Harbin Ice and Snow World 2005

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The air is so cold it freezes your stinging tears to your face; the sun is so low it escapes to leave you in darkness by mid-afternoon; the trees are so gray, barren, and hard they could be concrete; the river ice is so thick it actually supports entire buildings.  As this eight-meter-high horse sculpture indicated, the festival has grown in size, complexity, and elaborateness; where the snow festival had a single massive sculpture before, a handful of these now appeared.  This year’s snow festival was officially called “The 17th Annual China Harbin Sun Island International Snow Sculpture Art Fair.”

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In preparation for those opening ceremonies, a group of women from northern Heilongjiang Province - the home state of Harbin - practice a traditional dance.  Behind them, a ten-meter-high snow rooster signals the coming Year of the Rooster on the Chinese calendar.  Two years earlier, a snow sculpture of a flute maiden appeared on this site, which appears in my earlier set of festival photographs; the flute maiden proved so popular that a permanent copy of the sculpture, not made of snow, was under construction elsewhere in the park.

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By sunset - in other words, by 4pm - visitors leave the snow festival to warm up, have dinner, and attend the ice festival later in the evening.  Unfortunately for them, they leave the snow festival too early.  Few people know it - some of the staff at the entrance gate didn’t even know it - but just after dark the snow sculptures are illuminated with colorful spotlights for about an hour until the park closes.  This is a detail of the horse snow sculpture shown earlier on this page.

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