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Frigid northern China hosts snow and ice sculpture festival

Associated Press logo Associated Press 1/5/2017
In this Dec. 31, 2016, photo, visitors tour a castle-like structure made from blocks of ice at the Harbin International Ice and Snow festival held in Harbin in northeastern's China's Heilongjiang province. The city of Harbin in China's frigid northeast is in its final stages of preparation for one of the world's largest ice and snow festivals, an annual event that last year drew more than a million visitors. (Chinatopix via AP) © The Associated Press In this Dec. 31, 2016, photo, visitors tour a castle-like structure made from blocks of ice at the Harbin International Ice and Snow festival held in Harbin in northeastern's China's Heilongjiang province. The city of Harbin in China's frigid northeast is in its final stages of preparation for one of the world's largest ice and snow festivals, an annual event that last year drew more than a million visitors. (Chinatopix via AP)

HARBIN, China (AP) — The city of Harbin in China's frigid northeast is hosting one of the world's largest festivals featuring ice sculptures of animals, cartoon characters and famous landmarks.

In this Jan. 3, 2017, photo, released by Xinhua News Agency, contestants carve an ice sculpture during an international ice sculpture contest during the Harbin Ice and Snow festival in Harbin, capital of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. The city of Harbin in China's frigid northeast is in its final stages of preparation for one of the world's largest ice and snow festivals, an annual event that last year drew more than a million visitors. (Wang Jianwei/Xinhua via AP) © The Associated Press In this Jan. 3, 2017, photo, released by Xinhua News Agency, contestants carve an ice sculpture during an international ice sculpture contest during the Harbin Ice and Snow festival in Harbin, capital of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. The city of Harbin in China's frigid northeast is in its final stages of preparation for one of the world's largest ice and snow festivals, an annual event that last year drew more than a million visitors. (Wang Jianwei/Xinhua via AP)

The festival, which officially opens late Thursday and last year drew more than a million visitors, showcases the region's tradition of snow and ice carvings as well as ice swimming in the Songhua River. Harbin's temperatures can fall to minus 25 degrees Celsius (minus 13 degrees Fahrenheit).

In this Dec. 31, 2016, photo, visitors queue to enter a castle-like structure made from blocks of ice during the Harbin International Ice and Snow festival held in Harbin in northeastern's China's Heilongjiang province. The city of Harbin in China's frigid northeast is in its final stages of preparation for one of the world's largest ice and snow festivals, an annual event that last year drew more than a million visitors. (Chinatopix via AP) © The Associated Press In this Dec. 31, 2016, photo, visitors queue to enter a castle-like structure made from blocks of ice during the Harbin International Ice and Snow festival held in Harbin in northeastern's China's Heilongjiang province. The city of Harbin in China's frigid northeast is in its final stages of preparation for one of the world's largest ice and snow festivals, an annual event that last year drew more than a million visitors. (Chinatopix via AP)

Harbin's best ice and snow carvers have been busy putting the finishing touches to their sculptures, which are based on big chunks of ice that are dragged out of the nearby river and carved, brushed, and lit up.

In this Jan. 3, 2017, photo, released by Xinhua News Agency, contestants carve ice sculptures during an international ice sculpture contest as part of the Harbin Ice and Snow festival in Harbin, capital of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. The city of Harbin in China's frigid northeast is in its final stages of preparation for one of the world's largest ice and snow festivals, an annual event that last year drew more than a million visitors. (Wang Jianwei/Xinhua via AP) © The Associated Press In this Jan. 3, 2017, photo, released by Xinhua News Agency, contestants carve ice sculptures during an international ice sculpture contest as part of the Harbin Ice and Snow festival in Harbin, capital of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. The city of Harbin in China's frigid northeast is in its final stages of preparation for one of the world's largest ice and snow festivals, an annual event that last year drew more than a million visitors. (Wang Jianwei/Xinhua via AP)

The sculptures range from animals and cartoon characters to replicas of famous world monuments and landscapes, as well as a 340-meter (1,115-feet)-long slide that state media say took around 500 builders to complete.

Lu Fu was helping to finish a giant ice castle on a busy roundabout in Harbin, brushing it with a small rake.

"I feel happy. Especially after completion, I feel so excited when looking at the ice wall with lights on in distance," said Lu, who has been carving ice for more than 20 years. "Ice building is the pride of Harbin people."

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