| Updated at: 1527 PST, Friday, January 07, 2011|
BEIJING: While the rest of the northern hemisphere was thrown into chaos by the recent cold snap, conditions were perfect this week in Harbin, northeast China, where giant buddhas, skyscrapers and even the Sphinx have been rendered in ice.
The 27th Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival which opened on Wednesday, January 5, is one of the largest ice-carving festivals in the world, and features a range of ice-related activities including ice swimming, hot air ballooning, ice sculpture competitions, and various winter sports.
The sculptures and buildings, illuminated with fairy lights encased in the translucent ice, are built from ice blocks cut from the frozen surface of the nearby Songhua River.
The festival -- which is expected to draw more than a million visitors this year -- cost around 6 million RMB ($909,000) to stage and occupies a 600,000-square-meter site. More than 2,000 ice sculptures have been constructed from an estimated 30,000 cubic meters of ice by teams from around the world.
The event is coupled with a trade fair which this year included 1,500 exhibition booths, twice the number of last year's festival.
Harbin is one of China's coldest cities, located in the northeast province of Heilongjiang, where the mercury in January often drops to minus 20 degrees centigrade (-4F).