Shaping beauty in cold: The artisans behind China's impressive ice and snow sculptures

(People's Daily Online) 13:38, March 01, 2024

"We worked nine hours a day outdoors in temperatures ranging from 20 to 30 degrees Celsius below zero," recalled Yu Zhanwu, a 48-year-old Chinese artisan, as he discussed his team's construction of a dragon-themed snow sculpture in Changchun, northeast China's Jilin Province.

The team spent about a month carving a dragon-themed sculpture, the main attraction of Jingyue Snow World, a scenic spot within Jingyuetan National Forest Park.

Photo shows snow sculptures in Jingyue Snow World in Changchun, northeast China's Jilin Province. (Photo/Changchun Daily)

"The snow sculpture is 70 meters long and 13 meters tall. We used 13,000 cubic meters of snow to create it," said Yu, a former wood carver with over a decade of experience in ice and snow sculpture creation.

"Our hands hurt from the cold. We often become drenched in sweat during work, and as soon as we stop, we feel cold all over," shared Yu. Despite the challenges, he expressed satisfaction in crafting ice and snow sculptures, finding joy in the process and experiencing a profound sense of achievement upon completion.

During the recent Spring Festival holiday, the exquisite craftsmanship of artisans like Yu drew many visitors to Jingyuetan National Forest Park, where they marveled at the ice and snow sculptures on display.

The scenic area witnessed a remarkable surge in tourism during the holiday period, skyrocketing by 263 percent to 81,000 visitors, with revenue soaring by 422 percent year on year, according to a credible source.

The thriving business of the scenic area has benefited from an upswing in winter tourism across northern Chinese cities this year.

The stunning ice and snow sculptures in these cities are gaining popularity among tourists thanks to their exceptional artistry. Visitors are captivated by the intricate designs and are eager to learn more about the skilled artisans who make them.

In neighboring Heilongjiang Province, there are approximately 1,000 professional ice and snow sculptors and 3,000 amateur sculptors, according to Zhang Xin, deputy head and secretary-general of the Ice and Snow Sculpture Committee of the Heilongjiang Artists Association.

The province's ice and snow sculpture industry still faces a considerable shortage of professional sculptors, according to Zhang, who is also a teacher at the Fine Art College of Harbin Normal University in Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang Province.

The college launched an ice and snow sculpture major in 2008 and has since cultivated nearly 200 highly competent talents in ice and snow art, noted Zhang.

"It takes at least three years to train a skilled ice sculptor, who needs to acquire knowledge and skills related to aesthetics, design, and carving," said Zhang Weihong, a provincial-level inheritor of the intangible cultural heritage of ice and snow sculpting techniques.

"Only those with a true passion for the craft can pass it on to the next generation," he noted.

The rising demand for ice and snow sculptors has led to handsome economic benefits for sculptors. According to Zhang Weihong, the average daily wage of sculptors ranges between 800 yuan ($110) and 1,500 yuan, while highly skilled sculptors can earn 2,000 yuan to 3,000 yuan per day.

"Ice and snow sculptures represent a unique culture and lifestyle," said Cao Baoming, head of the expert group for protecting intangible cultural heritage in Jilin Province.

"Ice and snow sculptures, inspired by people's lives and production, are a reflection of ice and snow culture," he explained.

He emphasized that by integrating human wisdom, historical inheritance, vivid imagination, emotions, beautiful memories, and other elements, such works represent natural, historical, and cultural heritage.

(Web editor: Hongyu, Liang Jun)


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