The time of year has come again when Northeast China's
Heilongjiang Province is transformed into an exquisite, shining
And last weekend witnessed the competition to decipher the best
ice sculptures created by artists from both home and abroad at
Harbin's 22nd International Ice and Snow Festival.
This year, onlookers at the event had the chance to see the best
of Eastern and Western ice sculpture culture.
As one of the highlights of Harbin's chilly winter with
temperatures often falling below -30 C, the month-long China Harbin
ice festival competition drew an unprecedented 42 teams from 19
countries and regions.
Acting perhaps as a prelude for the celebration of the 2006
Russian Year in China, Russia sent 17 teams, consisting of more
than 40 sculptors, to participate in this year's competition.
Dozens of ice blocks, measuring 2 meters in height and width,
and 60 centimeters thick, were positioned in a circle in the city's
Contestants were then required to transform these ice blocks
into their own creations in two and a half days, and they were then
judged on Sunday afternoon.
Alexandre Shadrin and Dzhuluspan Markov from Yakut of Russia won
the competition with their work entitled "Resurrection of
"My two sons and I just came here for fun," said Zhang Dexiang,
a local citizen of Harbin, who had entered almost every ice
sculpture competition since it was founded 22 years ago.
"I now get really excited when every winter comes," said the
62-year-old man, who is a three-time winner of the event.
Zhang is a "real celebrity" in the city's ice and snow sculpture
circle. Dubbed as an "ever-green tree," he has grabbed numerous
honors and prizes over the past two decades.
This time round, Zhang has teamed up with a friend and helped
his two sons form another team.
"I am from the No 3 team of China and my sons represent No 6,"
said the retired art teacher of a local middle school proudly.
This family's works are undoubtedly the most eye-catching
amongst all the sculptures.
The father's work was named "Life is Just Like a Song," with
several pigeons flying above a giant French horn, and won an award
for technique in the competition.
"My work would always be inspiring," he said. "One's life should
be like a sonorous song with an inspiring tune.
"Can you hear the horn's sound and see a spirit rising as the
pigeons take flight?"
The two sons' work is called the "Quiet Quiet World," with a
serene picture of the sea displaying many tropical and flying
"The world has suffered a lot this year, I hope to convey a
sense of peace and tranquility through my work," said Zhang Xuetao,
the elder of the two sons.
"This is my wish too, like father, like son," he said. At the
top of the sculpture, a flying fish can be seen stretching its fins
upwards, seemingly about to fly.
"It is more dynamic, bringing vitality and a feeling of movement
to the work," he said, adding that the fish was actually added
later upon inspiration.
"I always felt that it lacked something when I first finished
it, but I couldn't see where," he said.
"When I cast a glance at the leading pigeon on my father's work,
bang, I suddenly knew what was missing," he said.
Though his father kept praising his sons for mastering many of
his techniques, they are aware that they still lack experience.
"I had originally planned to put this somewhere above the large
central fish," he said, pointing to a starfish in the right-hand
corner of his sculpture.
"But my father said it would spoil the whole momentum of the
sculpture and he is right," he said.
"Original ideas are important, but experience is most
important," he said.
Standing before his sons' work, Zhang nodded approvingly.
"We are a family of ice and snow," he said cheerfully.
As the only mixed-country team, Anke Kuipers from Holland and
Kim DeRusscher from Belgium produced an eye-catching sculpture with
their modern tools and exotic style.
The couple are both freelance sculptors and met each other two
and a half years ago while working together on a sculpture project
in Holland, where they fell in love and began working together.
DeRusscher said that he received an invitation to this
competition when he was in Italy.
"I thought it was a great opportunity to come to China, so I
came," he said.
DeRusscher usually sculpts with marble, but he said that it is
not that different sculpting with ice.
"Basically, they are the same, but this competition has more
limitations as you have only this piece of ice before you," he
"But it is Ok, because we always have a lot of ideas," said
"We can always find a fitting one (idea) for both of us," she
said. "Maybe that is why we want to work together," she said with a
Their work at this event has been called "Sun Bather" with a
scene depicting a girl sitting under an open umbrella held in her
"The image appears very deep from far away; but when you walk
closer, you will see that it is not that deep," said DeRusscher on
the pairs' work, which won second prize at this years event.
However, he appears not to care about winning. "I don't like
competition; I only want to create a work I like.
"I only pay attention to the quality and feeling of my work," he
It is interesting to witness the variation between the works of
the foreigners and the Chinese. The former appear to depict
something fairly abstract and include sculptures of people, while
the Chinese sculptors have mainly focused on something more
specific, usually animals.
"I think this is because the Chinese were forbidden to carve
human bodies in history," said DeRusscher.
Zhang Songtao has his own opinions towards this.
"Sculptures can reflect the culture and style of a country," he
"You see the foreigners would usually bring something abstract,
such as a legendary figure, into their sculpture," he said,
pointing at a sculpture showing a man leading a fierce monster.
"They have paid a lot of attention to having a large centerpiece
with a nice posture and harmonious proportions, while we tend to
attach more importance to carving something small but exquisite,"
he said, pointing to an almost lifelike fish on his sculpture.
Zhang Dexiang also pointed out the different equipment used by
the Chinese and foreign sculptors.
"We are really lacking behind with regards to our equipment,
compared to them (foreigners)," he said, in reference to the
advanced tools that have been used by the European contestants,
such as electric drills and saws.
(China Daily January 11, 2006)