It's like Burning Man, but with ice, and in China


Above and below: tourists look at ice sculptures during a light testing prior to the Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival in Harbin, Heilongjiang province. The bricks look like pixels, don't they? The event opens on January 5, 2011, according to local media. Photographs taken December 25, 2010.

More images below!





  1. This is really quite amazing looking, would love to see something like this some day. Not sure i agree with the comparison to Burning Man though.

    1. Sure, why not? Lots of outrageous, site-specific, temporary art that takes into account the local climate and terrain. Work with me here.

      1. If Burning Man had only been about that… :)

        I’d let the comparison pass if they have Hanggai playing at the festival. Even if the art was not created by the participants.

        But I have to say that it IS some crazy stuff, and I appreciate the effort. And they’ve made sure that there is no external light pollution (hopefully through peaceful methods).

  2. Er, yeah. It’s nothing like Burning Man at all. Especially because there are no naked hippies running around. Cool, yes, BM, no.

    1. It’s just you. Her left hand isn’t very well sculpted though; perhaps it isn’t finished.

      This stuff is frickin amazing.

    2. I thought the same thing too when I looked at it at first, but when you play violin your hand is twisted that way, so it is indeed a left hand.

      1. The fact that the thumb is mostly hidden probably is what is throwing people off. And that hand is at a bit of a severe angle, which might by why the figure has had to go all super-saiyan.

        They are really amazing snow sculptures. You don’t see them on that scale in many places. Living in Minnesota, ice palaces have a special charm, too.

    3. Sorry to drag out a horse that had been put to be, but I hope this helps.

      I trained in violin as a kid, and I’ve gotta say the left hand looks reversed to me. The raised finger would usually represent the pinky, and it should be the furthermost inward of the four fingers grouped there. The orientation of the hand is correct, but the slant is wrong for the fingers to be resting in that position.

      It would look awkward no matter which finger (pinky or pointer) the artist had raised. You don’t grab the neck of a violin like a pipe, the fingers build a bridge over it. Unfortunately, that would have made for a very weak snow sculpture. So what we’re presented with is a combination of someone clamping down on an instrument and flourishing a finger delicately. Because there’s no overall finger spread, it’s going to look odd no matter where the pointed finger’s located.

      All that said: The more important thing is that the sculpture is stunning. The error is mainly noticeable because the rest of the piece is so well done. The right hand, which is doing the bowing, looks exactly as it should. It’s holding the bow with only the force needed to let the instrument do the work. I would love to see this lit by evening sun.

  3. Yeah, Burning Man is completely unique in all the universe and HOW DARE YOU make a soft comparison. There isn’t even a single VW Bug covered in orange fake fur and cabinet hinges.

  4. Xeni – You obviously haven’t come and visit us at the Burn.
    Crew Arctica runs the ice distribution at BM at Ice 9, Center Ice, and Ice Cubed – and our world looks exactly like that!

    Come say hi, we’ll give you a tour!

    Ice Operations Manager

  5. So… a week-long festival where people camp and live away from civilization, with a non-branded gift culture, with a strong message of tolerance and sharing with fellow human beings?

    If indeed this festival is a spiritual, social, multi-faceted retreat like Burning Man, sign me up!! – If on the other hand, it’s just a big exhibition of ice sculptures, let me compare the Fallas in Valencia, or the US Open Sandcastle Competition also to Burning Man. It’d be a shame to use BM simply as a nice buzzword to describe anything a little odd or out of the ordinary.

    1. Marco, your messed up, way too much Dust.

      ALL of these wonderful things everyone talks about on how environmentally “friendly” Burning Man is totally fucking with you: The Bureau of Land Management created these rules, not the wonderful Green Minded burners. Burners were even forced to create burning platforms because they were “scaring” the land with scorch marks. Not even water can be poured onto the ground.

      It’s called Black Rock CITY. It IS civilization. And most of you don’t camp, you have trailers. Bringing civilization with you is not roughing it. Here’s a map of your “city”

      And this picture does resemble China’s Ice city….

      By the way, Burning Man does not belong to you. Burning Man relies on the U.S. Government issuing permits for the event to be held on PUBLIC LAND. By the way, your lease is up…..

      If Burning Man is truly about “leave it as you find it” then why not take all that acrid smoke you all produced with you when you leave? And what about all that dust you launch up into the air?

      As far as being away from “civilization” the town of Gerlach-Empire is about 30 miles away. A yodeler could even call for help.

