Harbin | China Travel Guide
The city was founded in 1898 initially as a rural area along the Chinese Eastern Railway which was largely populated by Russians although that proportion has changed quite drastically since that time.
Located in China’s far north and domestically known as The Ice City, Harbin is renowned for its harsh winter temperatures and its embrace of these conditions extravagantly displayed in its famous annual Ice and Snow Festival.
Harbin is the capital city of Heilongjiang province which encompasses China’s furthest northern and eastern points.
Heilongjiang also shares China’s longest shared border with Russia which accounts for the extreme amount of Russian and European influence in Harbin.
Getting to Harbin is quite an easy task considering the city is home to one of China’s largest train stations and is the heart of the Trans-Manchurian Railway line.
Highspeed trains leave daily from the city to reach destinations all over the country.
There is also an international airport for those travelling abroad, as well as a number of overland ports throughout its surrounding borderlands with Russia.
Harbin is a unique city that carries a heavy Russian and European influence that has been present since the city’s founding.
The city today has developed a strong and unique culture of its own that is exclusive to Harbin and that coexists with the continued influence of previous decades.
Despite its thriving contemporary culture, Harbin has also seen many hard times in its relatively short history.
For example, during the Japanese occupation of Manchuria Harbin became the home of Unit 731.
The site was built and used by the Japanese Imperial Army for brutal experimentations with the purpose of advancing biological and chemical warfare tactics during WWII.
Unit 731 is responsible for many of the most gruesome war crimes committed by Japan during this period and often used local “criminals” as bodies for their grisly trials.
Harbin is the so-called home of standard Mandarin.
The dialect in Harbin is supposedly the most authentic version of any dialect in China and students are often referred to the city to study this pure version of the Mandarin language.
The city is most well-known due to its annual Snow and Ice Festival.
Winter in the Dongbei region of China is exceptionally harsh and Harbin is China’s most northern major city.
However, the city has made the best of this situation and has made itself famous for its embrace of the severe weather with this world-famous festival.
Visit Harbin during the winter months to see massive and extravagant sculptures, often with similar characteristics to the Russian and European architecture present throughout the city.