PHOTOS: The Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival

Fireworks explode over the illuminated ice sculptures during the opening day of 35th Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival at the Harbin Ice and Snow World on Jan. 5, 2019 in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province of China.(Photo: VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

The city of Harbin in China opened a world-class ice and snow carnival to welcome the New Year. Visitors will see grand buildings built with crystal-clear ice cubes with colorful lights placed inside, such as the Chinese-style tower of five blessings and the snow-capped broken bridge, as well as scenery inspired by the city of Suzhou, the imperial palace, the world’s largest Gothic church in Milan, the Colosseum and a European castle gate.

These splendid scenes are on display at the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, which opened on Jan. 5. This year marks the 35th anniversary of the festival, China’s first ice-themed global event. It is also known as one of the world’s four major snow festivals, along with the Sapporo Snow Festival in Japan, the Quebec Winter Carnival in Canada and the Holmenkollen Ski Festival in Norway. The ice and snow buildings here present a Hollywood-style visual feast, according to the Information Office of Harbin Municipality.

Harbin is a city in northeast Asia and a center for cooperation with Russia. It was once a hub along the Chinese Eastern Railway and a gathering point for many overseas Chinese. At the beginning of the 20th century, more than 160,000 expatriates from 33 countries lived there, with 19 countries setting up consulates in the city. Harbin was then known as the “Oriental Paris” thanks to the integration of Chinese and overseas cultures.

A Christmas liturgy at the Church of the Intercession. (Photo: Artyom Ivanov\TASS via Getty Images)

Harbin is known as the “Ice City” due to its freezing winters. The main stream of the Songhua River passes through the city, making the river’s banks the ideal gathering places for the people of Harbin and those who love ice and snow activities. The locals used to spontaneously freeze ice lamps in buckets, contributing to the birth of the city’s winter extravaganza.

Every January, the city is ignited by the strong passion for the ice and snow festival. Tourists from all over the world gather in “the Pearl on the Crown of Ice and Snow.” The professional ice and snow sculpture competitions draws world-renowned professional teams, college students and snow lovers alike. Tourists and photographers flood the region to view the snow sculptures, lingering amid the whimsy of the creations.

The 24th Winter Olympic Games will be held in China in 2022. Winter Olympics champions Shen Xue, Zhao Hongbo and Zhang Hong all hail from Harbin, the first city in China to host world-class winter sports events such as the Winter Universiade and the Asian Winter Games.

During the festival, people can enjoy many international sporting events such as skiing, ice hockey and curling, and families can partake in skating, snow football and other outdoor games. Those who are bold enough and well-prepared can jump into the winter swimming pool in the Songhua River. People can also bring their friends to the Yabuli Ski Resort to snowboard and feel the thrill of a race. No matter what you’re most excited to do or see, everyone is welcome to Harbin to experience the magic and charm of ice and snow.

An aerial view shows fireworks explode over ice sculptures during the opening of the annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival in Harbin in northeast China’s Heilongjiang province, Jan. 5, 2019. (Photo: Olivia Zhang/AP)

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Tourists visit illuminated ice sculptures during the opening day of 35th Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival at the Harbin Ice and Snow World on Jan. 5, 2019 in Harbin, Heilongjiang Province of China. (Photo: VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
Visitors look at ice sculptures during the annual Harbin Ice and Snow Festival in Harbin, in China’s northeast Heilongjiang province on Jan. 6, 2019. (Photo: Fred Dufour/AFP/Getty Images)
Tourists visit the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival at Sun Island park on Jan. 5, 2019. (Photo: Tao Zhang/Getty Images)
Ice sculptures illuminated by colored lights are seen at the annual ice festival in the northern city of Harbin, Heilongjiang province, in China on Jan. 4, 2019. (Photo: Tyrone Siu/Reuters)
Tourists view illuminated snow sculptures at the Harbin International Snow and Ice Sculpture Festival on Jan. 4, 2019. (Photo: VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
Tourists visit illuminated ice sculptures at Ice and Snow World park on Jan. 5, 2019, in Harbin, China. (Photo: Tao Zhang/Getty Images)
The Harbin Ice Sculpture Festival attracts domestic and foreign tourists to Harbin, China, each year. (Photo: Tao Zhang/Getty Images)
The Ice and Snow World Park will host the 35th Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival from Jan. 5 until the end of February. (Photo: Tao Zhang/Getty Images)
Visitors watch fireworks at the Harbin Ice and Snow World park on Jan. 5, 2019. (Photo: Tao Zhang/Getty Images)
Tourists visit the Harbin International Snow Sculpture Art Expo on Jan. 5, 2019, in Harbin, China. (Photo: Tao Zhang/Getty Images)
Tourists at the Ice and Snow World park view grand buildings built with crystal-clear ice cubes with colorful lights placed inside on Jan. 5, 2019, in Harbin, China. (Photo: Tao Zhang/Getty Images)
Tourists watch fireworks at the Ice and Snow World park on Jan. 5, 2019, in Harbin, China. The Ice and Snow World Park will host the 35th Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival from Jan. 5 until the end of February. (Photo: Tao Zhang/Getty Images)
Tourists visit illuminated ice sculptures at Ice and Snow World park on Jan. 5, 2019, in Harbin, China. (Photo: Tao Zhang/Getty Images)
Each year, tourists from all over the world come to see illuminated ice sculptures at Ice and Snow World park in Harbin, China. (Photo: Tao Zhang/Getty Images)
Visitors walk around ice sculptures illuminated by colored lights during the annual ice festival in Harbin, Heilongjiang province, China, on Jan. 4, 2019. (Photo: Tyrone Siu/Reuters)
Grand ice sculptures illuminated by colored lights are seen at the annual ice festival in the northern city of Harbin, Heilongjiang province, China, on Jan. 4, 2019. (Photo: Tyrone Siu/Reuters)
Colorful illuminated ice sculptures, pictured on Jan. 4, 2019, are one of the most popular attractions at annual ice festival in the northern city of Harbin, Heilongjiang province, China. (Photo: Tyrone Siu/Reuters)
Ice sculptures illuminated by colored lights are seen at annual ice festival in the northern city of Harbin, Heilongjiang province, China, on Jan. 4, 2019. (Photo: Tyrone Siu/Reuters)
Grand ice sculptures are seen at the annual ice festival in the northern city of Harbin, Heilongjiang province, China, on Jan. 4, 2019. (Photo: Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

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