Harbin, China’s Northeastern Winter Wonderland

Casey Chan of Gizmodo posted A Winter Wonderland in China with two photos of The Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival located in Northeast China where the average winter temperature is a (minus) – 16.8 degrees Celsius (1.76 Fahrenheit). The Festival is held in January.

It is June, and you might wonder why I’m posting this now instead of December or January. The simple answer is for travelers who might want to visit China and think Harbin would be a good place to include in the trip—next winter.

Wikipedia says the annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival was first held in 1963, but it was interrupted for a few years during the insanity of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Mao died in 1976, and it took time for China’s economic engine to recover. The fact that the festival resumed in 1985 is a sign of the changes taking place in China.

In the comment section of Chan’s Gizmodo post, Adam wrote, “China is awesome when it comes to giant decorations and celebrations (just remember the Olympics!), but the people there still have an extremely low quality of life. Why, if they can do some things so well, do they fail at others?”

Sega8800 asked Adam, “How do you know their life is low quality?”

Adam’s answer was a Wikipedia link to a post of a 1994 book, China Wakes: The Struggle for the Soul of a Rising Power. The couple who wrote the book spent five years in China (1988 to 1993) as journalists for the New York Times—not the best unbiased source about China by a long shot.

I laughed.

The content for that book was based on material that was more than 22-years old, and time in China did not freeze. During those years, China transformed itself by rebuilding the old cities while building more than a hundred new ones in addition to the explosion of a middle class that equals or surpasses the entire population of the United States. China has also crisscrossed the country with new highways, railroads that include high speed rail that doesn’t even exist in the United States yet, and it has built more than 500 new airports while America’s airports are way overdue for an upgrade.

In fact, as the standard of living for China’s still growing middle class expands, the Chinese are now buying more new cars than Americans, traveling the world as tourists (about 100 million annually), and the most popular car that’s a status symbol in China is GM’s Buick (别克).

The embedded videos with this post are of Harbin and previous festivals.



Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

IMAGE with Blurbs and Awards to use on Twitter

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3 Responses to Harbin, China’s Northeastern Winter Wonderland

  1. Debbie says:

    and on top of all that road-building, high-speed rail building, exporting high speed rail technology to germany and brazil, city building, growing a middle class, bringing trillions of people out of poverty, they make ice-sculptures that light up at night like Disneyland!

    what other peoples in the world who sustain living in a place that gets up to 40- 50 degrees below, turn terminable cold into a thing of beauty?

    the ice sculptures of harbin are what one would expect of a culture which makes gunpowder and uses it for fireworks. things of beauty, not destruction.

    my ex-inlaws are 东北人, from a small town 100s of ks to the north of haerbin. do they think life is miserable? no, they love it! they complain about the heat in the south and wax lyrical about the central heating and inside warmth in winter back up north.

    its always bemusing to me how people would believe other people who come to someone elses country and make assumptions about their quality of life. ask the locals, I say.


    • The sad thing is that most people who have never been outside of the United States (or possibly the people of every country for that matter) get their information from mostly biased and/or misinformed sites or individuals.

      Our daughter, my stepdaughter, is Chinese-American born in Chicago but she has visited mainland China annually to see her grandparents on both sides since before she started kindergarten. She graduated from Stanford June 2014, and she told her mother last weekend that she is constantly shocked by the ignorant opinions of most Americans she knows and meets, even Stanford under-grads and graduates, and what they think of China. When she was still in K-12, occasionally, China would come up as a topic and teachers and students—except for our daughter—all thought that the people in China were poor, miserable and suffered horribly at the hands of an authoritative dictatorship of the worst kind. Our daughter who speaks fluent Mandarin and English (and some Spanish) has been to China once or twice a year for most of her 24 years often spending the entire summer there in addition to returning during the Winter school breaks in the US. She has three grandparents left and they are all in their 80s and in poor health.

      And when she attempted to correct the biased opinions of her fellow children K – 12 and most of the teachers, they all told her she didn’t know what she was talking about—that she had been brainwashed.

      I think many Americans are the ones who are brainwashed. I’ve been to China 9 or 10 times (last trip in 2008) and the Chinese people almost all agree that the state media pumps out propaganda for sensitive issues and they are aware of the censorship and most of them don’t care (it’s just a fact of life), but in the U.S., polls show that about half of Americans believe almost everything they read or hear from the media and most Americans are not aware that censorship exists in the United States but mostly from the SIX corporations (that are controlled and/or owned by billionaire oligarchs—an oligarch isn’t much different from a dictator or king—and are not democratic in any way) that own 90% of the traditional media. For instance, the Luce media empire, Time Magazine, etc., has been pumping out biased propaganda fantasies since the beginning in the early 20th century, and Rupert Murdock uses Media Corp (includes the Fox network) to support his right wing neoconservative agenda with no concern for balance or truth.

      • Debbie says:

        You are so right, Lloyd. My home country Australia is marginally better in that respect, being so close to Asia the government encourages Asia – literacy, but still, there is an enormous amount of the same thing there also – belief in the propaganda machine.
        Having lived in China for over a decade, I totally concur with what you say.

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