The original ice lanterns of Harbin were rough and simple in history. From the very beginning, they were once used for lighting at night when the fishermen were fishing in the Songhua River, then and used as decoration in front of the gates. As time goes on, the ice lanterns are gradually accepted as an art-form in Harbin. They embodied very unique cultural features and artistic fascination.
The modern ice lantern art of Harbin, which originates from the beginning of 60s, is developed from the traditional simple folk art style. Based on garden art, it makes use of the expression of construction and sculpture, and adopts electricity as the light source to build various ice scenery. During the second half of the 19th century, ice lantern gradually developed into the representative of Harbin ice & snow culture and art. In order to carry forward and develop the art of Harbin ice lantern, the local government held the first Harbin Ice Lantern Show in Zhaolin Park in 1963. Since then, it has become the showplace of ice lantern art, attracting a large number of domestic and oversea tourists for a visit.
With the vigorous propaganda by the global media, the Harbin Ice Lantern Show has become Harbin's main clain to fame these years. Every January, Zhaolin Park becomes home to extraordinarily detailed, imaginative and downright wacky snow and ice sculptures. They range from huge recreations of iconic buildings and world-famous figures to animals and interpretations of ancient legends. At night they are lit up with colored lights to create a magical effect.
The Harbin Ice Lantern Show is also known as Harbin Ice Lantern Art Fair, Harbin Ice Lantern Artistic Show or Harbin Ice Lantern Garden Party. Being one of the most important part as well as the highlight of the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, it officially gets going on 5 January and runs for more than two months.