Harbin



Harbin is the capital of Heilongjiang Province, China's most northern province. Nowadays, Harbin is best known for its Ice Lantern Festival, which is a world-famous ice sculpture display held annually each winter.

Located on the endless Manchurian plains, Heilongjiang is known for its vast stands of forests, among the largest left in the Far East. The province borders Russia with the Black Dragon River (better known by its Russian name, the Amur).
Harbin City Ratings
** The following ratings are based on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best.
History(7) Art(4) Local Culture/Unique Tour(6)
Nature/Scenic(6)       Food/Shopping(5) Night Life(6)
Religion(5)       Adventure/Sports(7) Reasonable Cost(7)
Recommended Days of Stay: 2 Harbin City Map

Quick Facts
Population - 2.57 million
People - Han with a tiny minority of White Russians
When to go
Tourist Seasons - All year
Coldest Month - January and February with temperature as low as -38C;
Hottest Months - July and August, with temperature as high as 36C;
Annual Precipitation - 250-700 millimeters (mainly in May through September)
Getting In and Out
By air - Harbin is 1.5 hours from Beijing by air. There are direct flights with 33 cities;
By Train - Harbin is around 12 hours from Beijing by train from Beijing and approximately five hours from Changchun.

History


Harbin was established at the turn of the century as a direct result of the railways. Harbin was still a small fishing village in 1879 when Russian engineers chose it as a base for the new Chinese Eastern Railway. Harbin used to be known as "Little Moscow" because of its Russian influence. For centuries, control of the region switched between the Chinese, Japanese and Russians. In 1917, half a million White Russians fled south to Harbin to dominate the city. At one stage, Harbin had the largest Russian population of any city in the world outside the Soviet Union.

Harbin was taken by Japanese forces in 1931. The region (Heilongjiang, Liaoning and Jilin) was then known as Manchuria. Japan set up a puppet government headed by the last emperor of Qing dynasty, Puyi. After the WWII, Russian armies retook Harbin. Four years later, Harbin was returned to China.

Russian influence is still strong in Harbin. Onion domes outnumber upturned tile-roofed eaves along Harbin's main street even these days, giving Harbin a cityscape unique among China's major cities.



Art
Daoli District
Harbin's cityscape is one of the most unique among Chinese cities. Daoli District is most representative of Harbin's architectural style. Nowadays, a lot of buildings with spires and cupolas have been converted into offices, restaurants, and department stores. The street is composed of cobblestones. Take a walk along the streets in this district and get a taste of what old Harbin used to be.

Local Culture/Unique Tour
Ice Sculpture Festival* * * * *
This festival lasts from early January to mid-February, depending on the weather. During this period, ice carvers from all over the world come to Harbin to participate in this world famous event. You can see giant pagodas, bridges, lanterns, human figures, and palaces. All these sculptures are decorated with twinkling colorful lights. When night falls, the festival turns into a sea of ice and light.


Harbin Summer Music Festival * *
Both Russian and Chinese music are main themes in this festival

Nature/Scenic
Zhalong Nature Reserve * * * * *
180 km from Harbin, Zhalong Nature Reserve is a bird watchers' haven. It is the largest bird sanctuary in China. Its cranes, storks, swans, geese and herons are best seen from April to September. In China, the famous re-crested cranes are considered a symbol of luck.

Food/ Shopping
Local restaurants often specialize in Muslim dishes or wild game, and their quality and price are usually announced by the number of red lanterns suspended from the rafters outside.

Huamei Restaurant
Huamei Restaurant is the best Russian restaurant in town.


Chinese-Russian Market
In this market, you will be able to find fresh water pearls, mink pelts, fur hats, Russian dolls and imports, Chinese antiques of ivory, jade and coral, fossils, and petrified wood.


Antique Building
Stores here sell porcelain and old jewelry.


Night Life
Dreamworld
Dreamworld is an entertainment center with a standard swimming pool, a bowling alley, a disco and a night club.

Religion
Santa Sophia Church * * * *
This is a splendid edifice, although usually closed to visitors. It is jammed into an area of new construction, most notably several karaoke entertainment complexes with monumental Roman statuary mounted on their garish facades.


Temple of Bliss * *
Temple of Bliss is a very interesting complex. It contains a small statue of the god Puxian on the elephant, along with the familiar likeness of Maitreya, Buddha, and Guanyin.


Wen Miao *
Wen Miao is a a Confucian Temple. It has large grounds with golden dragons emblazon on the roofs. The Confucian grounds contain steles dated as early as A.D. 551

Adventure/Sports
Yabuli Ski and Vacation * * * * *
This is China's biggest ski resort. Yabuli is also used for training China's national ski team.


Windmill Village * *
This is a decent three star ski lodge.


Tigers of Siberia * * * *
The new Siberia Tiger Park was opened in 1996 on Sun Island. A large recreational district is currently under development, featuring gardens, swimming lakes, cafes, and a hunting range. The tiger reserve has been finished. The goal of the reserve is to save, study and breed these great cats in captivity and eventually release them into their natural habitat.

Travelers usually get on board Safari style vehicles and explore the Tiger Reserve. You can spot numerous tigers stalking the grounds. In order to complete the mission of eventually releasing the tigers, they have to be trained to hunt live prey. Therefore, sometimes, you will be able to witness the tigers pounce on their preys. You do need a strong stomach though.


Sun Island * * *
Sun Island is the recreational center for the people of Harbin. They come here to enjoy the sun during summer. When winter comes, the river freezes solid. Ice-skating becomes the rage.
 
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