As China's northernmost major city, Harbin is among the inhabited world's coldest metropolitan centers, but as photographer Jonathan Browning shows, each year local residents turn snowdrifts into snow cones with the Harbin Ice Festival. The annual festival -- showcasing more than 2,000 ice sculptures that can tower over 150 feet in the air -- draws thousands of tourists to this frozen wonderland, often called the "Ice City." The buildings are constructed with fluorescent lights encased in ice blocks, turning the temporary village into a technicolor dreamland at night.         Visitors come not only to wonder at the construction, but to participate in winter sports such as skiing, sledding, and -- for the daring -- ice swimming. Above, the ice city at night.

Winter’s Palace

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As China's northernmost major city, Harbin is among the inhabited world's coldest metropolitan centers, but as photographer Jonathan Browning shows, each year local residents turn snowdrifts into snow cones with the Harbin Ice Festival. The annual festival -- showcasing more than 2,000 ice sculptures that can tower over 150 feet in the air -- draws thousands of tourists to this frozen wonderland, often called the "Ice City." The buildings are constructed with fluorescent lights encased in ice blocks, turning the temporary village into a technicolor dreamland at night.         Visitors come not only to wonder at the construction, but to participate in winter sports such as skiing, sledding, and -- for the daring -- ice swimming. Above, the ice city at night.

As China's northernmost major city, Harbin is among the inhabited world's coldest metropolitan centers, but as photographer Jonathan Browning shows, each year local residents turn snowdrifts into snow cones with the Harbin Ice Festival. The annual festival -- showcasing more than 2,000 ice sculptures that can tower over 150 feet in the air -- draws thousands of tourists to this frozen wonderland, often called the "Ice City." The buildings are constructed with fluorescent lights encased in ice blocks, turning the temporary village into a technicolor dreamland at night.  

Visitors come not only to wonder at the construction, but to participate in winter sports such as skiing, sledding, and -- for the daring -- ice swimming. Above, the ice city at night.

Icy stairs lead up to a turret on one of the massive ice castles.   The festival construction, which takes place on an area known as Sun Island, requires over six million cubic feet of ice.        

Icy stairs lead up to a turret on one of the massive ice castles. The festival construction, which takes place on an area known as Sun Island, requires over six million cubic feet of ice.

 

A pavilion stands among the vaguely Buddhist ice towers. While the temperature can drop to -41 degrees Fahrenheit during extreme   weather, a typical January day clocks in closer to about 0 degrees Fahrenheit.         

A pavilion stands among the vaguely Buddhist ice towers. While the temperature can drop to -41 degrees Fahrenheit during extreme weather, a typical January day clocks in closer to about 0 degrees Fahrenheit.

  

A visitor stands along an ice wall, giving a sense of the scale of the ice towers. The festival opens annually at the end of December and remains open until it begins to melt (normally toward the end of February).

A visitor stands along an ice wall, giving a sense of the scale of the ice towers. The festival opens annually at the end of December and remains open until it begins to melt (normally toward the end of February).

Visitors enjoy an ice luge inside the complex.       

Visitors enjoy an ice luge inside the complex.

 

A vendor sells hot grilled kebabs to chilled tourists.          

A vendor sells hot grilled kebabs to chilled tourists.

   

A child waits to enter the park. It is one of the largest snow and ice festivals in the world.           

A child waits to enter the park. It is one of the largest snow and ice festivals in the world

   

Delicate ice sculptures stand among the hulking buildings.          

Delicate ice sculptures stand among the hulking buildings. 

   

A horse and buggy stands ready to carry visitors through the snowy grounds.          

A horse and buggy stands ready to carry visitors through the snowy grounds.

   

Bundled-up visitors brave the cold to do some ice-biking.           

Bundled-up visitors brave the cold to do some ice-biking. 

   

A temporary addition to the city's skyline.          

A temporary addition to the city's skyline.

   

A man is seen through an ice silhouette. Altogether, the ice festival costs around 6 million RMB ($909,000) to stage.        Jonathan Browning   

A man is seen through an ice silhouette. Altogether, the ice festival costs around 6 million RMB ($909,000) to stage.

Jonathan Browning   

Food vendors do a brisk business as crowds flock to Harbin for the festival.          

Food vendors do a brisk business as crowds flock to Harbin for the festival.

    

A snow sculpture within the ice city depicts a fairy-tale scene.          

A snow sculpture within the ice city depicts a fairy-tale scene.

    

This year marks the 27th edition of Harbin's festival, and the ice city now includes more than 1,500 exhibition booths.            

This year marks the 27th edition of Harbin's festival, and the ice city now includes more than 1,500 exhibition booths. 

    

Traditionally, lanterns were used to light the ice buildings. Today, the decoration technology trends toward lasers and gaudy flourescent lights, but in some places within the city, lanterns are still used.          

Traditionally, lanterns were used to light the ice buildings. Today, the decoration technology trends toward lasers and gaudy flourescent lights, but in some places within the city, lanterns are still used.

    

The ice is taken from the Songhua River and carved into blocks using swing saws. Chisels, ice picks, and other smaller saws are then used to carve the more intricate details.           

The ice is taken from the Songhua River and carved into blocks using swing saws. Chisels, ice picks, and other smaller saws are then used to carve the more intricate details.

    

De-ionized water is sometimes used instead of river ice to create clear blocks -- which produce better lighting effects.
De-ionized water is sometimes used instead of river ice to create clear blocks -- which produce better lighting effects.

A child beneath a true adorned with frozen foliage.        

A child beneath a true adorned with frozen foliage. 

 

An ice labyrinth is one of the many attractions within the city. 

An ice labyrinth is one of the many attractions within the city. 

The sun sets over an ice cupola.

The sun sets over an ice cupola.

Visitors are undeterred by the frigid temperatures.

Visitors are undeterred by the frigid temperatures.

Fireworks explode over the towers of ice.

Fireworks explode over the towers of ice.

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