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Sub-provincial city
Harbin City
Clockwise from top: Sun Island Park, Harbin Ferris Wheel, Dragon Tower (Long Ta), Flood Memorial Tower Square, Saint Sofia Cathedral, Yangmingtan Bridge and Songbei District
Clockwise from top: Sun Island Park, Harbin Ferris Wheel, Dragon Tower (Long Ta), Flood Memorial Tower Square, Saint Sofia Cathedral, Yangmingtan Bridge and Songbei District
Flag of Harbin
Official seal of Harbin
Nickname(s): Ice City, Oriental Paris, Oriental Moscow, The pearl on the swan's neck
Harbin (red) in Heilongjiang (orange)
Harbin (red) in Heilongjiang (orange)
Harbin is located in Heilongjiang
Location of the city center in Heilongjiang
Coordinates: 45°45′N 126°38′E / 45.750°N 126.633°E / 45.750; 126.633Coordinates: 45°45′N 126°38′E / 45.750°N 126.633°E / 45.750; 126.633
CountryPeople's Republic of China
County-level divisions18 divisions,[1] including 9 urban districts, 2 County-level cities and 7 counties
Settledbefore 1115
 - Town

 - County1905-10-31
 - Municipality1921-02-05
 • MayorSong Xibin (宋希斌, since January, 2012)
 • Sub-provincial city53,068 km2 (20,490 sq mi)
 • Urban4,298 km2 (1,659 sq mi)
 • Metro10,180 km2 (3,930 sq mi)
Elevation150 m (488 ft)
Population (2010)[4]
 • Sub-provincial city10,635,971
 • Density200/km2 (520/sq mi)
 • Urban5,282,083
 • Urban density1,200/km2 (3,200/sq mi)
 • Metro6,704,573
 • Metro density660/km2 (1,700/sq mi)
 Data comes from 2010 National Census (urban population data excludes de facto satellite cities Acheng and Shuangcheng)
Time zoneChina Standard (UTC+8)
Postal code150000
Area code(s)451
License plate prefixesA,L
GDP (2013)CNY 501 billion
 - GrowthIncrease 8.9%
 - per capitaCNY 49,565
GDP (PPP)2013
 - TotalUS$117.99 billion
 - Per capitaUS$ 11,671
City flowersLilac
WebsiteHarbin Official Website
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For other uses, see Harbin (disambiguation).
Sub-provincial city
Harbin City
Clockwise from top: Sun Island Park, Harbin Ferris Wheel, Dragon Tower (Long Ta), Flood Memorial Tower Square, Saint Sofia Cathedral, Yangmingtan Bridge and Songbei District
Clockwise from top: Sun Island Park, Harbin Ferris Wheel, Dragon Tower (Long Ta), Flood Memorial Tower Square, Saint Sofia Cathedral, Yangmingtan Bridge and Songbei District
Flag of Harbin
Official seal of Harbin
Nickname(s): Ice City, Oriental Paris, Oriental Moscow, The pearl on the swan's neck
Harbin (red) in Heilongjiang (orange)
Harbin (red) in Heilongjiang (orange)
Harbin is located in Heilongjiang
Location of the city center in Heilongjiang
Coordinates: 45°45′N 126°38′E / 45.750°N 126.633°E / 45.750; 126.633Coordinates: 45°45′N 126°38′E / 45.750°N 126.633°E / 45.750; 126.633
CountryPeople's Republic of China
County-level divisions18 divisions,[1] including 9 urban districts, 2 County-level cities and 7 counties
Settledbefore 1115
 - Town

 - County1905-10-31
 - Municipality1921-02-05
 • MayorSong Xibin (宋希斌, since January, 2012)
 • Sub-provincial city53,068 km2 (20,490 sq mi)
 • Urban4,298 km2 (1,659 sq mi)
 • Metro10,180 km2 (3,930 sq mi)
Elevation150 m (488 ft)
Population (2010)[4]
 • Sub-provincial city10,635,971
 • Density200/km2 (520/sq mi)
 • Urban5,282,083
 • Urban density1,200/km2 (3,200/sq mi)
 • Metro6,704,573
 • Metro density660/km2 (1,700/sq mi)
 Data comes from 2010 National Census (urban population data excludes de facto satellite cities Acheng and Shuangcheng)
Time zoneChina Standard (UTC+8)
Postal code150000
Area code(s)451
License plate prefixesA,L
GDP (2013)CNY 501 billion
 - GrowthIncrease 8.9%
 - per capitaCNY 49,565
GDP (PPP)2013
 - TotalUS$117.99 billion
 - Per capitaUS$ 11,671
City flowersLilac
WebsiteHarbin Official Website
Haerbin name.JPG
"Harbin", as written in Chinese
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Literal meaninga place for drying fishing nets or
laughter like coast
Manchu name
Manchu scriptHarbin-manchu.png
Russian name
RussianAbout this sound Харби́н 

Harbin (Chinese: 哈尔滨; pinyin: About this sound Hā'ěrbīn ; Manchu: Harbin-manchu.png Harbin) is the capital and largest city of Heilongjiang province, People's Republic of China.[5] Holding sub-provincial administrative status,[6] 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.[7] According to the 2010 census, the city's nine urban districts has 6,704,573 inhabitants, while the total population of the sub-provincial city is up to 10,635,971.[4] 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.[8]

Harbin, which was originally a Manchu word meaning "a place for drying fishing nets",[8] grew from a small rural settlement on the Songhua River to become one of the largest cities in Northeast China. Founded in 1898 with the coming of the Trans-Manchurian Railway, the city first prospered as a region inhabited by an overwhelming majority of the immigrants from the Russian Empire.[9]

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.[10] Harbin is notable for its beautiful ice sculpture festival in the winter.[11] Besides being well known for its historical Russian legacy, it serves as the commercial center in Sino-Russian trade today.[12] 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.[13] The city has been voted "China Top Tourist City" by China National Tourism Administration in 2004.[8] On 22 June 2010, Harbin was appointed a UNESCO "City of Music" as part of the Creative Cities Network.[14]


Early history[edit]

The statue of Emperor Taizu of Jin on the square of Harbin Jin Dynasty History Museum

