Photos of China’s Amazing Annual Snow Sculptures

Dozens of large-scale snow and ice sculptures are once again on display in Harbin, capital of northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province, for the Sun Island International Snow Sculpture Art Expo.

By day, the massive sculptures depicting folklore, mythology, classical art, cartoon characters and castles almost blend into their icy surroundings like natural formations, and after dark, everything is illuminated with a rainbow of glowing lights. Here are some of the festival’s most impressive sculptures that visitors have captured over the years.

Wild Hair Statue, 2012

Harbin has long, cold winters with temperatures dropping to -36 degrees Fahrenheit, making it cold enough to pack snow very tightly, mold it into place and expect it to stay put. Otherwise, statues with elements like this hair would be difficult to make.

Illuminated Ice Architecture, 2009

The annual winter festival is the largest ice and snow festival in the world, drawing international participants to show off their sculpting skills. The ‘Ice and Snow World’ portion, featuring full-sized buildings made from blocks of 2-3 inch thick ice, is best experienced after dark.

Goddess Statue, 2016

Each year, the event has a ‘trial run’ between December 22nd and January 4th, officially open to the public between January 5th and February 25th. Every year has a different theme, with 2016’s revealed to be “The Wonderland in the Land of Snow, The Grand View in the World of Ice and Snow.” Not clear on what that means, but we’ll find out when photos are released in early 2017.

Snow Sphinx, 2013

Maybe it’s not quite as large as the original, but this ‘snow sphinx’ photographed by Priscilla Dorresteijn is impressive nonetheless.

Illuminated Ice City at Dusk, 2015

The combination of reflective ice and snow with colored lights creates a pastel scene at dusk.

Massive Santa, 2009

This large-scale Santa is downright mountainous, looming over life-sized snow sculptures of architecture and trees.

Replica of a Finnish Church, 2009

This replica of a church in Finland is made entirely from ice and snow.

Botticelli’s Primavera Relief Sculpture, 2013

A relief sculpture lifts the mythological figures of Botticelli’s famous painting ‘Primavera’ right off the canvas.

Ice Castle, 2012

The structures made of ice, like this 2013 castle, are strong enough to support the weight of guests walking around inside.

Finnish Folk Tales, 2009

A Finnish folk tale is depicted against snowy cliffs at Snow and Ice World in 2009.

Ice Castle, 2012

The details of the icy architecture are pretty stunning, from stair railings to the cupolas and parapets.

Elephants, 2013

Vivid red cloth elements really pop against the white of this 2013 welcoming sculpture.

Busts, 2010

A person walking by gives you an idea of the scale of these snow busts.

Ice Castle, 2015

This towering ice castle rose several stories into the air in 2015.

Largest Single Sculpture, 2013

This beautiful work represents the largest single sculpture created in 2013 for the festival, which is spread out over 6.5 millions square feet.

Winged Horses, 2010

Ten thousand workers run around for weeks ahead of time to prepare for the festival, which utilizes over 1.9 million square feet of ice, some chipped off the adjacent Songhua River and dragged to the site for sculpting.

Cinderella, 2013

It takes a lot of hard work, but the spectacle is worth it all. Its opening coincides with the Chinese New Year on January 28th, drawing tourists from all over China and the world.

Swan Lake, 2012

This winged ballerina sculpture is reminiscent of Swan Lake.

Sea Captain Sculpture, 2009

A sea captain pilots his ship at the 2009 festival.

Tallest Sculpture for 2016/2017 Season

The tallest sculpture at last year’s festival reached heights of 111 feet.

Milan Tosic

Some say he’s half man half fish, others say he’s more of a seventy/thirty split. Either way he’s a fishy bastard.