In frigid northeastern China, in the city of Harbin is hosting its 26th annual International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. Massive buildings built of ice from the frozen surface of the nearby Songhua River, large scale snow sculptures, ice slides, festival food and drinks can be found in several parks in the city. At night, visitors who endure the bitter cold will see the lights switched on, illuminating the sculptures from both inside and outside.
It is said that making ice lanterns was something the fishermen in the area did in the winter. They needed a way to keep their lamps burning in the winter when they were out on the lake, so they invented the ice lantern. They filled a container with water let the water freeze.
They put a lamp or a candle inside the piece of ice. Wala, they had a lantern. In 1963, the first Ice Lantern Festival is said to have been held in Zhaolin Park in the old district of the city. It was suspended for some time during the Cultural Revolution, then it started up again. In 1999, the city government started the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival. Since 2001, Grand World of Ice and Snow has been held on Sun Island Park in the Songhua River. This gives the festival a lot of space to build dozens of huge snow structures and also to simultaneously hold athletic competitions such as speed skating competitions.
Now, tens of thousands of people are involved in constructing the ice and snow exhibits in the three sites. The ice buildings have grown huge in Stalin Park. And there are more foreign entrants in the ice carving competition in Zhaolin Park.