Frigid northern China hosts snow and ice sculpture festival

In this Jan. 3, 2017, photo, released by Xinhua News Agency, contestants carve an ice sculpture during an international ice sculpture contest during the Harbin Ice and Snow festival in Harbin, capital of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. The city of Harbin in China's frigid northeast is in its final stages of preparation for one of the world's largest ice and snow festivals, an annual event that last year drew more than a million visitors. (Wang Jianwei/Xinhua via AP)

The city of Harbin in China's frigid northeast is hosting one of the world's largest festivals featuring ice sculptures of animals, cartoon characters and famous landmarks

HARBIN, China — The city of Harbin in China's frigid northeast is hosting one of the world's largest festivals featuring ice sculptures of animals, cartoon characters and famous landmarks.

The festival, which officially opens late Thursday and last year drew more than a million visitors, showcases the region's tradition of snow and ice carvings as well as ice swimming in the Songhua River. Harbin's temperatures can fall to minus 25 degrees Celsius (minus 13 degrees Fahrenheit).

Harbin's best ice and snow carvers have been busy putting the finishing touches to their sculptures, which are based on big chunks of ice that are dragged out of the nearby river and carved, brushed, and lit up.

The sculptures range from animals and cartoon characters to replicas of famous world monuments and landscapes, as well as a 340-meter (1,115-feet)-long slide that state media say took around 500 builders to complete.

Lu Fu was helping to finish a giant ice castle on a busy roundabout in Harbin, brushing it with a small rake.

"I feel happy. Especially after completion, I feel so excited when looking at the ice wall with lights on in distance," said Lu, who has been carving ice for more than 20 years. "Ice building is the pride of Harbin people."

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