Human settlement in Harbin area dates from at least 2200 BC during the late Stone Age. Wanyan Aguda (also known as Wanyan Min), the founder and first emperor of Jin dynasty from 1115 to 1123, was born in the Jurchen Wanyan tribes who resides near Ashi River(Ashi-ho in Chinese) in this region.[15] In 1115 CE, Aguda established Jin's capital Shangjing (Upper Capital) Huining Fu in today's Acheng District of Harbin.[16] Posterior to Aguda's death, the new emperor Wanyan Sheng ordered to build a new city on uniform plan. The planning and construction emulated major Chinese cities, in particular Bianjing (Kaifeng), although the Jin capital was smaller than its Northern Song prototype.[17] Huining Fu served as the first superior capital of the empire until the capital was moved to Yanjing (now Beijing) in 1153 by Wanyan Liang(the fourth emperor of Jin Dynasty).[18] Liang even went so far as to destroy all palaces in his former capital in 1157.[18] Wanyan Liang's successor Wanyan Yong (Emperor Shizong) restored the city and established it as a secondary capital in 1173.[19] Since it continued to sometimes play an important role in the empire. Ruins of the Shangjing Huining Fu were discovered and excavated at about 2 km from present-day Acheng's central urban area.[16][20] The site of the old Jin capital ruins is a national historic reserve, and includes the Jin Dynasty History Museum. The museum is open to public and renovated in the late 2005.[20] Mounted statues of Aguda and his chief commander Wanyan Zonghan(also Nianhan) have been erected on the grounds of the museum.[21] Many of the artifacts found there are on display in nearby Harbin.

After the Mongolian Empire conquested Jin Empire, Huining Fu was abandoned. Building materials of Huining Fu's ruin was later exploited by the Manchus in the 1600s to build their new stronghold in Alchuka. The region of Harbin remained largely rural until the 1800s, with only over ten villages and about 30,000 people in today's urban districts of the city by the end of the 19th century.[22]

International city[edit]

A small village in 1898 grew into the modern city of Harbin.[23] Polish engineer Adam Szydłowski drew plans for the city following the construction of the Chinese Eastern Railway, which the Russian Empire had financed.[9] The Russians selected Harbin as the base of their administration over this railway and the Chinese Eastern Railway Zone. The Chinese Eastern Railway extended the Trans-Siberian Railway: substantially reducing the distance from Chita to Vladivostok and also linking the new port city of Dalny (Dalian) and the Russian Naval Base Port Arthur.

St. Nicolas Orthodox, a Russian Orthodox church in Harbin, circa 1940, destroyed during the Cultural Revolution

During the Russo-Japanese War (1904–5), Russia used Harbin as its base for military operations in Northeastern China. Following Russia's defeat, its influence declined. Several thousand nationals from 33 countries, including the United States, Germany, and France moved to Harbin. Sixteen countries established consulates to serve their nationals, who established several hundred industrial, commercial and banking companies. Churches were rebuilt for Russian Orthodox, Ukrainian Orthodox, Lutheran/German Protestant, and Polish Catholic Christians. Chinese capitalists also established businesses, especially in brewing, food and textiles. Harbin became the economic hub of northeastern China and an international metropolis.[22] In 1913 the Chinese Eastern Railway census showed its ethnic composition as: Russians – 34313, Chinese (that is, including Hans, Manchus etc.) – 23537, Jews – 5032, Poles – 2556, Japanese – 696, Germans – 564, Tatars – 234, Latvians – 218, Georgians – 183, Estonians – 172, Lithuanians – 142, Armenians – 124; there were also Karaims, Ukrainians, Bashkirs, and some Western Europeans. In total, 68549 citizens of 53 nationalities, speaking 45 languages.[24] Research shows that only 11.5 percent of all residents were born in Harbin.[25] By 1917, Harbin's population exceeded 100,000, with over 40,000 of them were ethnic Russians.[26]

Harbin's Kitayskaya Street (Russian for "Chinese Street"), now Zhongyang Street (Chinese for "Central Street") before 1945

After Russia's Great October Socialist Revolution in December 1918, more than 100,000 defeated Russian White Guards and refugees retreated to Harbin, which became a major center of White Russian émigrés and the largest Russian enclave outside the Soviet Union.[26] The city had a Russian school system, as well as publishers of Russian language newspapers and journals. Russian 'Harbintsy'[27] community numbered around 120,000 at its peak in the early 1920s.[28] In the early 1920s, according to Chinese scholars' recent studies, over 20,000 Jews lived in Harbin.[29] After 1919, Dr. Abraham Kaufman played a leading role in Harbin's large Russian Jewish community.[30] The Republic of China discontinued diplomatic relations with Imperial Russia in 1920, so many Russians found themselves stateless. When the Chinese Eastern Railway and government in Beijing announced in 1924 that they agreed the railroad would only employ Russian or Chinese nationals, the emigrees were forced to announce their ethnic and political allegiance. Most accepted Soviet citizenship. The Chinese warlord Zhang Xueliang seized the Chinese Eastern Railway in 1929. Soviet military force quickly put an end to the crisis and forced the Nationalist Chinese to accept restoration of joint Soviet-Chinese administration of the railway.[31]

Japanese invasion period[edit]

Japan invaded Manchuria outright after the Mukden Incident in September 1931. After the Japanese captured Tsitsihar in the Jiangqiao Campaign, the Japanese 4th Mixed Brigade moved toward Harbin, closing in from the west and south. Bombing and strafing by Japanese aircraft forced the Chinese army to retreat from Harbin. Within a few hours the Japanese occupation of Harbin was complete.[32]

