Thu, 01 Dec 2022

© Provided by Xinhua

HARBIN, Oct. 6 (Xinhua) -- As Xia Yuanfang strolled along the Songhua River with her family in August, she was glad of the mild northern weather, a welcome change from the hot and humid environment of her hometown, the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou.

"It's very cool here in summer, especially along the river. It's very comfortable drinking beer and listening to music," said Xia, who had a river tour in Harbin, capital of China's northernmost Heilongjiang Province.

Due to its high latitude, Harbin has been a holiday resort for people looking to escape the heat in summer. For hundreds of years, the Songhua River flows through Harbin and provides local fishermen with rich resources. Today, it blends into modern life, featuring bars and beers in summer and ice spectacles in winter.

The river also features water sports, including some with strong historical roots. In the mid-1920s, motorboats and water skiing were brought to Harbin from the West, and in the 1970s, the city's large enterprises would organize annual water sports competitions.

© Provided by Xinhua

Today, the F1H2O U.I.M. World Championship, a motorboat event, has been set up in Harbin, together with other events, attracting athletes from all over the world.

Tourism and leisure activities have flourished along the river banks, and they are even more popular during the winter.

Many locals have a special hobby in the winter -- looking for fish in ice sculptures that are displayed on the street. The artistic sculptures are made of ice taken from the frozen Songhua River, and occasionally there are fish already entombed therein.

In ancient times, to make up for the lack of lighting technology, buckets were used to produce shells of ice in which lights were placed. This tradition is the origin of the modern Harbin ice lantern art, with later generations producing more complex and colorful variations based on ice cubes.

In winter, the Songhua River becomes an inexhaustible reservoir of ice. Since the first ice lantern fair was held in Zhaolin Park near the river in 1963, the city has utilized its natural resources to create a winter wonderland on the theme of ice and snow.

Nowadays, the ice lantern fair and the Ice and Snow World, China's largest ice-themed park, have become key promotional events for Harbin.

Every winter, people gather in the Ice and Snow World to see the world's famous architectural sites reproduced in ice, or to play on the ice slides that measure hundreds of meters in length. With hundreds of thousands of cubic meters of ice on hand, there is no shortage of entertainment.

"Harbin Ice and Snow World was originally built to help locals relax and refresh themselves on cold days, but now it has developed into a combination of folk customs, tourism, culture and industry. Ice and snow are becoming a hot resource," said Guo Hongwei, chairman of Harbin Ice and Snow World Co., Ltd.

The river also serves as a natural playground. Sun Feiyu, 36, runs a snowmobile entertainment project with friends on the frozen river. "Winter is my busiest time and there are lots of people playing here," said Sun.

© Provided by Xinhua

The booming ice and snow economy also brings more income to farmers who used to have no work at all in winter. Now, many of them are busy gathering ice as soon as the cold weather sets in.

Zhai Yugang, a Harbin native who collects ice from the Songhua River every winter, said farmers in nearby villages used to idle away the winter once the autumn harvest was done, but now they are embracing different lifestyles.

Zhai earns more than 2 yuan (28.2 U.S. cents) for cutting an ice cube. During the ice-picking season, a person can cut 200 cubes a day on average. Thousands of jobs are created every year in the construction of the Ice and Snow World.

"Now, more and more people are willing to come out for ice picking and other jobs to increase their incomes, and their lives in winter are more colorful," Zhai said.

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