Harbin “Ice Artisans” Create Winter Scenes In Maryland

40 Artists From Harbin, Heilongjiang Province, Sculpt 5,000 Blocks Of Ice For Exhibition

The Harbin International Snow and Ice Festival is one of northeast China's top tourist draws

The Harbin International Snow and Ice Festival is one of northeast China's top tourist sites

Harbin, the capital city of the northeastern Chinese province of Heilongjiang, is famous for the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, which has taken place off and on since 1963 (though it was suspended several times during the tumult of the Cultural Revolution) and continuously since 1985. The Ice and Snow Festival, during which upwards of 2,000 ice artisans create a city of ice for more than 800,000 guests to explore, is one of northeast China’s most popular sites, attracting tourists from throughout China and neighboring countries.

This year, Washington D.C. invited 40 of these Harbin ice sculptors to create a similar, albeit much smaller, ice city at Maryland’s National Harbor complex. As a local news video shows, these seasoned ice sculptors made short work of the more than two million pounds of ice sent from a special plant in Ohio:

According to “We Love DC,” the 15,000-square-foot “ICE!” exhibit, which will be open to the public until January 10, features a wide range of sculptures that reflect everything from Western holiday traditions to Chinese traditional sculpture:

In October the master artisans who created ICE! arrived at National Harbor from Harbin, the capital city of China’s northernmost province Heilongjiang. (If I experience a bit of culture shock at National Harbor, imagine their impressions!) Harbin residents have hosted a world-famous “Ice and Snow Festival” for the past 25 years, the 100-acre walk-through ice park and frozen “city” attracting some 800,000 visitors each year. More than 2,000 sculptors convene to carve Harbin’s annual extravaganza using blocks from the nearby Songhua River.

Ice for the DC-area exhibit, custom-ordered from a manufacturing plant in Ohio, arrived in three different formats—clear ice made using deionized, highly filtered water that’s been frozen over a three-day period, white (or “snow”) ice, frozen quickly and resulting in an opaque look, and colored ice (there are eleven different hues here) using precisely pigmented dyes.

The ice arrived in mid-October, and artists worked their magic for more than 30 days. Watch their amazing talent in action in this video. The venue’s nine-inch-thick foam walls function as a large cooler and kept the internal temperature just right for carving conditions (too cold, and the ice becomes brittle; too warm, and it won’t properly chip). Some artists sculpted the ice blocks with mind-boggling attention to details, while others focused on the lighting and electrical systems embedded in the sculptures. (More than 1,500 specially-designed light tubes were frozen within the ice.)


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