China's ice sculpture fest shines at night
HARBIN, China — A cold snap in northern China has snarled daily life, but is ideal for the fairy tale palaces, towering pagodas, and even a sphinx — all carved from ice — at this year's Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival.
The annual event in northern China, now in its 26th year, showcases an international roster of sculptors, who illuminate their creations with multicolored electric lights encased in the translucent ice.
This opening ceremony Jan. 5 featured fireworks lighting up the sky above the festival's main site on Sun Island on the frozen Songhua River north of Harbin, a metropolis that styles itself as China's "ice city."
The festival continues into February.
Tired of looking at the sculptures? Take a ride on the ice slide, but be sure to get out of the way quickly as other thrill seekers zip down on you from behind.
Other hazards include elbow-to-elbow crowds at popular times of the night and intense cold temperatures that dipped to 3 degrees Fahrenheit on Tuesday amid light snow.
Harbin, with a population of 4.5 million, is China's tenth-largest city. A recent cold spell has benefited the festival, but caused havoc in other parts of northern China. Heavy snowstorms have interfered with flights at Beijing's airport and closed highways and rail lines.
Harbin features varied architecture (reflecting its historical links to Russia), and there's skiing at nearby Yuquan and at the Yabuli resort, 120 miles to the east.
See photos of this year's festival at www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/06/chinas-harbin-ice-and-sno_n_412646.html.
— Associated Press