andy Wong/Associated Press) #