Harbin (a Manchu word for “a place for drying fishing nets”) was an old fishing village by Songhua River, in the Northeast of China. It is the largest city in the Northeast China and also the capital of Heilongjiang Province. It urbanized to a big city in 1898 when the Chinese Eastern Railway brought an influx of Russian immigrants. Hence the city unlike other major cities in China has a strong Russian and European influence demonstrated by the city’s architecture. Today, it is a major commerce and port city of Northeast China.
The St. Sofia Cathedral is a Russian Orthodox church, build in 1907. It was closed during the Period of “Great Leap Forward” and the “Cultural Revolution”. Now it is designated as National Heritage Cultural site and serve as a museum for the history of the city. Outside has been restored to its original beauty of Byzantine style architecture.
Stalin Park runs along the Songhua River Bank. In Stalin Park, one can find artists perform or show off their works. Along the Songhua River are fisherman and ferry boats.
Harbin is known for its yearly Ice Festival in the winter. The whole city becomes an ice city. Ice and snow sculptures everywhere, but mostly concentrated on Sun Island and the Ice and snow amusement world after dark on the north river bank of Songhai River. If you like winter sports, then winter is a good time to visit Harbin.
It is also well known for its Zhongyang Pedestrian Street (中央大街) where you can shop and find many Russian made goods or enjoy local culinary delights influenced by Russian, Japanese, and Mongolian.
Siberian Tiger Park is situated north of the Sun Island Park. It houses and breeds the near extinct Siberian Tigers. The shuttle vans bring you through the fields to see the Tigers up close. Then there is a walk area, which let you see the enclosed area where they keep Tigers for breeding or nursing sick tigers. Besides tigers, they also have lions and other big endangered cats.
This park houses around 800 Siberian Tigers and several Lions, as well as Bengal tigers, leopards, pumas. The facility, perform DNA testing to prevent inbreeding and perform selective breeding. It also have few Ligers which is a cross between a lion and a tiger.