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Destination -> Heilongjiang province -> Harbin city

The city first came into being with the settlement, in 1097, of the Nazhen nationality. The place then was a natural, and cold, fishing area, situated right on the Songhua River. By the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368AD) the area was renamed Haerbin, literally meaning "where the fishing nets are dried".
It was later in the nineteenth century, however, that the city really began to thrive, and when the Russian influence, that was to remain and heavily dominate Harbin's history, began to take a hold. The Russian Tsar and Qing court agreed, in 1896, to the signing of a contract that granted the latter the right to build a railway from Dalian, through Harbin, to Vladivostok. By 1898, the city had become a Russian concession, with its own powerful Tsarist police force, as the Tsar continued to enforce his colonial plans for Manchuria, plans that were strengthened by the completion of the rail link in 1904. The Tsar was finally thwarted by the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05) that ended with a shock victory for the belligerent and rapidly militarized Japan. The Japanese took over the railway. The city then swung between these two nations, the Russians returning in force to the city in 1917, mostly White Russians fleeing the newly established Bolshevik state, the Japanese taking control in 1932 as a part of their Manchukuo invasion, and the Soviets retaking the city in 1945 and remaining dominant here for almost ten years.

 Church of St. Sophia

The Russian influence in Harbin, including a continuing strong Russian population here, is no better felt than a wander around the streets that make up the Daoli district, in the northwest of the city. Among the many Orthodox churches and Russian style facades in this region, the St.Sophia Orthodox Church (Shengsuo feiya dajiaotang) is the most impressive, and imposing, structure.
In 1903, with the completion of the Sino-Russia railway, connecting Vladivostok to northeast China, the Russian No.4 Army Division arrived in this region. After Russia's shameful failure against the Japanese in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), a plan to reconsolidate the confidence of the army by building a imposing spiritual symbol was proposed. Thus the magnificent St.Sofia Church was born, completed in 1907. Large scale expansion and renovation then started in 1923, and after a nine years' intensive job, the biggest Orthodox church in the far east was finally completed and stood much as it does today.
The 53m tall church is a perfect example of Byzantine architecture: the main structure of the church is laid out as a Latin Cross with the main hall topped with a huge green tipped roof. Under the bright sun, the church, together with the square around it, reminds the Chinese, bizarrely, of the Red Square in Moscow. Although there are still several hundred Orthodox believers in Harbin, the religious activities are usually conducted in other smaller churches. St.Sofia Church is nowadays used as the Municipal Architecture and Art Museum with exhibitions of the architectural history of the city, a photographic survey with captions all in Chinese.

 Flood Control Monument

The Flood Control Monument (Fanghong jinian tang) is located on the bank of Songhua River at the northern end of Zhongyang Street (Zhongyang dajie). The Monument is the centerpiece of the popular Stalin Park, built in 1958 to commemorate the tremendous feat of the Harbin people in controlling the massive flood of 1957. The flood was the biggest flood ever recorded in Harbin until the summer 1998 disaster.
The 13m tall monument consists of one Roman style cylinder column topped with statues of the heroic people of Harbin and a 7-meter-long curving corridor surrounding the column. The water level of 11 small semi-circular pools near to the column marks the level reached by the devastating flood in 1957. However, the water level record was again broken by the summer 1998 flood in which the monument witnessed the devastating destruction of nature and the great courage of the Harbin people...many paid with their lives. A new monument has been added on to the old to commemorate these new victims.

 Sun Island

The Sun Island Park (Taiyangdao gongyuan) consists of one big island and some smaller islands in the Songhua River, which meander through the north of Harbin. This natural island is the biggest recreational center in Harbin and as such can be highly popular in the summer months and during the ice festival. The island covers a total area of 3,800 hectares of leisure resources, including the interesting Siberian Tiger Park.
In summer, the island serves as a natural river beach swimming resort and sanatorium area. The island boasts several fine beaches on either bank, a profusion of lakes for boating, swimming pools, sunbathing facilities, a fairground, a water world and an arms museum, to name but a few. The middle and northern part of the island is composed of mainly forested areas and a large garden. Various different styled recreational buildings were built around the "Sun Lake" and the "Lotus Pond". With hidden paths winding throughout, the park is a nice area to stroll and try to get away from the crowds, lushly vegetated with trees and flowers. Barbecues and picnics can also be arranged in one of the meadows here.

 Yabuli Ski Resort

The Yabuli Ski Resort (Yabuli huaxue chang) is located in Shangzhi city, a county city about 150km east of Harbin. As a subrange of the Changbai Mountain Range (Changbai shan), the resort is one of the best natural skiing resorts in China. The area enjoys an average annual temperature of minus 1 degrees C., the freezing period of the region being often as long as six months, from October to April. The snow depth averages 39cm and gets up to 60cm in high altitude regions.
The Resort is currently not only the biggest but also the best established and facilitated skiing resort in China. The 3800m long main skiing trail here is located at an altitude of 1300m. Cable car lifts are available. The whole resort is surrounded by imposing mountain ranges lavishly covered with pine forests. Besides the spectacular view, wild animals are also frequent sights on the resort. In February 1996, the Yabuli Ski Resort hosted the third Asian Winter Sports Games, the biggest winter sports event ever held in China.
The Heilongjiang International Ski Festival takes place from December 5th to January 5th and at this time the resort is filled with skiiers and tourists. Get your skis on!

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