With the establishment of the puppet state of Manchukuo, the Pacification of Manchukuo began, as volunteer armies continued to fight the Japanese. Harbin became a major operations base for the infamous medical experimenters of Unit 731, who killed people of all ages and ethnicities. All these units were known collectively as the Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department of the Kwantung Army.[33] The main facility of the Unit 731 was built in 1935 at Pingfang District, approximately 24 km (15 mi) south of Harbin urban area at that time.[34] Between 3,000 and 12,000 citizens including men, women, and children[35][36]—from which around 600 every year were provided by the Kempeitai[37]—died during the human experimentation conducted by Unit 731 at the camp based in Pingfang alone, which does not include victims from other medical experimentation sites.[38] Almost 70 percent of the victims who died in the Pingfang camp were Chinese, including both civilian and military.[39] Close to 30 percent of the victims were Russian.[40] Some others were South East Asians and Pacific Islanders, at the time colonies of the Empire of Japan, and a small number of the prisoners of war from the Allies of World War II[41] (although many more Allied POWs were victims of Unit 731 at other sites). Prisoners of war were subjected to vivisection without anesthesia, after infected with various diseases.[42] Prisoners were injected with inoculations of disease, disguised as vaccinations, to study their effects. Unit 731 and its affiliated units (Unit 1644 and Unit 100 among others) were involved in research, development, and experimental deployment of epidemic-creating biowarfare weapons in assaults against the Chinese populace (both civilian and military) throughout World War II. Human targets were also used to test grenades positioned at various distances and in different positions. Flame throwers were tested on humans. Humans were tied to stakes and used as targets to test germ-releasing bombs, chemical weapons, and explosive bombs.[43][44] Twelve Unit 731 members were found guilty in the Khabarovsk War Crime Trials but later repatriated; others received secret immunity by the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers Douglas MacArthur before the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal in exchange for biological warfare work in the Cold War for the American Force.[45]

Chinese revolutionaries including Zhao Shangzhi, Yang Jingyu, Li Zhaolin, Zhao Yiman continued to struggle against the Japanese in Harbin and its administrative area, commanding the main anti-Japanese guerrilla army-Northeast Anti-Japanese United Army which was originally organized by the Manchurian branch of the Chinese Communist Party(CCP). The army was supported by the Comintern after the The CPC Manchurian Provincial Committee was dissolved in 1936.

Under the Manchukuo régime and Japanese occupation, Harbin Russians had a difficult time. In 1935, the Soviet Union sold the Chinese Eastern Railway (KVZhD) to the Japanese, and many Russian emigres left Harbin(48133 of them were arrested during the Soviet Great Purge between 1936 and 1938 as "Japanese spies"[46]).[26] Most departing Russians returned to the Soviet Union, but a substantial number moved south to Shanghai or emigrated to the United States and Australia. By the end of the 1930s, the Russian population of Harbin had dropped to around 30,000.[47]

Many of Harbin's Jews (13,000 in 1929) fled after the Japanese occupation as the Japanese associated closely with militant anti-Soviet Russian Fascists, whose ideology of anti-Bolshevism and nationalism was laced with virulent anti-Semitism.[48] Most left for Shanghai, Tientsin, and the British Mandate of Palestine.[49] In the late 1930s, some German Jews fleeing the Nazis moved to Harbin. Japanese officials later facilitated Jewish emigration to several cities in western Japan, notably Kobe, which came to have Japan's largest synagogue.

Post World War II[edit]

Monument to Soviet soldiers in Harbin's Nangang District, built by Soviet Red Army in 1945

The Soviet Army took the city on 20 August 1945[50] and Harbin never came under the control of the Kuomintang, whose troops stopped 60 km (37 mi) short of the city.[51] The city's administration was transferred by the departing Soviet Army to the Chinese People's Liberation Army in April 1946. On April 28, 1946, the Communist Government of Harbin was established, making the 700,000-citizen-city the first large city under Chinese Communist force rule.[22] During the short occupation of Harbin by the Soviet Army (August 1945 to April 1946), thousands of Russian emigres who have been identified as members of the Russian Fascist Party and fled communism after the Russian October Revolution,[28] were forcibly moved to the Soviet Union. After 1952 the Soviet Union launched a second wave of immigration back to Russia.[28] By 1964, only 450 Russian population left in Harbin.[47] The rest of the European community (Russians, Germans, Poles, Greeks, etc.) emigrated during the years 1950–54 to Australia, Brazil, Canada, Israel and the USA, or were repatriated to their home countries.[28] By 1988 the original Russian community numbered just thirty, all of them elderly. Modern Russian living in Harbin mostly moved there in the 1990s and 2000s, and have no relation to the first wave of emigration.

Harbin was among one of the key construction cities of China during the First Five-Year Plan period from 1951 to 1956. 13 of the 156 key construction projects were aid-constructed by the Soviet Union in Harbin. This project made Harbin an important industrial base of China. During the Great Leap Forward from 1958 to 1961, Harbin experienced a very tortuous development course as several Sino-Soviet contracts were cancelled by the Soviet Union.[52] During the Cultural Revolution many foreign and Christian things were uprooted, such as the St. Nicholas church which was destroyed by Red Guards in 1966. As the normal economic and social order was seriously disrupted, Harbin's economy also suffered from serious setbacks. One of the main reasons of this setback is with its Soviet ties deteriorating and the Vietnam War escalating, China became concerned of a possible nuclear attack. Mao Zedong ordered an evacuation of military and other key state enterprises away from the northeastern frontier, with Harbin being the core zone of this region, bordering the Soviet Union. During this Third Front Development Era of China, several major factories of Harbin were relocated to Southwestern Provinces including Gansu, Sichuan, Hunan and Guizhou, where they would be strategically secure in the event of a possible war. Some major universities of China were also moved out of Harbin, including Harbin Military Academy of Engineering(predecessor of Changsha's National University of Defense Technology) and Harbin Institute of Technology (Moved to Chongqing in 1969 and relocated to Harbin in 1973).[53]

Huang Shan Jewish Cemetery of Harbin, China

National economy and social service have obtained significant achievements since the Chinese economic reform first introduced in 1979. Harbin holds the China Harbin International economic and Trade Fair each year since 1990.[22] Harbin once housed one of the largest Jewish communities in the Far East before World War II. It reached its peak in the mid-1920s when 25,000 European Jews lived in the city. Among them were the parents of Ehud Olmert, the former Prime Minister of Israel. In 2004, Olmert came to Harbin with an Israeli trade delegation to visit the grave of his grandfather in Huang Shan Jewish Cemetery,[54] which had over 500 Jewish graves identified.[28]

On 5 October 1984, Harbin was designated a sub-provincial city by the Organization Department of the CPC Central Committee. The eight counties of Harbin originally formed part of Songhuajiang Prefecture whose seat was practically located inside the urban area of Harbin since 1972. The prefecture was officially merged into Harbin city on 11 August 1996, increasing Harbin's total population to 9.47 million.[55] The municipality had 10,635,971 inhabitants at the Sixth National Population Census of the People's Republic of China in 2010.[4] Shuangcheng City was merged into Harbin's urban districts with the approval of Chinese State Council in May 2014.[56]

Harbin hosted the third Asian Winter Games in 1996.[57] In 2009, Harbin held the XXIV Winter Universiade.


