25 Stunning Photos of China's Ice and Snow Festival

Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
Lintao Zhang/Getty Images / Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

This time of year, the temperature in Harbin can drop below zero—tomorrow's low is -17° F. So if you're going to be freezing, you might as well invite people to create some of the world's coolest ice sculptures to distract you from all the shivering.

The 30th Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival opened yesterday. It's one of the world's largest ice-carving festivals.

If you live where it snows, use the gallery as creative inspiration for your next snowman-building project.

Standing at 46 meters tall and built from 12 thousand meters of ice, a replica of the Hallgrimskirkja church in Reykjavik, Iceland, is the tallest ice sculpture in China. The structure boasts a 240-meter slide, sculpted from ice.

About 10 thousand workers are involved in fashioning ice (about 590 thousand square feet worth) and snow (492 thousand square feet) into larger-than-life sculptures.

The festival's 30th anniversary theme is "Global Ice and Snow Dream, World Cartoon Tour."

The festival's ice-carved duck is a nod to Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, and his well-traveled rubber duck urban installation.

Structures featured at the festival include the Empire State Building, the Great Wall of China, and the Colosseum.

The festival first started in 1963 as a traditional ice lantern garden party. The annual event was revived as a permanent fixture in 1985, after being put on the back burner during China's Cultural Revolution.

Ice lanterns have played an integral role during northeastern Chinese winters since the beginning of the Qing Dynasty in 1644, when fishermen fashioned lanterns out of candles and "hollowed-out pails of ice" to use as lights during the winter season.

The festival's length depends mostly on the weather conditions, usually running through the month of February.

Some of the ice bricks used to construct the festival's ice structures were extracted from the Songhua River.

Some of the festival's sculptors use deionized water, which gives ice a completely transparent, glass-like quality.

Artisans can opt to sculpt by hand or by utilizing lasers. Ice picks, chisels, and swing saws are all common tools for festival carvers.

Come February, visitors can take part in closing down the festival by "smashing the sculptures with ice picks."

The display park for Harbin's ice sculptures takes up 600 thousand square meters.

According to the festival's engineering manager, the display park took just 15 days to complete.

Festival organizers cancelled a planned fireworks display to open the festival due to Harbin's air pollution levels.  

In the last two years, the festival has attracted 28.5 million visitors to its icy cityscape.

The festival is split into four areas: the sculptures and Snow World inhabit Sun Island, Zhaolin Park hosts the festival's ice lanterns, and winter sports reside along the frozen Songhua River.

Harbin's nickname is "Ice City." The Weather Channel attributes the low temperatures to arctic air coming down from Siberia.

The festival's sculptures use computer-controlled LED lighting to illuminate at night, according to the Daily Mail.

Harbin landed in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2007 for the largest snow sculpture (named "Romantic Feelings" and measuring in at 115 feet tall and 656 feet wide) as part of its International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival.

Harbin ranks as China's city with the highest altitude and lowest average annual temperature: a chilly 38 degrees Fahrenheit.

Harbin sends ice sculptors to the United States every November to promote ice carving as an art form.

All photos via Lintao Zhang/Getty Images.