      And you even have “rules” imposed on you with police, firefighters and Rangers present. You’re not as free to be you and me as you believe:

      An imposed curved grid street structure.
      A speed limit of 5 mph (8 km/h).
      A ban on driving, except for approved “mutant vehicles” and service vehicles.
      Restrictions and imposing of safety standards on mutant vehicles.
      A ban on campfires and Tiki torches.
      Burning your own art must be done on an approved burn platform.[
      A ban on fireworks.
      A ban on firearms.
      A ban on dogs.


      Oh, you BUILT an airport that serves only Burning Man.

      Burn On.

      1. I am aware of Xeni’s worldliness.
        But it seemed to me that it was like comparing an apple to a fruit salad; or a single concert to the Glade festival; a monothematic ice-sculpture event to a multi-thematic, much larger art festival.

        It also bothered me that lately there’s a lot of throwing around the ‘Burning Man’ comparison, just like ‘Web 2.0’ and ‘Social Networks’. They become a buzzword to use anywhere, hoping to get more eyeballs.

        However, the event looks great! – It seems to me it can stand on its own two legs without need of comparisons. It deserves its own reputation! The Ice and Snow Festival already has a ring to it, and if the name was featured in the title, maybe it could help communicating it.

        1. Really nice of you to answer the guy/gal in a mature and diplomatic manner. It’s always good to have people remind you that a discussion doesn’t have to deteriorate into a shouting match. Kudos to you.

  6. the art does seem like Burning Man, and the more I think about what is supposed to be different about the two countries, the more I realize my high horse is waist deep in the snow. Great analogy Xeni.

  7. Great photos, interesting story Xeni!

    Could all you nitpicking metaphor-nazis just SHUT THE HELL UP? I’m trying to come down off my sugar high here. THANK you.

  8. I had to google Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival in Harbin, Heilongjiang in order to satisfy my curiosity. Amazing pictures!! I wish something like that was going on near me. Best I get in Columbus, Ohio is Christmas lights at the Zoo.

  9. OMG! The Sacrilegious Travesty of Contaminating the Hallowed Name of BurninG MaN!

    I love this beautiful winter art. Thank you for posting it.

  10. I think it’s very important for everyone to get really uptight about the Burning Man comparison instead of marveling at the cool shit that was built here.

  11. Nothing wrong with comparing it to Burning Man (haven’t been yet myself but have a friend who goes every year). It is LIKE BM but its NOT BM. My undergrad does an event every year called Berserker that I call mini-Burning Man of the Upper Michigan.

  12. I’m willing to bet that even with China’s outrageous pollution, this event still smells better than Burning Man.

  13. I just found out I can’t go to Burning Man this year because I have to go teach STUPID SCHOOL in STUPID JAPAN. Way to rub it in, Boingboing :P

      1. I’d argue the broken education system (and, let’s face it, other institutions/organizations throughout the country) in the USA today actually does teach stupid; it doesn’t teach kids to really actively think and learn for both themselves AND all the people around them, only to think about and learn about what is given to them by superiors to serve very limited interests (such as exclusively seeking financial/material-profit-above-all-else), and nothing more, and anything more is not to be thought about or investigated, or “society would crumble into chaos” (replace that quotation with whatever fear-mongering statement the Self-Appointed Self-Important Moral Police might come up with, if you wish). But the general philosophy of Burning Man seems to me very different from that.

  14. Being Civil are we?

    Most of you are a bunch of fucking idiots. You have turned Burning man into a religion and now your beating Xeni over the head with the cross you made in a desert art class. Just say it, your desert PAGANS, no big deal, spit it out. Yes, RELIGION, you even have Ten Commandments (principles) and the followers are called BURNERS. Follow them or you might go to hell. And if burning man is based off of stupid people who bake all day long with playa dust in every orifice then I guess hell would be….China right about now?

    Ten Principles

    Radical Inclusion
    Anyone may be a part of Burning Man. We welcome and respect the stranger. No prerequisites exist for participation in our community.

    Burning Man is devoted to acts of gift giving. The value of a gift is unconditional. Gifting does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value.

    In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.

    Radical Self-reliance
    Burning Man encourages the individual to discover, exercise and rely on his or her inner resources.

    Radical Self-expression
    Radical self-expression arises from the unique gifts of the individual. No one other than the individual or a collaborating group can determine its content. It is offered as a gift to others. In this spirit, the giver should respect the rights and liberties of the recipient.

