The provincial capital is Harbin. a picturesque city with beautiful Songhuajiang River going through it. Known as "Oriental Moscow "or "Oriental Pairs".Why? the reasons are as followes. It lays to about 125 degrees East Longitude and 46 degrees North Latitude, about the same latitude as Venice in Italy. It is marvelous that the Water City and the Ice City are in the similar latitudes. Harbin is located southwest of Heilongjiang province. As an important traffic hub, it is an important city linking with Northeast Asia, Europe and the Pacific Ocean in the past. As the capital, it is a heart cross point of politics, finance and culture. Now it governs 8 districts and 11 counties and covers an area of 53 square kilometers with a population of 9.7 million. Therefore it boasts the largest area among the capital cities of China. In 2004, Harbin was ranked as one of the Comprehensive Urban Competitiveness of the Top 10 Cities.
If you read the map of China, you will find that the most important cities are clustered in the North China Plain and the Lower Yangtze Valley, why there has a big city in the Northeast China? In order to better known this; I want to tell you a bit of history of Harbin.
In a word, Harbin is old but young. Excavations reveal that 20,000 years ago, in the Paleolithic age, our ancestors began to live on this land. By the end of the 10th century, the Nuzhen nationality, the ancestor of the Manchu nationality had settled here. They named the area of their settlement “Alejin” meaning “swan” in the Nuzhen language. After years of evolution, Harbin has got it present name. I am sure during your short stay here; you will find the city seems to exude the same kind of charm as an elegant and graceful swan.
As luck would have it, a map of Heilongjiang looks like a beautiful snow, and Harbin the capital, is reputed to be a pearl on the neck of the swan.
A-cheng District, one of the 8 districts of Harbin, used to the capital city of the Jin Dynasty. During 38 years, Harbin witnesses the development of this dynasty and its 4 emperors. In 1153, Emperor Hailing, moved the capital from here to Beijing. From then on, This area was worshiped as the birthplace of the Jin and Qing Dynasty.
In 1896, Russia seized the power from the Qing government to extend its Siberian railway, also known as China-eastern railway, from Vladivostok into Northeast China. It is so important because it link the Asian and European continents. Harbin, then only a cluster of some fishing villages on the bank of Songhuajiang River, was chosen as the management. So the city growen up alongside the Far-East Railway.
When the railway was completed in 1903, the modern city was starting to take shape. Harbin became the virgin land of opportunity that attracted people seeking freedom and fortune from all over the world. Known for its economic importance, cultural tolerance and racial variety, Harbin evolved into a true international metropolis in modern sense. Also, the western liferel influenced the city. It boasted many China's firsts: first ski resort, first city bus, first ballet school and first cinema
Harbin is the only Chinese city started adapting the Paris model in city planning, and historically influenced by Russian culture and bears some striking similarities with Moscow. The time of 1920 saw its prosperity. A Russian military base was built during the Russo-Japanese War; it was a haven for White Russian refugees after the Russian Revolution of 1917 and had the largest Russian population of any city outside the Soviet Union. But from 1931 to 1945, the Japanese invader occupied Harbin, living people suffering memory. Attracted by its rich resources of coal and iron, they established a heavy industry base.
After liberation in 1946, Harbin was chosen as one of the candidate capitals of China, for it is the first city liberated by the CCP and strategically situated near the Soviet Union.
Harbin is one of China’s major industrial bases. In the past 50 years, Harbin has established a comprehensive and wide-ranging industrial system with mechanical and electrical industries as its mainstay. Harbin is famed for its “home of power”, which is derived from the three big plants: Harbin Electric Machinery Plant, Harbin Boiler Plant and Harbin Steam Turbine Plant. So far the industrial enterprises supplied one third of the country’s total installed capacity. “Harbin Fair for Trade and Economy” has become one of China’s most important trades fair.
As a city in a Far East, Harbin indeed has its own unique attractions as a tourist destination. Harbin has a temperate monsoon climate with four distinct seasons, but Harbin claims to be best in summer and winter, especially winter. So you are lucky to be here in season. Harbin has a moderate weather in summer, The Songhuajiang River winds through the northern part of the city and adds to its beauty. Sun Island with natural habitats and artificial features is Harbin’s biggest summer resort. In deep winter it becomes a sparking world of ice and snow, a city molded in jade and silver. The houses, built in different rels, are all mantled in snow. In the parks are many sculptures carved in ice, looking like the crystal palaces in fairyland. The annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival have been held since 1985, starting from January 5 and lasting one month. Winter activities in the festival include Yabuli Alpine Skiing, winter-swimming in the Songhuajiang River, and the ice-lantern exhibition in Zhaolin Garden. During that time, the real world and the fantasy world merge. If you have the opportunity to climb up the Dragon Tower, the highest steal structure TV tower in Asia, to have a bird’s view of Harbin, you will find that the icy city turns into a crystal world at night. Streets and buildings lit by ice lateens make the city look even more exotic than the daytime.
Harbin has a plenty of relics from Paleolithic age to semi-colony times. Harbin has 52 reserved points for cultural relic. In 1997 Harbin has been granted as one of the historical cultural cities. Harbin Confucian Temple is the most magnificent ancient architectural complex of the Northeast China, while the Central Street is the most beautiful pedestrian street in the Far East with all sorts of west rel architecture.
Harbin is a multi-nationality populated city whose unique popular culture is combined with all sorts of national cultures. Harbin people with forthright and bold character have many folk activities in all four seasons. On "Dragon Boat Day" of the early spring, millions of citizens enjoy themselves all night long on the banks of the beautiful Songhuajiang River and the Sun Island, the " touring of flower-decorated wagons " increases new colors to the city. When the night's curtain fall, in the park or on the square, people danced lightly to a " yangge "---- a popular Chinese dance unique in the north of China. And in this cold winter, I bet you can find plenty of activities yourselves everywhere.
Though Harbin is a city in the northeast border area, the traffic is convenient. The Taiping Airport is one of the 10 biggest airports in China. Meanwhile, Harbin is a railway center in northeast China. Now we have railways both for domestic and international transportation. Also, the Songhuajiang River is an important water route for tourism and trade between China and Russia. Harbin Port is the largest port along Songhuajiang River.
If you don’t have any individual request, our journey will be done in 4 districts. Namely, Nangang District, Daoli District, Daowai District and Songbei District, for all the scenic spots listed in the itinerary are located on these districts. Nangang District has a better “fengshui” then other districts, because its topography is higher then other areas, so when the Songhuajiang River flooded, this area is safe and sound. Naturally, when Harbin was in the colonial times, Nangang was the government seat and where the affluent lived. There used to have 15 foreign consulates and concentrate countless foreign establishments. It was titled “the paradise of the rich”. The Chinese-Eastern railway linking the Asian and European continents also serving as a boundary line for Daoli and Daowai. Daoli District is and was the commercial center, and Daowai District was the place where the poor inhabited. Songbei District used to be a fishing village and summer resort in Harbin. Now, the government makes it as a new district to meet the increased need of the economic activities.