The Snow Princess
The Spirit of Harbin, China
There's something about ice that nourishes a soul. It makes a person feel clean and pure. It provides a time when friends can gather in the warmth and tell stories. It gives children a chance to slide down the ice hills. It gives older people a chance to swim in frigid rivers and reclaim their youth. Ice and spirit can be connected to one another. Sometimes they flow together like yin and yang.
We've seen this in Harbin, China. Harbin is the capital city of Heilongjiang Province. The city's location in northeast China accounts for its arctic climate which provides abundant natural ice and snow. Harbin is recognized as the cradle of ice and snow art in China and is famous for its Ice Festival, established in 1985. The Ice Festival is a time to greet friends from afar and to reflect upon what it can mean to live in a climate where, at times, the temperature reaches minus 35 degrees Celcius.
One of our JJB consultants, Dr. Songhe Wang, lives in Harbin, and we asked her to write a poem about her feelings of ice and spirit. She speaks of the Snow Princess in the first stanza. We've not see the Snow Princess with our eyes, but knowing Dr. Wang, with the warmth of her heart, we've come to believe in the Princess. The photos, the poem, the ice, the friendships -- aren't they all the grace of the Snow Princess.
by Songhe Wang
Ice flowers grow in the vast snow garden,
Delicate and ornate, romantic,
In the palace courtyard of the Snow Princess
In my hometown, Harbin,
Where the true season is Winter.
We Chinese of the northeast.
The river valley of the Black Dragon,
Cradles our capital, Harbin,
Straddling the mile wide Songhua.
In our city of ice lanterns,
Our own Dragon Tower, loftiest in all of Asia,
Reaches for the stratosphere;
With our very own Eiffel Tower,
Little wonder we are known as
The Paris of the East.
We have a saying in deepest winter:
“We have almost become ice cream
with the cold.”
But in such a cold place, you may wonder,
How can there be charm;
How can there be romance
In the dead of winter?
Winter is not dead here;
Winter is vibrant, glowing, romantic.
And ice cream is sweet.
From the warmth of hearth and home
Gaze through your windows
At the frozen world outside.
Look through the glowing ice flowers, translucent,
Carved upon the glass canvas,
Unique as a snowflake but longer lived.
Gaze through the crystalline latticework, ornate, luxuriant,
The tableau, unending, ever new and fresh patterns
In the glacial consciousness.
Like the sarcophagi on ancient Greek urns,
Nature unfurls, unfolds, unrolls
Her glacial tales for you,
In crystal rhythms.
You are seeing the world she has created,
Radiant patterns from her deepest mind
Ever unique, ever surpassing each other in opulent beauty.
It’s early morning on the south bank
Of the mighty Songhua river:
It is a sunny, late December day
Lively chatter and hearty laughter ring forth
As the elderly swimmers, hardy, courageous,
Gather on the shore, smiling for the cameras.
They plunge into the icy waters
With a great roar of joy
Tonight the sun retires at five; it is Solstice,
The shortest day of the year.
On the North Bank and beyond lies the Snow Palace.
There is magic in the night.
A night dawning,
A symphony of pastel, a light show, multicolored glow
Lighting up the early night sky like gentle fireworks;
Ice lanterns, snow sculptures, luminous ice blocks
Come alive in rainbow profusion.
I close my eyes and the afterglow lingers
Then the true fireworks burst forth joyously.
I pause in wonder; I am a child again.
Life has been recaptured
In her full splendor
I stroll down the glowing avenues,
Ice lanterns on every side lighting my way.
I am in an enchanted. crystal palace,
Royal home of Princess Snow.
Suddenly I am one with my ice world.
I turn a corner; a profusion of color is before me;
A pungent cloud of vapor; rich smells of piping hot
Teas and coffees, soups and stews.
I enter and sit down on an ice chair,.
Set my purse on an ice table,
A smiling ice princess takes my order,
For Hot Pot.