|Harbin is a sub-provincial city and the capital of the Heilongjiang Province in Northeast China. It lies on the southern bank of the Songhua River. Harbin is ranked as the tenth largest city in China, serving as a key political, economic, scientific, cultural and communications center of Northeastern China.
Harbin is originally a Manchu word meaning "a place for drying fishing nets". Harbin bears the nicknames "The Pearl on the swan's neck" because the shape of Heilongjiang resembles a swan, and "Ice City" for its long and cold winter. This city is most famous for its beautiful display of ice sculptures in winter and is known as China’s gateway to trade with Russia. In the 1920s, Harbin was considered to be the fashion capital of China as new designs from Paris and Moscow reached here first before arriving in Shanghai.
Human settlement in the Harbin area dates from at least 2200 BC (late Stone Age). It was formerly called Pokai.
The modern city of Harbin originated in 1898 from a small village, with the start of the construction of the Chinese Eastern Railway (KVZhD) by Russia, an extension of the Trans-Siberian Railway, shortcutting substantially the distance to Vladivostok and creating a link to the port city of Dalny (Dalian) and the Russian Naval Base Port Arthur.
Following the Russian defeat in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-5), Russia's influence declined, and several thousand nationals from 33 countries including the United States, Germany, and France moved to Harbin. Sixteen countries established consulates and set up several hundred industrial, commercial and banking companies in Harbin. The Chinese also established their own businesses in brewing, food and the textile industry. Harbin had established its status as the center of northeastern China and as an international metropolis.
In December 1918, during the Russian Civil War, defeated Russian White Guards and refugees retreated to the city: it then became a major centre of White Russian émigrés. The city became the largest Russian enclave outside Russia. The Jewish community was formed by Russian Jews and included a group of German Jews, who fled Nazi Germany in the late 1930s. Under the pro bono efforts by Japanese government officials, they later emigrated to several cities in western Japan, notably Kobe, to ensure their safety and prosperity and established the largest synagogue in Japan. The Russians established the Russian school system and published Russian language newspapers and journals.
With the establishment of Manchukuo, Japanese troops occupied Harbin on 4 February 1932. In 1935 the Soviet Union sold the railway (KVZhD) to the Japanese, which resulted in the first exodus of Russian emigres from Manchuria and Harbin in particular. The bulk of the departing Russians went back to the Soviet Union, while a substantial number moved south to Shanghai or emigrated to the United States and Australia.
The Soviet Army took the city on 20 August 1945 and Harbin never came under the control of the Kuomintang, whose troops stopped 60 km short of the city. The city's administration was transferred by the departing Soviet Army to the Chinese People's Liberation Army in April 1946.
During the short occupation of Harbin by the Soviet Army (August 1945 to April 1946), thousands of Russian emigres who fled communism after the revolution, were forcibly moved to the Soviet Union. The rest of the European community (Russians, Germans, Poles, Greeks etc.) emigrated during the years 1950-54 to Australia, Brazil and the USA, or were repatriated to their home countries. By 1988 the original Russian community numbered just thirty, all of them elderly.
The eight Harbin counties originally formed part of Shokako/Songhuajiang Prefecture, and became incorporated into Harbin on 11 August 1999, making Harbin a sub-provincial city.
Harbin is located in Northeast China under the direct influence of the cold winter wind from Siberia. The average temperature in summer is 21.2 degrees Celsius, −16.8 degrees Celsius in winter. It can be as cold as −38.1 degrees Celsius in winter.
The annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival has been held since 1985. Although the official start date is January 5th each year, in practice, many of the sculptures can be seen before. 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 ice. Winter activities in the festival include Yabuli Alpine Skiing, winter-swimming in Songhua River, and the ice-lantern exhibition in Zhaolin Garden. Snow carving and ice and snow recreations are world famous.
The "Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival" is one of the world's four largest ice and snow festivals, along with Japan's Sapporo Snow Festival, Canada's Quebec City Winter Carnival, and Norway's Ski Festival.
Every November, the city of Harbin sends teams of ice artisans to the United States to promote their unique art form. It takes more than 100 artisans to create ICE!, the annual display of indoor Christmas-themed ice carvings in Nashville, Tennessee; Kissimmee, Florida; and Grapevine, Texas.
The third Winter Asian Games took place in Harbin in 1996. The city of Harbin bid for hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics. The Alpine skiing events would have taken place in the Yabuli ski resort. In the frame of this campaign to assert its role on the world scene, Harbin will also be the host city of the 2009 Winter Universiade. Harbin plans to spend US$ 1.5 billion in construction and renovation of its sport infrastructure for this Universiade. Harbin also bid for the 2012 Winter Youth Olympics, but was passed over so still has its sights on the Olympics.
Harbin Summer Music Concert
Harbin Summer Music Concert ('Concert' for short) is a national concert festival, which is held on August 6th every two years for a period of 10~11 days. During the concert, multiple evenings, concert, race and activities are held. The artists come from all over the world. The 'Harbin Summer Music Month', which was then renamed as 'Harbin Summer Music Concert', was held in August 1958. The first formal Concert was held on August 5, 1961 in Harbin Youth Palace, and kept on every year until 1966 when the Cultural Revolution started in China. In 1979, the Concert was recovered and from 1994, it has been held every two years. In 2008, the 29th Harbin Summer Music Concert will be held on August 6th.