Harbin, the capital and largest city in Heilongjiang Province in Northeast China, is served by numerous international airlines and railways. With a population of 10 million, it is the sixteenth largest city in China and home to Snow and Ice World -- the internationally renowned, breathtakingly beautiful, city of ice brilliantly illumined along the banks of the Songhua River.
Harbin is an eclectic city with ample evidence of its rich cultural history. The unique blend of oriental and European architecture dates back to the turn of the 20th century when the Trans-Siberian Railway met the Chinese Eastern Railway and Harbin was considered China’s fashion capital as new designs from Paris and Moscow arrived in Harbin before Shanghai. June 22, 2010 UNESCO designated Harbin China’s first City of Music. The Harbin Summer Music Concert is a ten-day national music festival held every two years featuring artists from around the world.
While Harbin is a bustling city spanning the banks of the Songhua River, it is only a short distance from the popular Yabuli ski resort, Siberian Tiger Reserve, Zhalong Nature Reserve, Wudalianchi Crane Reserve, Jingpo Lake and Diaoshuilou Falls. There are activities to enjoy in all four of Harbin’s distinct seasons.
The people of Harbin are friendly, passionate and forthright; they are eager to meet people from different cultural backgrounds. The Confucius Temple in Harbin is the largest in Northeast China. The Kek Lok Si Buddhist Temple is one of four most influential in China. Harbin also hosts vibrant Protestant, Catholic, Russian Orthodox and Muslim communities and the remnants of a teaming late nineteenth century Jewish community.
Originally a small Songhua River fishing village, Harbin became a city when Russia obtained permission to construct a railway into China in 1897. The border region of extreme terrain of mountains, fields, and forests was mirrored in the town's rough and ready population of railroad workers, nomads and traders from around Asia, including a Russian community that peaked around 200,000. After the Russian Revolution, a number of White Russians made Harbin their permanent home. The city fell under Japanese control during World War II, causing much of the the foreign population to flee. The Chinese regained control of Harbin in 1946 after a brief period of Russian rule following the end of the war.
Harbin has long, cold winters and cool, short summers. Between July and September, the city becomes a pleasant summer resort, averaging temperatures of 20 oC. Harbin winters can be cold, with temperatures plummeting as low as -15 oC. Snow starts as early as November and the coldest month is January. However, the winter months are a great time to visit Harbin, when the city is a fantastic world of snow and ice. Dress in plenty of layers, and punctuate your visit to the festival with frequent trips inside for a hot drink or hearty stew.