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.

Harbin International Ice and Snow FestivalImage source, AFP

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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Image source, Reuters

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

Image source, AFP
Image source, AFP

Visitors were treated to a towering frozen ice palace.

Image source, Getty Images
Image source, AFP

There was even an ice steam train.

Image source, Reuters

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.

Image source, Reuters

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

Image source, Getty Images

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

Image source, EPA
Image source, EPA
Image source, Getty Images

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

Image source, EPA
Image source, EPA

Harbin Ice Festival runs until 25 February 2020.

Image source, AFP
Image source, Shutterstock

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