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Print Edition> Lifestyle
UPDATED: December 24, 2010 NO. 52 DECEMBER 30, 2010
Arctic Glitters With Shades of Harbin
Chinese ice and snow art debuts in Finland

LIFELIKE SCULPTURE: Visitors walk past the replica of Helsinki Cathedral snow sculpture at the ICIUM—Wonderworld of Ice in Levi, Finland, on December 18 (CHEN RAN)

Reindeer and panda stand side by side in front of a wall of bamboo paintings with flute and the cry of birds echoing nearby. Standing at the entrance of ICIUM—Wonderworld of Ice theme park, they greet visitors in a traditional Chinese way in the Arctic twilight.

A cooperative effort between China and Finland has resulted in the creation of a winter wonderland for tourists in the form of ICIUM—Wonderworld of Ice—the first of its kind. The resort, created in part by Chinese ice sculptors, opened to the public on December 18 at the Levi ski resort in Finland's northern Lapland area.

Covering nearly 10,000 square meters, the park, which will be open from December 2010 to April 2011, features a panda character named Ming Ming. Visitors can follow Ming Ming as he finds his way back home with the assistance of Nina, a reindeer from Lapland. The adventure takes guests through glittering pagodas, a dragon boat, replicas of the Great Wall and Helsinki's central railway station and cathedral—all carved completely out of ice and snow.

No easy job

Ma Yue, senior ice sculptor and the park's chief construction designer, said a total of 60 ice and snow sculptors from China's Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival built more than 20 pieces for the park in just one month. Harbin is the sister city of Lapland's capital city of Rovaniemi.

Technically, clear ice blocks made by slow freezing are best for sculptures. Lakes and rivers near the Levi ski resort, some 170 km north of the Arctic Circle, provide plenty of raw material. Moreover, Levi's eight-month winter—spanning from October till May with an average temperature of minus 20 degrees Celsius—helps keep sculptures like new.

Ma took the project offer in March, and the park's design was finalized in the summer. The scheduled deadline for finishing the sculptures was the end of November. Unfortunately, despite the nearby rivers and lakes, when Ma and his team arrived in early November no ice blocks were available due to the late and warm winter.

"It was really frustrating," Ma said. "I was so worried about the deadline, but my hands were tied. We could do nothing but wait."

In order to save time, Ma and his team reversed their work plan, constructing snow buildings first instead of ice sculptures.

"The way of processing snow here in Finland was a bit different from what we do in China, but it was no big deal," said Sun Hongyan, the man behind the park's entrance sculptures.

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