Harbin- Not that great
Harbin, I must say, is hardly inspiring as a city. At least elsewhere in China there's occasional respite from the dull throb of concrete-obsessed builders. Sure, Harbin has the riverfront and the Flood Control Monument and even a few temples, but for the majority of the city, there is little to recommend it. After months here, though, I must say that it feels like home. Coming back from a month of travel around China, our apartment feels more like OUR apartment than it did when we left. I think Harbin has been hit, in part, with the same lack of architectural vision of most of China, stemming primarily from a need for cheap, fast, quantity housing. Russia, of course, influenced Harbin to a great extent, but there is little aside from the Sophia Church that really retains the mark of unique Russian design.
Sure, it's slick. Some parts are even modern. But as progress-minded countries often go, trees along Heping Lu have been cut down (a swath paralelling the road a few miles long and maybe 30-50 feet deep) to make room for even more construction. More concrete, more signs, more pollution from more coal heating... and more electricity demand... I don't want to get into politics at all, but as travelers, you should understand that "Energy crises" are affecting China. That's why the government wants to build the Three Gorges Dam. It's a great project, but no one really knows the environmental consequences or worries about the physical risk. In true human style, only a few seem to care, and those aren't heard. The government needs to look out for the good of the whole country, of course.
One of the things China seems to clearly misunderstand, is that, when you have a country this size, it can behoove you to think in terms of less, not more. Yet China is very much pointed toward the more: more goods, more money, more buildings, more lights... yeah, fewer kids, but... more cars, more... it's a country on the rise, but the danger is that when you build too fast, don't set a proper foundation, your building can come down... and China doesn't want that. However, China, in many ways, should be focusing more on conservation, considering the sheer number of lights used in cities, not just Sodium-vapor lamps in parking lots and streets, but lighting sky scrapers, bridges, trees. It's pretty, but it's why China has energy problems, aside from over a billion people needing electricity.
China doesn't want to be held back by minor details, especially if you consider building techniques and disregard the cracks already formed down the height of the dam... It seems to believe that progress is best achieved by manic lunges at advantageous moments rather than ensuring proper structures are in place. And maybe this will work very well for China. For our part, as independent travelers, we leave small footprints here. Tours leave large ones. Choose wisely, and get here now before it becomes the West of the East!
Crimes against humanity at Unit 731
Though the Japanese Kanto military controlled the Northeast from 1931, most would not have been aware of covert Special Forces Military Unit 731 (also called the Ishii Military Unit). Senior members included elite researchers of the day, and included germ warfare research, and non-consentual human experiments in the name of medical research upon around 3000 Chinese, Korean and Russian people.
New prisoners healthy enough to test were referred to as "logs", partly to deny the humanity of intended victims, also as a code name for classified communications. Explicitly, experiments included forcible frostbite in -30 degree winter, raising rodents and fleas for disease spreading and incubation, in-vivo dissections, etc.
At war's end, Ishii ordered to blast the facilities, execute remaining "logs" and low-rank staff, and forced confidentiality agreements upon subordinates. Some 731 staff later held as POW confessed to Soviets who requested this episode to stand trial at Tokyo Far East Military Tribunals (footage now on DVD with Jpn. and Eng., soon in Chinese). This never did stand trial, and the Americans handled it secretly by having Ishii report the research in exchange for pardon. Other participants resumed post-military careers in civilian life.
One of the exhibition rooms contains confessional video and writings by some former Japanese participants. The Jpn. general public never heard of Unit 731 until circa 1980; the relative lack of common knowledge is one of the sticky points still affecting Sino-Japan relations today. For now, what *is* Jpn. common knowledge concerning wartime atrocities committed by Imperialist Army are those against their own people, remembered today at Himeyuri Memorial in Okinawa, where over 200 Japanese High School girls died after being illegally used on the battlefield.
Located about 20km south of central Harbin in Pingfang, there is guided tour in your language where possible. No photography inside. Built-in glassed georamas of grey clay illustrate crimes against humanity.
dumpling is seen as a symbol of Chinese food. It's really very triditional since ppl will have dumpling in the biggest festival of the year - Chinese New Year for celeberation. Manchurian dumpling is well recognized as the most delicious and tridional dumpling in China. Sure there are decent restaurant around that serves good dumplings. Like Northeast Dumpling, or Dong Bei Jiao Zi Wang in Chinese. It's just at the end of the Central Street. You won't miss it. Dumpling
St. Sophia Church
building in 1907 by Russian Army, St.Sophia Church is the biggest Church in harbin. it was built by wood at first, four years later, the outside covered by red brick . In 1923-1932 it was rebuilt. And that is what you see today/
Worldtour's Harbin Guide
"Harbin my home away from home"
Harbin is a unique city in China. Historic but relatively young. Rich in natural resources and multi cultural. The first thing that you probably will notice are the Russian building. Harbin has been a hub of commerce and defence for China for about a century. Cooperation between Russia and China was strategic for defence against the Japanese, and provided a trading corridor for Russia. Harbin is the eastern end of the Trans Siberian Railway. Many fine examples of the Russian style remain and can be seen near the river on Center Street and throughout the city, including Harbin Institute of Technology. Located at about the same position on the globe as Minneapolis, (a sister city) and Seattle, it is the coldest place in the world at that latitude. I will try to add to the site as time permits so please check back often. I have been living and working as a teacher here since May of 2003. I hail from the Great Pacific Northwest via the Midwest of America.
"The Main attraction"
Harbin attracts both foreign and Chinese tourist in both winter and summer. In the winter it is famous for it's International Snow and Ice festival. In the summer it is very temperate so it attracts visitors from the south of China and is known for its very nice weather, cool compared to the south.
Sun island is another tourist area that is on the north banks of the Songhua river. You can see tigers there and spend most of a day checking out the animals, quite large and the tigers roam.
Center street is where you will find many of the old Russian buildings and tons of shopping. It's near the river and a favorite spot for locals as well. Open air beer gardens with Harbin beer, China's oldest and best beer provide an interesting afternoon of eating and entertainment.