Towering ice palaces at China's Harbin Ice Festival

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The Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival in China held its opening ceremony on Sunday 5 January, amid fireworks and celebrations.

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The annual festival, in China's north-east Heilongjiang province, is one of the biggest ice and snow festivals in the world.

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About 220,000 cubic metres of ice and snow were reportedly used to build the ice world.

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Visitors were treated to a towering frozen ice palace.

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There was even an ice steam train.

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The 36th Harbin Ice Festival began in 1963 and was interrupted for a few years because of China's Cultural Revolution, resuming again in 1985.

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As well as towering ice structures, the festival includes activities like sledging, ice hockey, ice football, speed skating and Alpine skiing competitions.

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There are also swimming competitions in frozen water. Participants seen below are competing in the Songhua River.

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A highlight of the festival was a snow-themed group wedding ceremony. About 40 couples were reported to have got married this year.

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Harbin Ice Festival runs until 25 February 2020.

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