Geography and Climate
Harbin is the capital of Heilongjiang province in northeast China. It is a provincial center of politics, economy and culture as well as the largest transportation hub in northeast China. The city was once a colony of Russia in 19th century, when the Russian immigrants left the city with wonderful architecture, numerous Orthodox and Christian churches, giving the city an exotic appearance. Located at the southern bank of the Songhua River, Harbin covers an area of 53,100 square kilometers with a population of 9.89 million. Harbin is honored as the ‘Pearl on the swan’s neck’ and ‘Ice City’ for its long and snowy winter. The city is a gateway to trade with Russia and has a reputation for luxury goods like fur coats, and brand-name clothes. Also known as the ‘capital of fashion’, it is said that new designs from Paris and Moscow reached here before arriving in Shanghai.
Because of its location in the north end of the country and the high latitude (same as Montreal), Harbin is famous for its extremely cold winters. The city almost enjoys the biggest temperature difference comparing to other Chinese cities and winter temperature can be as low as 30 centi-degrees minus. It has four distinct seasons with long and dry winters and short and cool summer. The annual average temperature is 3.6 centi-degrees with the even precipitation accounted for 569 mm.
Tourism and Culture
Harbin is famous for its very cold winters and the city truly comes alive in the season when the city becomes the venue for the world-famous winter snow and ice sculpture festival. Coinciding with the Lunar New Year, the festival has been held since 1985 and the official date is January 5th each year. The Ice and Snow World features enormous size buildings made from blocks of ice where visitors can enjoy the unique glamour of the Ice city. What’s more, the renowned tourist spot has been broadcasted by National Geography, Japanese NHK and other famous global channels which have honored it with a worldwide reputation. Thus the festival attracts an increasing number of visitors from all over the world with its fantastic ice sculptures.
The Sun Island which located along the northern bank of Songhua River is a wetland park which is granted as the national natural reserve as well as a renowned summer resort. Besides its splendid natural beauty, Sun Island is also a place for various winter activities such as the Yabuli Alpin Skiing, winter-swimming and the ice-lantern exhibition etc. Harbin’s ski resorts are among the best in China, attracting winter sports enthusiasts from all over. Summers in Harbin are also worth mention: people throng the streets in the evening to eat kabobs and drink the famous local beer, Harbin beer.
Harbin has long been the industrial base in the Northern China, and it has developed an industrial system with complete range. The major industries in the city include equipment manufacturing, pharmaceutical, food processing, and petrochemical. The city boasts a number of advantages like abundance of natural resources, well-developed transportation system and plenty of human resources thus it has been striving hard becoming a trade and shopping center of the region. In 2009, Harbin’s GDP was around 325.8 billion RMB, a year-on-year increase of 13.0%. Its primary, secondary and tertiary industries increased separately by 6.8%, 13.3% and 14.0%.
Because of its mechanized modern production pattern and the nutrient rich soil, today’s Harbin is the base for the production of commodity grain and an ideal location to setting up agriculture business. In 2009, the general output of agricultural production reached 72.4 billion RMB, increased by 6.9%. In addition, the annual event of Harbin Trade and Economic fair which takes place between June 15th and 19th is considered as a bridge connecting Harbin with the world economy. Having been held for 17 years, the event has resulted in contracts of over 90 billion USD and FDI totaling 570 million USD till 2008.
Harbin is one of the few cities in China which are abounding in educational resources and it is a central city of scientific research and study in the region. Harbin Institute of Technology is the most famous university in the city. It is a comprehensive university which offers a wide range of traditional and specialized subject interests. Founded in 1920, the university has developed into a crucial research university focusing on engineering, with qualified faculties in the areas of science, management, and social science etc.