    Communal Effort
    Our community values creative cooperation and collaboration. We strive to produce, promote and protect social networks, public spaces, works of art, and methods of communication that support such interaction.

    Civic Responsibility
    We value civil society. Community members who organize events should assume responsibility for public welfare and endeavor to communicate civic responsibilities to participants. They must also assume responsibility for conducting events in accordance with local, state and federal laws.

    Leaving No Trace
    Our community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.

    Our community is committed to a radically participatory ethic. We believe that transformative change, whether in the individual or in society, can occur only through the medium of deeply personal participation. We achieve being through doing. Everyone is invited to work. Everyone is invited to play. We make the world real through actions that open the heart.

    Immediate experience is, in many ways, the most important touchstone of value in our culture. We seek to overcome barriers that stand between us and a recognition of our inner selves, the reality of those around us, participation in society, and contact with a natural world exceeding human powers. No idea can substitute for this experience.

    Burn Out

  15. I’ll be going there in two weeks, one of the reasons I came to live in this part of China was so that I could attend. BTW, the pollution here is bad, but not out of proportion with some major western cities.

  16. There is a winter burning man event near Pittsburgh, PA called Frostburn! Come join us! and

    When a group of Pittsburgh Burners thought to themselves: “What makes Burning Man special?” the answer was resounding: harsh conditions, amazing art, good people. And what harsh conditions were available? Winter, of course…cold, snowy, Pittsburgh winter. And thus “Frostburn” was born.

    Imagine the climatic opposite of Burning Man: a frozen forest where ice and snow join fire and steam as mediums… Where sharing warmth is not just a figure of speech, but a necessity. Where radical self-reliance and communal effort are critical for human survival…

    Frostburn thus far been a resounding success in bringing people together, showing off new art, and reminding us why we liked to play in the snow in the first place. We’ve had sweat lodges, viking ships, (clothing optional) Mr. Rogers sing-alongs, and even full service bars serving pierogies. Not to mention the snow-ball battles, polar bear plunges, and other winter activities. One of the most rewarding things, however, has been seeing people realize what they can do, huge contingents bringin’ it from climates where the temperature never sees 50, while others have come back just because they realized what they can do. Plus it’s made hot chocolate all the sweeter.

    Frostburn has some amenities…limited electrical sites, RV access, a heated bathroom…but more and more, people have been creating warm spaces for people to gather and be together and share stories (umm…and party). Won’t you join us?

    1. I’m from Alaska, that sounds like so much fun! The thing is, when it’s cold you can do a lot to keep warm. Not when it’s 120, no way to cool down.

  17. Not to feed the burning man thread hijacking too much, but as someone who’s been going for about 13 years now I feel compelled to say that it strikes me that YarbroughFair does an excellent job of summarizing what Burning Man must look like from a distance, while Marco Antonio and Xeni do a great job of summarizing what it looks like when you’ve actually been.

    And +1 marco to absolutely everything you said.

  18. I loved the “It’s like hot, except that it’s really cold” joke that got everyone’s knickers in a twist! Well done Xeni!
    I visited the Harbin Ice Festival about 15 years ago and even then it was still amazing. Ice carvers from all over the world come to show off their incredible talents, multi-story buildings made entirely of ice… and large numbers of brass monkeys running around looking for welders!

  19. If this was one inch close to burning man then the tanks would be there.
    Sure its a Ice Arts festival / build and I respect it for that, there are many of those. Similar to other festivals about the world from Europe to Oz. But nah its not the Burn wrong 10 principles.

    Gumby Roffo

  20. Yeesh, some burners are severely uptight. I’m pretty sure Xeni’s comparison to Burning Man is just that it’s a big technicolor orgy of lights at night, not the alternative society aspect.

    It’s people like y’all who are getting bent out of shape over this that I now understand why I see so many Craiglist housing postings with a “No Burners!” clause. Just because you’ve roughed it in the desert for a week doesn’t make you a superior being.

    How about we go back to being a welcoming community that wants people to join instead of shunning everyone who doesn’t “get it” and hasn’t lost (and found) their mind on the playa?

    Burn On.

  21. Heh,

    Funny thing…years ago (back in ’96/’97) a bunch of burners on the Burning Man email list were considering trying to put together a BMan-like event somewhere in winter…in the snow…. pretty soon thought better of it (the thought of a snowy landscape strewn with frozen-to-death raver-folk kind of put the final damper on the idea).


    -Chef Juke

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