Harbin is the capital and largest city of Heilongjiang province, People’s Republic of China. Holding sub-provincial administrative status, Harbin has direct jurisdiction over 9 metropolitan districts, 2 county-level cities and 7 counties. Harbin is the eighth most populous Chinese city and the most populous city in Northeast China. According to the 2010 census, the built-up area made of 7 out of 9 urban districts (all but Shuangcheng and Acheng not urbanized yet) had 5,282,093 inhabitants, while the total population of the sub-provincial city was up to 10,635,971. Harbin serves as a key political, economic, scientific, cultural and communications hub in Northeast China, as well as an important industrial base of the nation.
Harbin, which was originally a Manchu word meaning “a place for drying fishing nets”, grew from a small rural settlement on theSonghua River to become one of the largest cities in Northeast China. Founded in 1898 with the coming of the Chinese Eastern Railway, the city first prospered as a region inhabited by an overwhelming majority of the immigrants from the Russian Empire.
Having the most bitterly cold winters among major Chinese cities, Harbin is heralded as the Ice City for its well-known winter tourism and recreations. Harbin is notable for its beautiful ice sculpture festival in the winter, the largest in the world. Besides being well known for its historical Russian legacy, it serves as an important gateway in Sino-Russian trade today. In the 1920s, the city was considered China’s fashion capital since new designs from Paris and Moscow reached here first before arriving in Shanghai. The city has been voted “China Top Tourist City” by China National Tourism Administration in 2004. On 22 June 2010, Harbin was appointed a UNESCO “City of Music” as part of the Creative Cities Network.