Now in its 26th year, China's annual Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, is one of the largest and most popular festival of its kind in the world. Held in Harbin, the capital of the Heilongjiang Province in Northeast China, the annual event attracts thousands of visitors each year, despite arctic-like temperatures.
All the life-size sculptures hand-carved out of compressed snow are enhanced with decorations ranging from high technology laser beams to traditional lanterns. Even the sculptures themselves range from those of giant castles, churches and cathedrals to ancient Chinese Pagodas and large Buddha figures.
As the years go by, the sculptures are becoming increasingly intricate and sophisticated. Amongst the most memorable ones last year was the 'Flame Castle', which was not only a masterpiece, but changed color constantly thanks to state-of-the art LED lighting.
To add to the fun, a lot of the sculptures have built-in ice slides. The biggest one last year, was one that led to a structure that was built five-stories high. Visitors took the stairs up, admired the golden structure and then, slid all the way down.
Other outstanding sculptures included a giant chessboard, made entriely from ice. And of course. no festival is complete without treats - In this case they comprise of frozen strawberries and pineapple - hard enough to break any visitors tooth!
While the 2010 festival doesn't officially start until January 5th, visitors who simply can't wait can go in as early as Christmas Eve, when the 'testing' period begins. The festival is expected to continue until the end of March, when the last of the snow melts.
sources: chinadaily.com, rtoddking.com