The Harbin local culture is based on Han culture, combined with Manchu culture and Russian culture. This combination of cultures influences the local architecture style, food, music, and customs. The city of Harbin was appointed a UNESCO City of Music on 22 June 2010 as part of the Creative Cities Network.
Russian Influence & Harbin Sausage
Harbin today is still very much influenced by its Russian past. A city once under Russian rule, it is now a center of trade with that country. The influence of Russia came with the construction of the China Far East Railway, an extension of the Trans-Siberian Railway, and Harbin, known formerly as a fishing village, began to prosper as the largest commercial center of North Eastern Asia.Tsarist Russia encouraged Russian settlement in their important Trans-Siberian-Railway outpost by waiving the then 25-year long military service obligation. For Jews who settled there, the restrictions applying in Russia were also waived.
The local cuisine in Harbin is also Russian-influenced. Harbin's bakeries are famous for their bread da-lie-ba in local dialect, derived from the Russian word khleb for "bread". Harbin's sausages (harbin hong-chang) are another notable product, in that they tend to be of a much more European flavours than other Chinese sausages.
Many Jews came to Harbin during World War II, some of whom died in Harbin and were buried there. There is at least one cemetery with some tombstones bearing the Star of David. It is on a little hill (or cliff) overlooking a busy railway in Nan Gang district.
Harbin is located in Northeast China under the direct influence of the cold winter wind from Siberia. The average temperature in summer is 21.2 °C (70.2 °F) and -16.8 °C (1.8 °F) in winter.
The annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival has been held since 1985. Although the official start date is January 5 each year, in practice, many of the sculptures can be seen before. While there are ice sculptures throughout the city, there are two main exhibition areas: Enormous snow sculptures at Sun Island (a AAAAA-rated recreational area on the opposite side of the Songhua River from the city) and the separate "Ice and Snow World" that operates each night. Ice and Snow World features illuminated full size buildings made from blocks of 2–3 feet thick crystal clear ice directly taken from Songhua River which passes through the city. Winter activities in the festival include Yabuli Alpine Skiing, winter-swimming in Songhua River, and the ice-lantern exhibition in Zhaolin Garden, which was first held in 1963. Snow carving and ice and snow recreations are world famous.
The "Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival" is one of the four largest ice and snow festivals in the world, along with Japan's Sapporo Snow Festival, Canada's Quebec City Winter Carnival, and Norway's Ski Festival. Every November, the city of Harbin sends teams of ice artisans to the United States to promote their unique art form. It takes more than 100 artisans to create ICE!, the annual display of indoor Christmas-themed ice carvings in National Harbor, Maryland; Nashville, Tennessee; Kissimmee, Florida; and Grapevine, Texas.
The Music City
Being considered the fashion capital of China in the 1920s, Harbin had the earliest access to European classical music in China. Founded in 1908, the Harbin Symphony Orchestra was China's oldest symphony orchestra. Harbin No.1 Music School was also the first music school in China, which was founded in 1928. Nearly 100 famous musicians have studied at the school since its founding, said Liu Yantao, deputy chief of Harbin Cultural, Press and Publication Bureau (HCPPB). In 2006, a 1,000-piano concert was held in Harbin's Central Street. UNESCO recognizes China's Harbin as "The Music City" as part of the Creative Cities Network in 2010.
Harbin Summer Music Concert
Harbin Summer Music Concert ('Concert' for short) is a national concert festival, which is held on August 6 every two years for a period of 10~11 days. During the concert, multiple evenings, concert, race and activities are held. The artists come from all over the world.
The 'Harbin Summer Music Month', which was then renamed as 'Harbin Summer Music Concert', was held in August 1958. The first formal Concert was held on August 5, 1961 in Harbin Youth Palace, and kept on every year until 1966 when the Cultural Revolution started in China. In 1979, the Concert was recovered and from 1994, it has been held every two years. In 2008, the 29th Harbin Summer Music Concert was held on August 6.
The architecture style of Harbin shows a unique combination of oriental and European architecture styles. The city is well known for its unique, Russian and other European-influenced architecture. The architecture in Harbin brings the city the name of "Oriental Moscow" and "Oriental Paris".
Zhongyang Street (Central Street, also known, using the Russian word for Chinese, as Kitaiskaya Street), one of the main business streets in Harbin, is a perfect remnant of the bustling international business activities at the turn of the 20th century. First built in 1898, The 1.4-kilometer long street is a veritable museum of European architectural styles: Baroque and Byzantine fa?ades, little Russian bakeries and French fashion houses, as well as non European architectural styles: American eateries, and Japanese restaurants.
The Russian Orthodox church, Saint Sophia Cathedral, is also located in this central district of Daoli. St. Sophia took nine years to build and was completed in 1932. The 53.35-meter-high Church, which covers an area of 721 square meters, is a typical representative of the Byzantine architecture. It has now been made into a museum as a showcase of the diverse architecture of Harbin.
Many citizens believe that the Orthodox church damaged the local feng shui, so they donated money to build a Chinese monastery in 1921, the Ji Le Temple. There were more than 15 Russian Orthodox churches and two cemeteries in Harbin until 1949. Mao's Communist Revolution, and the subsequent Cultural Revolution, saw many of them destroyed. Now, about 10 churches remain, while services are held only in the Church of the Intercession in Harbin.
Harbin has produced many world-class winter sports champions, including short track star and six-time Olympic medalist Wang Meng, 2006 pairs figure skating silver medalists Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao and 2010 Vancouver Olympics figure skating gold medalists Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo.
It has an indoor speed skating arena, Heilongjiang Indoor Rink, as one of four in China.
It's a real winter sport centre. There are even plans to introduce bandy.
The 1996 Asian Winter Games were held in Harbin, and the city also bid for hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics. The Alpine skiing events would have taken place in the Yabuli ski resort. In the frame of this campaign to assert its role on the world scene, Harbin was the host city of the 2009 Winter Universiade. Harbin planned to spend US$ 1.5 billion in construction and renovation of its sport infrastructure for this Universiade. Harbin also bid for the 2012 Winter Youth Olympics, but was passed over so still has its sights on the Olympics, perhaps in 2022.