Harbin and vicinities, LandSat-5 satellite image, 2010-09-22
Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation totals in mm
Source: CMA [58]

Harbin, with a total land area of 53,068 km2 (20,490 sq mi), is located in southern Heilongjiang province and is the provincial capital. The prefecture is also located at the southeastern edge of the Songnen Plain, a major part of China's Manchurian Plain.[59] The city center also sits on the southern bank of the middle Songhua River. Harbin received its nickname The pearl on the swan's neck, since the shape of Heilongjiang resembles a swan.[60] Its administrative area is rather large with latitude spanning 44° 04′−46° 40′ N, and longitude 125° 42′−130° 10' E.[61] Neighbouring prefecture-level cities are Yichun to the north, Jiamusi and Qitaihe to the northeast, Mudanjiang to the southeast, Daqing to the west, and Suihua to the northwest. On its southwestern boundary is Jilin province. The main terrain of the city is generally flat and low-lyling, with an average elevation of around 150 metres (490 ft). However, the territory that comprises the 10 county-level divisions in the eastern part of the municipality consists of mountains and uplands. The easternmost part of Harbin prefecture also has extensive wetlands, mainly in Yilan County which is located at the southwestern edge of the Sanjiang Plain.[62]


Under the Köppen climate classification, Harbin features a monsoon-influenced, humid continental climate (Dwa). Due to the Siberian high and its location above 45 degrees north latitude, the city is known for its coldest weather and longest winter among major Chinese cities.[60] Its nickname Ice City is well-earned, as winters here are dry and bitterly cold, with a 24-hour average in January of only −18.4 °C (−1.1 °F), although the city sees little precipitation during the winter and is often sunny. Spring and autumn constitute brief transition periods with variable wind directions. Summers can be hot, with a July mean temperature of 23.0 °C (73.4 °F). Summer is also when most of the year's rainfall occurs, and more than half of the annual precipitation, at 524 millimetres (20.6 in), occurs in July and August alone. With monthly percent possible sunshine ranging from 52 percent in December to 63 percent in March, the city receives 2,571 hours of bright sunshine annually; on average precipitation falls 104 days out of the year. The annual mean temperature is +4.25 °C (39.6 °F), and extreme temperatures have ranged from −42.6 °C (−45 °F) to 39.2 °C (103 °F).[63]

Environmental issues[edit]

Songhua River upstream chemical explosion[edit]

A benzene plant situated upstream in Jilin City along the Songhua River exploded on 13 November 2005. The explosion severely polluted the Songhua River, with an estimated 100 tons of pollutants containing benzene and nitrobenzene entering into the river.[65] An 80 km (50 mi) long toxic slick drifted down the Amur River, while benzene levels reached at one point 108 times above national safety levels, which led authorities in Harbin to shut off the water supply, and some residents left the city while others rushed to buy bottled water. After four days the water supply was restored. The Harbin government originally declared to the public that the water supply was temporarily off while the supply system was checked. They also denied reports of a chemical leak, claiming that it was "just a rumour."[66] Water supplies were suspended for several days in other major cities along the Songhua River and Amur River, including Songyuan, Khabarovsk and Komsomolsk-on-Amur. The lack of government transparency was criticized, particularly, that it knew about the disaster more than a week before making it public. As contaminated water flowed toward neighboring Russia, Chinese leaders later had to apologize to the Russian government over its handling of the incident.[67]

2013 Harbin smog[edit]

Harbin smog in December, 2012
Main article: 2013 Harbin smog

Due to Harbin's bitter winters,[68] a coal-powered district heating system is necessitated, capable of causing heavy pollution in the city.[69] Due to unseasonably warm temperatures with very little wind in October 2013, record smog was recorded in the city, reducing visibility to below 50 m (160 ft) in parts of Harbin, and below 500 m (1,600 ft) in sections of neighbouring Jilin.[70] The airport and kindergarten through middle schools were closed for three days,[71][72] and Hospitals reported a 23 percent increase in admissions for respiratory problems.[73] All highways in the surrounding Heilongjiang province were closed.[74] Officials blamed the dense pollution on lack of wind, burning of crop waste in farmers' fields, and the 20 October[75] start-up of Harbin's coal-powered district heating system.[76]

Administrative divisions[edit]

The sub-provincial city of Harbin has direct jurisdiction over 9 districts, 2 county-level cities and 7 Counties. On August 15, 2006, Dongli District was merged into Xiangfang District while Acheng District was established in place of the former Acheng City.[1] In 2014, Shuangcheng District was established in former Shuangcheng City with the approval of Chinese State Council.[56]

List of County-level divisions[edit]

Administrative Map of Harbin#NameSimplified ChineseHanyu PinyinPopulation
Area (km²)Density (/km²)
Harbin mcp.png
City proper
1Daoli District道里区Dàolǐ Qū923,7624791,929
2Nangang District南岗区Nángǎng Qū1,343,8571837,343
3Daowai District道外区Dàowài Qū906,4212573,527
4Xiangfang District香坊区Xiāngfáng Qū916,4083402,695
5Pingfang District平房区Píngfáng Qū190,253942,024
6Songbei District松北区Sōngběi Qū236,848736322
7Hulan District呼兰区Hūlán Qū764,5342,186350
8Acheng District阿城区Àchéng Qū596,8562,770215
9Shuangcheng District双城区Shuāngchéng Qū825,6343,112265
Satellite cities
10Shangzhi尚志市Shàngzhì Shì585,3868,89566
11Wuchang五常市Wǔcháng Shì881,2247,512117
12Yilan County依兰县Yīlán Xiàn388,3194,67283
13Fangzheng County方正县Fāngzhèng Xiàn203,8532,99368
14Bin County宾县Bīn Xiàn551,2713,846143
15Bayan County巴彦县Bāyàn Xiàn590,5553,138188
16Mulan County木兰县Mùlán Xiàn277,6853,60277
17Tonghe County通河县Tōnghé Xiàn210,6505,75537
18Yanshou County延寿县Yánshòu Xiàn242,4553,22675


