Dove of Peace
Taking pride of place at the river end of historic Zhongyang Dajie was this giant ice sculpture, setting the main theme for this, the 24th Snow and Ice Festival.
Have you ever been somewhere sooooo cold that your eyelashes temporarily froze together? This was one of the more unusual experiences I had on a visit to Haerbin/Harbin in the North East of China this past January!
Part of the joy of travelling is in setting personal challenges in order to stretch your boundaries of comfort. This is how, I, as a woman from the sub-tropics of Queensland, Australia, found myself travelling north from my temporary home in Taizhou, Jiangsu to the frozen north-east of Heilongjiang Province in what was later referred to as “the coldest winter in over 50 years”! With daily temperatures ranging between -17 and -30 degrees C, it was definitely an experience that pushed me a number of times well outside my comfort zone!
I have divided my week- long visit into two parts. This, the first of two blogs, will focus on the city of Haerbin/Harbin itself and highlights a sample of the scenic and cultural experiences she has on offer. The second will focus on the main reason for my visit, the world-renowned Snow and Ice Festival, held every year in January and February.
Firstly, a little about Haerbin/Harbin itself. Haerbin/Harbin
Flood Control Monument
Standing in Stalin park on the banks of the Songhua River, this unusual monument marks the "triumph" over the 1957 floods. Built in 1958, it commemorates the thousands of people who had previously died in earlier floods.
is the capital of Heilongjiang Province which forms the North Eastern region of what was previously known as Manchuria. It is popularly known as “The pearl under the neck of the swan”, referring to the shape of the province being (roughly!) the shape of a swan. To add further explanation there is also a story about huge flocks of swans and wild ducks that used to gather here. I have read a number of other explanations of the name, but these will suffice for now.
Harbin today is still very much influenced by its Russian past. A city once under Russian rule, it is now a centre of trade with that country. Most of the foreign faces around Haerbin/Harbin appear to be Russian. Local Chinese people may even start speaking to you in Russian whether you are Russian or not! This actually happened to me on more than one occasion.
The influence of Russia came with the construction of the China Far East Railway, an extension of the Trans-Siberian Railway in the 1890’s, and Harbin, known formerly as a fishing village, began to prosper as the largest commercial/economic centre in North Eastern Asia.
Front view St Sophia
Located in the historic district of Daoli, St Sophia is one of a number of protected cultural relics to be found in and around Harbin. One of the few Orthodox Churches to survive the ravages of the Cultural Revolution, it has now been beautifully restored and houses the Haerbin Architecture Arts Centre. The church has four floors and is accessible by a door on each side. Until the 1960's, the bell tower over the entrance housed 7 bells of different sizes and tones. in the past, when there were religious festivals , a well-trained ringer would play musical progressions, tolling the bells with ropes tied to his hands and feet. The church has four floors and is accessible by a door on each side. Until the 1960's, the bell tower over the entrance housed 7 bells of different sizes and tones. In the past, when there were religious festivals, a well-trained ringer would play musical progressions, tolling the bells with ropes tied to his hands and feet.
Russian influence in Haerbin/Harbin is a big draw card for visitors from home and abroad. In particular, the Russian architecture in the historic Daoli district is considered an absolute “must see”. The local cuisine in Harbin is also Russian-influenced, the best examples reportedly being found at the popular Russian Café 1914. I personally can vouch for the red soup (not borscht) and wonderful homemade Russian bread. Harbin's bakeries are also famous for their bread (dalieba) and Harbin’s smoked sausage is well-known for its “European” flavour. Haerbin/Harbin is also developing a growing reputation domestically and internationally in the field of “Green Foods” because of its clean air, soil and water. Currently it is the leading producer of “Green Foods” in China. It is also surprisingly China’s leading producer of dairy products.
However, the main reason for my visit was not to view the Russian architecture or even to sample the local cuisine, but to experience the wonders of the Snow and Ice Festival. Consequently, I will let you browse through Haerbin/Harbin city while I go to work on the second blog!
By the way, the map at the top of the blog is fully interactive, so
Proof we are still in China! This giant golden Buddha stands in the grounds of The Temple of Bliss (Jile Si), part of the Wen Temple Scenic Spot. Concerned Chinese residents funded the complex in the 1920's in response to the reconstruction of St Sophia as they believed it challenged the "feng shui" of the city. The famous seven-tiered stone pagoda is seen to the left and the two-tiered belltower to the right.
have a play and zoom in! You can even see buildings!
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