Ecologically Sound (and Beautiful) Graffiti
Mostly older people practising their calligraphy writing poetry or proverbs or whatever. The script I did see was quite lovely by obviously accomplished calligraphy artists. The brush holding and calligraphy writing involves breathing techniques so they say it promotes health and longer life. One gentleman seems to have a good idea to control the sway of the brush by recycling a PET bottle! The cutest was a little girl seen showing off her skills too!
The aquarium @ Heilongjiang Provincial Museum
While the Heilongjiang Provincial Museum is managed badly, and is basically a disgrace,the aquarium in the basement is worth visiting and our kids enjoyed it.
The first part of the aquarium is laid out as a series of pools in a number of landscaped caverns. These first rooms show a lot of fishes native to Heilongjiang rivers. Their are descriptive panels in Chinese, but they also have Latin names as well, so if you know your fish you should be able to work out what is what.
Some of these river and lake fish grow to incredible sizes.
The tanks are large and look well maintained.
Later there is a big walk-through marine aquarium, with the obligatory sharks and rays, which are less common in Heilongjiang (given that it has no sealine).
The whole visit is only marginally spoilt by the display of performing seals in a tiny, tiny pool. People around the world have simply recognised that getting animals to perform is unnatural, cruel and a pretty pathetic reflection on those who arrange it. China just seems to be slow getting into synch as the rest of the world moves along the civilization curve, in this respect.
Unit 731 - Germ Testing Site
Ironically probably put harbin onto the world map for all the wrong reasons. This is where the japanese conducted germ and biological tesing on chinese citzens and western POW's after they occupied manchuria.
Known as the asian auswitch
Ok probably not the cheeriest places to go to. But I thought it was important to remember these places esp as places like the lantern festival get the tourists.
Def not for kids as the chinese dont pull any punches. I knew off the place before and the discription given on site is historically accurate.
All that is left of the site (which was once many km's across) is the entrance building. Costs 40 reminbi p/p. Taxi to visit will cost about 25-30 reminbi.
The taxi driver who took me there was very surprised that i wanted to go and said it was a great mark of respect that someone not associated with China or Harbin from across the globe would go there and remember.
Go make a donation...its important that this site is not destroyed as the urban sprawl creeps closer and regonise that these horrible experiments took place (it was denied for many years)
Former Church of St Sophia - Part 1
Inaccurately referred to as a cathedral and technically even as a church, St Sophia's is Harbin's most famous building. It never was a cathedral and it has been deconsecrated for a long time; it is now merely a museum of Harbin's history with a few religious artefacts of dubious provenance at the back.
The church is in good condition externally, but the state of the inside walls higher up suggests that refurbishment funds go on the froth and the paint.
St Sophia's Church was built originally in 1907 as a wooden chapel for the Tsars 4th Siberian Infantry Division who were based in Harbin to protect the city and, more importantly the railway and associated mines and industry, from attacks by anyone. In 1912, a brick casing was built around the wooden chapel, and then in 1923 work started on a much larger building. It took nine years to complete, and was a fitting symbol of Tsarist Russia, which, of course, had long disappeared by then. The exiled Russian community devoted itself to investing in their Harbin safe haven, and there were many Eastern Orthodox churches built in Harbin. Only a few survive now, and only one (on Dongdazhie Jie) continues to function as a church.
St Sophia's is just a skeleton now, the skin taught on a hollow shell. The exhibition of old Harbin photographs inside (no English or foreign captions) is interesting, but it remains cold, proof that churches are not about buildings or architecture, but about people.
The apse has some really crude, gaudy paintings and frescos, and the shop sells tacky 'Christian souvenirs': about as tasteless as it gets, considering that many tens of thousands of Harbin Russian exiles eventually were transported back to torture and death in Siberian Gulags after the Soviet 'liberation' in 1945.
yuk13's new Harbin Page
Visiting this northern city was really an harsh but unforgettable experience for a boy living in sub-tropical region. Harbin being the capital of Hei Long Jiang Province is a city of heavy industry such as timber, steel and manufacturing.