Commercial street with European facades in Harbin

Harbin has the largest economy in Heilongjiang province.[8] In 2013, Harbin's GDP totaled RMB501.08 billion, an increase of 8.9 percent over the previous year.[77] The proportion of the three industries to the aggregate of GDP was 11.1:36.1:52.8 in 2012. The total value for imports and exports by the end of 2012 was USD 5,330 million.[8] In 2012, the working population reached 3.147 million.

Skyscrapers in Songbei District, Harbin

The chernozem soil in Harbin, called "black earth" is one of the most nutrient rich in all of China, making it valuable for cultivating food and textile-related crops. As a result, Harbin is China's base for the production of commodity grain and an ideal location for setting up agricultural businesses. Harbin also has industries such as light industry, textile, medicine, food, automobile, metallurgy, electronics, building materials, and chemicals which help to form a fairly comprehensive industrial system. Harbin Power Equipment Group Company and Northeast Light Alloy Processing Factory are two key enterprises. Power manufacturing is also a main industry in Harbin; hydro and thermal power equipment manufactured here makes up one-third of the total installed capacity in China.[13] Harbin Pharmaceutical Group, which mainly focus on research, development, manufacture and sale of pharmaceutical products, is China's second-biggest drug maker by market value.[78]

Foreign investors seem upbeat about the city. A large-scale national level international fair, Harbin International Trade and Economic Fair, has been held annually since its first session in 1990.[79] This investment and trade fair cumulatively attracting more than 1.9 million exhibitors and visitors from more than 80 countries and regions to attend in, resulting over US$100 billion contract volume concluded according to the statistics of 2013.[80] Harbin is among major destinations of FDI in Northeast China,[8] with utilized FDI totaling US$980 million in 2013.[77] After the 18th regular meeting between Sino-Russian Prime Ministers between Li Keqiang and Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev in October 2013,[81] two sides come to make an agreement that the Harbin International Trade and Economic Fair will be renamed "China-Russia EXPO" and be co-sponsored by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, Heilongjiang Provincial government, the Russian Ministry of Economic Development and Russia's Ministry of Trade and Industry.[82]

Harbin Bank Building

In the financial sector, Longjiang Bank and Harbin Bank are some of the largest banks in Northeast China, with headquarters in Harbin. The latter ranks 4th by competitiveness among Chinese city commercial banks in 2011.[83]

Economic Development Zones and Ports[edit]

Harbin Songbei Economic Development Zone

Songbei Economic Development Zone is located in Songbei District of Harbin. The zone has a planned area of 5.53 square kilometers. Electronics assembly & manufacturing, food and beverage processing are the encouraged industries in the zone.[87] Many regional and provincial headquarters of large enterprises such as the China Datang Corporation, China Netcom and China Telecom have joined in this district, preliminary constituting the economy concentration zone of the local headquarters. Regional Scientific research centers including Harbin Science and Technology Innovation Center and Harbin International Agricultural Science and Technology Innovation Center are also located in this development zone. Profit from these major research institutes, Harbin ranked 9th among 50 major Chinese cities in scientific and technological innovation ability in scientific and technological competitiveness ranking in 2006, as well as ranking 6th among Chinese cities in the amount of scientific and technological achievements.[88]

Harbin High-tech Industrial Development Zone

Harbin High-tech Zone was founded in 1988 and was approved by the PRC State Council as a national development zone in 1991. Automobile production and assembly raw material processing are the encouraged industries in the zone.[89] The zone has a total area of 34 square-kilometers in the centralized parks, subdivided into Nangang, Haping Road and Yingbin Road Centralized Parks. The Nangang Centralized Park is designated for the incubation of high-tech projects and research and development base of enterprises as well as tertiary industries such as finance, insurance, services, catering, tourism, culture, recreation and entertainment, where the headquarters of large famous companies and their branches in Harbin are located; the Haping Road Centralized Park is a comprehensive industrial basis for the investment projects of automobile and automobile parts manufacturing, medicines, foodstuffs, electronics, textile; the Yingbin Road Centralized Park is mainly for high-tech incubation projects, high-tech industrial development.


Historical population
Population size may be affected by changes on administrative divisions.

The 2010 census revealed that the official total population in Harbin was 10,635,971, representing a 12.99 percent increase over the last decade.[90] The urban area had a population of 5.87 million people. The demographic profile for the Harbin metropolitan area in general is relatively old: 10.95 percent are under the age of 14, while 8.04 percent are over 65, compared to the national average of 16.6% and 8.87 percent, respectively. Harbin has a higher percentage of males (50.85 percent) than females (49.15 percent).[91] Harbin currently has a lower birth rate than other parts of China, with 6.95 births per 1,000 inhabitants, compared to the Chinese average of 12.13 births.[92]

Ethnic groups[edit]

Most of Harbin's residents belong to the Han Chinese majority (93.45 percent). Ethnic minorities include the Manchu, Hui, and Mongol. In 2000, 616,749 residents belonged to minority nationalities, among which the vast majority (433,340) were Manchu, contributing 70.26 percent to the minority population. The second and third largest minority groups were Koreans (119,883) and Hui nationalities (39,995).

Ethnic groups in Harbin, 2000 census[93]


The Harbin local culture is based on Han culture, combined with Manchu culture and Russian culture.[8] This combination of cultures influences the local architecture style, food, music, and customs. The city of Harbin was appointed a UNESCO City of Music on 22 June 2010 as part of the Creative Cities Network.


