ICE LANTERNS BRING CHILLS FOR CAPITAL CROWDS
Beijing does not have a natural climate for ice lanterns. According to specialists from Harbin, the well-known “capital of ice lanterns”, the best ice for sculpting should be formed in the natural environment, the thickness should be above 30 centimeters, and the finished works should be kept at a temperature lower than minus 3 C.
So when people at Workers Stadium decided to introduce Harbin’s ice lanterns into Beijing at the end of last year, they came across problems like where to find proper ice materials, and how to preserve the finished ice artworks.
If you visit Workers Stadium now, you will see three huge, inflatable tents on the lanes, the longest of which stretches 120 meters. Inside, 34 refrigerating machines are working day and night, trying to maintain a stable indoor temperature of minus 5 C.
Despite the refrigerating machines, the temperature inside the tents rose when the winter sun peaked at noon, moisture increased on smoggy days, and the number of visitors swelled at night, generating more body heat. As a result, some ice sculptures melted a bit, so that part of the show was shut down.
Stacks of ice, carved into different shapes of buildings, animals, and humans, are present with colorful lights on to highlight the themes: symbolic buildings in both Beijing and Harbin such as the Temple of Heaven, nine dragon pillars in the Forbidden City and Sophia Cathedral, and also Olympic torches and emblems.
“These ice blocks are very good ice, transparent and strong. They were transported from Inner Mongolia, 400 kilometers away,” said Yuan Hao, Sports Complex director of Beijing Workers Stadium.
“It’s not easy to find the proper ice. We tried Beijing’s Miyun and Yanqing, and also Zhangjiakou, but at the beginning of December, ice in those places was not thick enough.
So we went north to find ice in Inner Mongolia and on the morning of Dec 5, we were very happy to find that ice there had reached 30-cm thick,” he said.
The ice, divided into blocks 1.2 meters long and 1 meter wide, had to be “dried” in natural environment for a day before being put in trucks and transported to Beijing.
Creating the ice lanterns consumed 3,000 cubic meters of ice, which had been transported to Beijing on 100 trucks.
One hundred and fifty craftspeople were sent to Beijing from Harbin, who worked on the ice lanterns on three shifts a day. Later another 30 ice artists arrived so as to guarantee the whole project would be finished by Dec 29.
Fifteen winners of the international ice sculpture competition on Jan 17 and 18 are also presented at Workers Stadium, including The Dream of Emperor Penguins and Lin Daiyu Burying Flowers.
Visitors coming to Workers Stadium can play on the ice rink snow in the daytime, and in the evening, they can either enter the inflatable tents to enjoy the ice lanterns, or watch cloth lanterns from Zigong in Sichuan province.
“We tried to combine the north lantern from 1,200 kilometers away with the south lantern from 1,600 kilometers away, and present them to the audience in Beijing,” Yuan said.
Fifty craftspeople from Zigong were sent to Beijing to make the cloth lanterns for a whole month. Visitors can see a huge bowl, 5 meters in diameter, installed on the stand. It represents the bowl that Beijingers use to eat (noodles with soybean paste).
Visitors can also see paintedface figures from Beijing Opera, and also a dragon, on whose back rides a totem pillar and three Chinese characters meaning Chinese dream, which are presented in the form of cloth lanterns.
To make the lantern show perfect, an LED peach- blossom sea was installed on the 6,000-square-meter green field. In the evening, the peach blossoms will light up in a beautiful sea of pink.
The show continues until Feb 13. On Feb 17, Workers Stadium will resume its normal role as a site for athletic events, hosting a playoff of the Asian Football Confederation.
Clockwise from top: Ice lantern masters from Harbin work on the ice sculptures at Workers Stadium; snow scuplture; Fragrant Hills Pagoda.