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Ice City

  • General Information

    Other Name: Pinkiang, District: Heilongjiang, State: Northeast China, China
    Area: 58.071  kmĀ²
    Languages Spoken: Mendarin
    Long Distance Code: +86451
    Importance: Its one of the main tourist destinations of China.
    Best Time to Visit: June to August and April
    International Access: Well connected with rest of the world.
  • Description

    Human settlement in the Harbin area dates from at least 2200 BC (late Stone Age). It was formerly called Pinkiang
  • Location

    Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang Province, is located in the middle reaches of the Songhua River in the south of the province.
  • Climate

    Cold Climate
In 1903, with the completion of the Sino-Russia railway, connecting Vladivostok to northeast China, the Russian No.4 Army Division arrived in this region. After Russia's shameful failure against the Japanese in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), a plan to reconsolidate the confidence of the army by building a imposing spiritual symbol was proposed. Thus the magnificent St.Sofia Church was born, completed in 1907. Large scale expansion and renovation then started in 1923, and after a nine years' intensive job, the biggest Orthodox church in the far east was finally completed and stood much as it does today.

The Japanese Germ Warfare Experimental Base (Riben xijun shiyan jidi) was set up in 1939 to "research", presumably, the capabilities of the soul and the endurance of the human body. Run by the Japanese army's Unit 731 (Qi san yao budui), the research center experimented upon many of the captives of the viscous war in Northeast Asia, including Soviet, Korean, British, Mongolian and mostly Chinese prisoners of war (POWs). As with other examples of the demonic brutality that such oppressive authoritarian societies can be stretched to doing, from Auschwitz to Nanjing, the Germ Warfare Experimental Base nowadays shows little of the grisly senselessness that its recent past should emphasize. The sight is said to have witnessed the execution of over 3000 POWs in the most horrific way: frozen, bombed, roasted, infected, injected, dissected...alive until dead.

Almost as chilling and sad as the events themselves is the umbrella of denial that now has spread over much of this period of history, with allegations and misinformation coming from many sides. Just before the 1945 retake of the city by the Soviets the Japanese apparently did their utmost to cover up the evidence of this area, blowing up the site. Allegedly, the Americans also gave the Japanese scientists who worked in the base, prominent in their respective fields, immunity from prosecution in return for research findings. It was not until the 1980s that a Japanese journalist published his findings of the role of the army in the Northeast that, seemingly, the whole truth came out. Nowadays many Chinese are adamant, and with good but possibly overzealous reasons, in their hatred of the Japanese. "Is said to", "apparently", "allegedly", "seemingly", "possibly" are words that appear with frequent maddening regularity here.

The museum that now commemorates this site is situated near to the spot that the original base stood, some 30km south-west of Harbin, near to the little town of Pingfang. The site is interesting for those into history, although the museum is small (two rooms) and has, see above, little evidence of the true past. There are, however, a few photographs, with Chinese captions, and the unearthed site of the original base that could be worth a look.

In summer, the island serves as a natural river beach swimming resort and sanatorium area. The island boasts several fine beaches on either bank, a profusion of lakes for boating, swimming pools, sunbathing facilities, a fairground, a water world and an arms museum, to name but a few. The middle and northern part of the island is composed of mainly forested areas and a large garden. Various different styled recreational buildings were built around the "Sun Lake" and the "Lotus Pond". With hidden paths winding throughout, the park is a nice area to stroll and try to get away from the crowds, lushly vegetated with trees and flowers. Barbecues and picnics can also be arranged in one of the meadows here.

During wintertime, when the island is gracefully covered with snow, the Sun Island is used as the playground for various winter sports. Skiing, Hockey, Ice-skating, and Sledding games are all organized here. More importantly, the renowned annual Snow Carving Festival is held here.

The Resort is currently not only the biggest but also the best established and facilitated skiing resort in China. The 3800m long main skiing trail here is located at an altitude of 1300m. Cable car lifts are available. The whole resort is surrounded by imposing mountain ranges lavishly covered with pine forests. Besides the spectacular view, wild animals are also frequent sights on the resort. In February 1996, the Yabuli Ski Resort hosted the third Asian Winter Sports Games, the biggest winter sports event ever held in China