Harbin is renowned for its culinary tradition. Cuisine of Harbin consist of European flavor dishes and Chinese Northern flavor dishes mainly typified by heavy sauce and deep-frying.[94]

One of the most famous dishes in Northeastern Chinese cuisine is Guo Bao Rou, a form of sweet and sour pork. It is a classic dish from Harbin which originated in the early 20th century in Daotai Fu (pinyin: Dàotái Fǔ).[95] It consists of a bite-sized pieces of pork in a potato starch batter, deep-fried until crispy. They are then lightly coated in a variation of a sweet and sour sauce, made from freshly prepared syrup, rice vinegar and flavoured with ginger and garlic. The Harbin Guobaorou is distinct form that of other areas of China, such as Liaoning, where the sauce may be made using either tomatoe ketchup or orange juice. Rather the Harbin style is dominated by the honey and ginger flavours and has a clear or honey yellow colour. Originally the taste was fresh and salty. In order to fete foreign guests, Zheng Xingwen, the chef of Daotai Fu, altered the dish into a sweet and sour taste.[95]

Demoli Stewed Live Fish is one among other notable dishes in Harbin, which is originated in a village named Demoli on the expressway from Harbin to Jiamusi. The village is now Demoli Service Area on Harbin-Tongjiang Expressway.[96] Stewed Chicken with Mushrooms, Braised Pork with Vermicelli, and quick-boil pork with Chinese sauerkraut are also typical authentic local dishes.

Since Russia had a strong influence of Harbin's history, Local cuisine of Harbin also contains Russian style dishes and flavor.[8] There are several authentic Russian-style western restaurants in Harbin, especially alongside the Zhongyang Street.[97]

Harbin Sausage

A popular regional specialty is Harbin-style smoked savory red sausage.[94] This product similar to Lithuanian and German sausages which are very mild, and they tend to be much more of European flavours than other Chinese sausages. In 1900, Russian merchant Ivan Yakovlevich Churin founded a branch in Harbin, which was named Churin Foreign trading company (Chinese pinyin:Qiulin Yanghang; Russian: Цюлинь Янхан) selling imported clothes, leather boots, canned foods, vodka, etc., and began to expand sales network in other cities in Manchuria.[98][99] The influx of Europeans through Trans-Siberian Railway and Chinese Eastern Railway, increased demand of European flavor food. In 1909, Churin's Sausage Factory was founded, and first produced European flavor sausage with the manufacturing process of Lithuanian staff. Since then European style sausage become a specialty of the city.[94]

A Russian style large round bread Dalieba, derived from the Russian word khleb for "bread" is also produced in Harbin's bakeries. Dalieba is a miche like sourdough bread. First introduced to the locals by a Russian baker, it has been sold in bakeries in Harbin for over a hundred years.[100] Dalieba's sour and chewy taste is different from other traditional soft and fluffy Asian style breads in other parts of China.

Kvass, a Russia-originated fermented beverage made from black or regular rye bread,[101] is also popular in Harbin.[102]

Winter culture[edit]

Tower at Harbin Ice and Snow Festival 2013

Located in northern Northeast China, Harbin is the northernmost among major cities in China. Under the direct influence of the strongest semipermanent Siberian Anticyclone, the strongest semipermanent in northern hemisphere, the average daily temperature is −19.7 °C (−3.5 °F) in winter. Annual low temperatures below −35.0 °C (−31.0 °F) are not uncommon. Nicknamed "Ice City" due to its bitterly cold winter, Harbin is decorated by various styles of Ice and snow Sculptures from December to March every year.[11]

Ice sculptures in 2014, including a replica of Empire State Building

The annual Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival has been held since 1985. Although the official start date is January 5 each year, in practice, many of the sculptures can be seen before. While there are ice sculptures throughout the city, there are two main exhibition areas: Enormous snow sculptures at Sun Island (Taiyang Dao, a AAAAA-rated recreational area on the opposite side of the Songhua River from the city) and the separate "Ice and Snow World" that operates each night with lights switched on, illuminating the sculptures from both inside and outside. Ice and Snow World features illuminated full size buildings made from blocks of 2–3 feet thick crystal clear ice directly taken from Songhua River which passes through the city. The sculptures inside the exhibition ground takes 15,000 workers to work for 16 days. In early December, ice artisans cut 120,000 cubic metres (4.2 million cubic feet) of ice blocks from Songhua river's frozen surface as raw materials for the ice sculptures' show.[103] Massive ice buildings, large-scale snow sculptures, ice slides, festival food and drinks can also be found in several parks and major avenues in the city. Winter activities in the festival include Yabuli Alpine Skiing, snow mobile driving, winter-swimming in Songhua River, and the traditional ice-lantern exhibition in Zhaolin Garden, which was first held in 1963.[104] Snow carving and ice and snow recreations are famous nationalwide, especially among Asian countries including Korean, Japan, Thailand and Singapore.[103]

The "Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival" is one of the four largest ice and snow festivals in the world, along with Japan's Sapporo Snow Festival, Canada's Quebec City Winter Carnival, and Norway's Holmenkollen Ski Festival.[8]

Every November, the city of Harbin sends teams of ice artisans to the United States to promote their unique art form. It takes more than 100 artisans to create ICE!, the annual display of indoor Christmas-themed ice carvings in National Harbor, Maryland; Nashville, Tennessee; Kissimmee, Florida; and Grapevine, Texas.

The Music City[edit]

Being considered the fashion capital of China in the 1920s,[13] Harbin had the earliest access to European classical music in China. Founded in 1908, the Harbin Symphony Orchestra was China's oldest symphony orchestra. Harbin No.1 Music School was also the first music school in China, which was founded in 1928. Nearly 100 famous musicians have studied at the school since its founding, said Liu Yantao, deputy chief of Harbin Cultural, Press and Publication Bureau.

UNESCO recognizes China's Harbin as "The Music City" as part of the Creative Cities Network in 2010.[14]

Harbin Summer Music Concert[edit]

Harbin Summer Music Concert ('Concert' for short) is a national concert festival, which is held on August 6 every two years for a period of 10~11 days. During the concert, multiple evenings, concert, race and activities are held. The artists come from all over the world.

