Often nicknamed as "Oriental Moscow" or "Oriental Paris" for the erecting Western architecture at downtown, Harbin grew with the arrival of the far-east Railway, constructed by the Russians in the late 19th century. Flooded by White Russian refugees after 1917, Harbin had one of the largest European populations in East Asia. Most of the Europeans left the city following the rise to power of the Chinese Communists in 1946. In the city, you will see quite a few Western style buildings of Gothic, Baroque and Byzantine architectures built by the Russians and other Europeans.
Harbin is one of the most important industrial cities in China and a front-runner in industries like machinery manufacturing, food, medicine, and automobile. The city also has more than 13.3 million hectares of arable land and has the largest grain provisions in China. Meanwhile, Harbin has an advanced transportation network including one international airport, five railways and seven main highways that connect the major cities in China.
It is also becoming the center for winter activities like ski, skate, winter-swimming, watching ice lantern and ice sculptures, etc. In 1998, the city was awarded as one of the best tourist city in China. Every year starting from January 5 and lasting for one month, it is the Harbin's Ice and Snow Festival (since 1985), lots of celebrations will be held during the period. Many tourists from home and abroad come to visit this legendary "Ice City". Now the "Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival" has become one of the world's four largest ice and snow festivals, along with Japan's Sapporo Snow Festival, Canada's Quebec City Winter Carnival, and Norway's Ski Festival.
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