The annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival (Chinese: 哈尔滨国际冰雪节; pinyin: Hā'ěrbīn Guójì Bīngxuě Jié) originated from Harbin's traditional ice lantern show and garden party that takes place in winter and began in 1963. It was interrupted for a number of years during the Cultural Revolution but has been resumed and was announced as an annual event at Zhaolin Park on January 5th in 1985.
In 2001, the Harbin Ice Festival was merged with Heilongjiang's International Ski Festival and got its new formal name Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. The 30th festival is to be held in January 2014.
Harbin is located in Northeast China and receives cold winter wind from Siberia. The average temperature in summer is 21.2 degrees Celsius, -16.8 degrees Celsius in winter. Annual low temperatures below -35C are not uncommon.
Officially, the festival starts January 5th and lasts one month. However the exhibits often open earlier and stays longer, weather permitting. Ice sculpture decoration technology ranges from the modern (using lasers) to traditional (with ice lanterns). While there are ice sculptures throughout the city, there are two main exhibition areas: Enormous snow sculptures at Sun Island (a recreational area on the opposite side of the Songhua River from the city) and the separate "Ice and Snow World" that operates each night. Ice and Snow World features illuminated full size buildings made from blocks of 2–3 feet thick crystal clear ice directly taken from the Songhua River. There are ice lantern park touring activities held in many parks in the city. Winter activities in the festival include Yabuli alpine skiing, winter-swimming in the Songhua River, and the ice-lantern exhibition in Zhaolin Garden.