The 'Harbin Summer Music Month', which was then renamed as 'Harbin Summer Music Concert', was held in August 1958. The first formal Concert was held on August 5, 1961 in Harbin Youth Palace, and kept on every year until 1966 when the Cultural Revolution started in China.[105] In 1979, the Concert was recovered and from 1994, it has been held every two years. As a part of 2006 Harbin Summer Music Concert's opening ceremony, a 1,001-piano concert was held in Harbin's Flood memorial square located at the north end of Zhongyang Street (Chinese: 中央大街; pinyin: Zhōngyāng dàjiē) on August 6, 2006.[106][107] Repertoires of the ensemble consisted of Triumphal March, Military March, Radetzky March and famous traditional local song On The Sun Island、. This concert set a new Guinness World Record for largest piano ensemble, surpassing the previous record held by German artists in a 600-piano concert.[14] In 2008, the 29th Harbin Summer Music Concert was held on August 6.


The 336 m (1,102 ft) tall Harbin Dragon Tower, serves as the headquarters of HLJTV and Dragon Broadcast

Television and Radio[edit]

Printed Media[edit]

Major local newspapers include the Harbin Daily, New Metropolis Newspaper, Life Newspaper, New Evening News, Heilongjiang Morning Paper and Heilongjiang Daily.

Previous newspapers[edit]

In 1929 the Deutsch-Mandschurische Nachrichten, a German language daily newspaper, opened in Harbin. The editor of the newspaper was an engineer, not a professional journalist. Hartmut Walravens, author of German Influence on the Press in China said that, "While there was a potential clientele in Harbin owing to many people from Russia and the Baltic states who understood and read German, the paper offered little to interest a wider circle of readers" and that "the main asset of the paper were the advertisements while the news section was very poor."[108] In 1930 the newspaper moved to Tianjin and changed its name to the Deutsch-Chinesische Nachrichten.[108]


Saint Sofia Orthodox Cathedral and surroundings

Harbin is notable for its combination of oriental and European architecture styles. Many Russian and other European-influenced style building are listed special protected by national government. The architecture in Harbin brings the city the nickname of "Oriental Moscow" and "Oriental Paris".[60]

Zhongyang Street

Zhongyang Street, one of the main business streets in Harbin, is a remnant of the bustling international business activities at the turn of the 20th century. First built in 1898, The 1.4 km (0.87 mi) long street is now a veritable museum of European architectural styles: Baroque and Byzantine façades,[8] little Russian bakeries and French fashion houses, as well as non European architectural styles: American eateries, and Japanese restaurants.[109]

The Russian Orthodox church, Saint Sophia Cathedral, is also located in the central district of Daoli.[8] Built in 1907 and expanded from 1923 to 1932, it was closed during the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution periods. Following its designation in 1996 as a national cultural heritage site (First class Preserved Building),[110] it was turned into a museum as a showcase of the history of Harbin city in 1997.[111] The 53.35 m (175.0 ft)-tall Church, which covers an area of 721 square meters, is a typical representative of the Byzantine architecture.[112]

Ji Le Temple(Temple of Bliss), a Buddhist temple in Harbin.

Many citizens believe that the Orthodox church damaged the local feng shui, so they donated money to build a Chinese monastery in 1921, the Ji Le Temple. There were more than 15 Russian Orthodox churches and two cemeteries in Harbin until 1949. The Communist Revolution, and the subsequent Cultural Revolution, and the decrease in the ethnic Russian population, saw many of them abandoned or destroyed. Today, about 10 churches remain, while services are held only in the Church of the Intercession in Harbin.[113]


As the Winter Sports center in China, many famous winter sports athletes are born or raised in Harbin. Olympic medalists among them including short track star and six-time Olympic medalist Wang Meng, 2014 Sochi Ollympics gold medalist Zhang Hong and 2006 pairs figure skating silver medalists Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao,[114] as well as 2010 Vancouver Olympics figure skating gold medalists Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo and silver medalists Pang Qing and Tong Jian.

Harbin has an indoor speed skating arena, Heilongjiang Indoor Rink, as one of four in China along with Changchun's Jilin Provincial Speed Skating Rink, Shenyang's Bayi Speed Skating Oval and Qiqihar's Indoor Ice Rink.

Mutual cooperation of the Far Eastern State Academy of Physical Culture and the Harbin Institute of Physical Education started an exchange of sports and cultural delegations, holding of sports, training of Chinese students in Khabarovsk, Russia and Harbin. Russian side have plans to introduce bandy to China while Harbin has good preconditions for chtobyy become one of the strong points of bandy in China.[115]

Harbin Yiteng Football Club currently play home soccer matches at Harbin International Conference Exhibition and Sports Center, a 50000-seated stadium. The team gain promotion to China's top tier for the first time when they came second within the 2013 China League One division.

Harbin hosted the Asian Basketball Confederation Championship in 2003, in which China won the championship on their home court for the thirteenth time.


The 1996 Asian Winter Games were held in Harbin, and the city also bid for hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics. The Alpine skiing events would have taken place in the Yabuli ski resort. In the frame of this campaign to assert its role on the world scene, Harbin was the host city of the 2009 Winter Universiade. Local Government spent 3.6 billion yuan for this event, with 2.63 billion used to in construction and renovation of its sport infrastructure for this Universiade.[116]



Railway system in Northeast China.

Located at the junction of "T-style" mainline system, Harbin is an important railroad hub of the Northeast China Region.[117] Harbin Railway Bureau is the first Railway Bureau established by People's Republic of China Government, of which the railway density is the highest in China. Five conventional rail lines radiate from Harbin to: Beijing (Jingha Line), Suifenhe (Binsui Line), Manzhouli (Binzhou Line), Beian (Binbei Line) and Lalin (Labin Line). In addition, Harbin has a high-speed rail line linking Dalian. In 2009, construction began on the new Harbin West Railway Station with 18 platforms, located on the southwestern outskirts of the city. In December 2012, the station was opened, as China unveiled its first high-speed rail running through regions with extremely low winter temperatures. with scheduled runs from Harbin to Dalian.[118] The weather-proof CRH380B bullet trains serving the line can accommodate temperatures from minus 40 degrees Celsius to 40 degrees Celsius above zero.[119]

The city's main railway stations are the Harbin Railway Station, which was first built in 1899 and expanded in 1989; the Harbin East Railway Station, which opened in 1934; and the Harbin West Railway Station, which was built into the city's high-speed railway station in 2012.[117] Another main station under construction, Harbin North Railway Station, will be open for pubilc service on November 30, 2014.[120]

Direct passenger train service is available from Harbin Railway Station to large cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Guangzhou, Jinan, Nanjing and many other major cities in China.[13] Direct High-speed railway service began operation between Harbin West and Shanghai Hongqiao stations since December 28, 2013, shorten the journey time to 12 hours.[121]


Songpu Bridge on Songhua River

As an important regional hub in Northeast China, Harbin has an advanced system of highways. Food and other products are shipped on these roads.

There are several important highways which pass through or terminate in Harbin, including the Beijing–Harbin, Heihe–Dalian, Harbin–Tongjiang, Changchun–Harbin, and Manzhouli–Suifenhe highways.


Harbin Taiping International Airport, which is 35 kilometres (22 miles) away from the urban area of Harbin, is the second largest international airport in Northeast China. It is the largest northernmost airport of China and its terminal building (along with Shenyang-Taoxian Airport) is currently one of the largest in northeastern China.[citation needed] The technical level of flight district is 4E, which allows all kinds of large and medium civil aircraft. There are flights to over thirty large cities including Beijing, Tianjing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Qingdao, Wenzhou, Xiamen, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Shenyang, Dalian, Xi'an and Hong Kong.[13] In addition there are also scheduled international flights between Harbin and Russia, Singapore, Malaysia, and South Korea.[117]


Main article: Harbin Metro
Line 1, Harbin Metro

Construction of Harbin Subway started on 5 December 2006. The total investment for the first phase is RMB5.89 billion. Twenty stations were planned to be set on this 17.73 km (11.02 mi) long line starting from Harbin East Railway Station to the 2nd Affiliated Hospital of Harbin Medical University in the west of the city. A subway depot, a command center and two transformer substations will be built along the line. Most of the subway's route follows the air defence evacuation tunnel left from the "7381" Project which started in 1973 and ended in 1979. The 7381 project was intended to protect Harbin from the former Soviet Union's possible invasion or nuclear attack.

The Line 1 of Harbin Metro actually opened on 26 September 2013.[122] It is oriented along the east west axis of the urban area of Harbin: from north-east (Harbin East Railway Station) to south-west (2nd Affiliated Hospital of Harbin Medical University).[123] Line 2 and Line 3 are under construction. Line 2 runs from Songbei District to Xiangfang District and Line 3 runs next to 2nd ring road of Harbin. In the long term, the city plans to build nine radiating subway lines and a circle line in downtown and some suburban districts, which account for 340 km (211.3 mi) by 2025.[124]

Picture References:

Ports and waterways[edit]

View along Songhua River, Harbin's Qunli Development Area

There are more than 1,900 rivers in Heilongjiang, including the Songhua River, Heilong River and Wusuli River, creating a convenient system of waterway transportation. Harbin harbor is one of eight inland ports in China and the largest of its type in Northeast China. Available from mid-April until the beginning of November, passenger ships sail from Harbin up the Songhua River to Qiqihar, or downstream to Jiamusi, Tongjiang, and Khabarovsk in Russia.[13]


The main building of Harbin Institute of Technology. Note the Stalinist "tier-cake" façade, reminiscent of the Seven Sisters in Moscow.
Harbin Xinhua Bookstore.

As Harbin serves as an important military industrial base after PRC's foundation, it is home to several key universities. Soviet experts played an important role in many education projects in this period. However, due to the threat of possible war with the Soviet Union, several colleges were moved southwards to Changsha, Chongqing, and several other southern cities in China in the 1960s. Some of these colleges were returned to Harbin in the 1970s. These universities mainly focus on the science and technology service of national military and aerospace industry.[125] Among these universities the best-known is Harbin Institute of Technology, one of China's better known universities. Founded in 1920, the university has developed into an important research university mainly focusing on engineering(e.g. in space science and defense-related technologies),[126][127] with supporting faculties in the sciences, management, humanities and social sciences. The institute's faculty and students contributed to and invented China's first analog computer, the first intelligent chess computer, and the first arc-welding robot. In 2010, research funding from the government, industry, and business sectors surpassed RMB1.13 billion, the second highest of any university in China.[13]

International relations[edit]

Harbin has town twinning and similar arrangements with approximately 30 places around the world, as well as some other cities within China. For a list, see List of twin towns and sister cities in China → H.

In 2009 Harbin opened an International Sister Cities museum. It has 1,048 exhibits in 28 rooms, with a total area of 1,800 square metres (19,375 square feet).[128]

See also[edit]


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  • Jing-shen, Tao (1976). The Jurchen in Twelfth-Century China. University of Washington Press. ISBN 0-295-95514-7. 
  • Lahusen, Thomas (November 15, 2001). Harbin and Manchuria: Place, Space, and Identity (South Atlantic Quarterly (Book 99) ed.). Location: Duke University Press Books. pp. 276 pages. ISBN 0-295-95514-7. 
  • Walravens, Hartmut. "German Influence on the Press in China." – In: Newspapers in International Librarianship: Papers Presented by the Newspaper Section at IFLA General Conferences. Walter de Gruyter, January 1, 2003. ISBN 3110962799, 9783110962796.
    • Also available at (Archive) the website of the Queens Library – This version does not include the footnotes visible in the Walter de Gruyter version
    • Also available in Walravens, Hartmut and Edmund King. Newspapers in international librarianship: papers presented by the newspapers section at IFLA General Conferences. K.G. Saur, 2003. ISBN 3598218370, 9783598218378.

Further reading[edit]

  • Meyer, Mike, "Manchuria Under Ice", Departures Magazine, Nov/Dec 2006, 292–297.
  • Nikos Kavvadias, a popular Greek poet born in Harbin by Greek parents from Kefalonia, Greece
  • Jan, Michel, "Cruelle est la terre des frontières", Payot, Paris, 2006 (in French).

External links[edit]