The Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival began in 1963, but it was banned during the Cultural Revolution.

In 1985 the festival reopened at its present site of Zhaolin Park, merging with Heilongjiang International Ski Festival in 2001.

Harbin is an ideal location as it is in the North East of China, where winter temperatures can plummet to -35C.

Workmen obtain much of the ice used in creating the vast structures from the nearby Songhua River.

De-ionised water is used for some of the structures, which can make them transparent. Multi-coloured lights are then used to create magical effects.

In 2007 the world's largest snow structure was created. The composition included a replica of Niagara Falls and was over 250 metres long.

Tourists come from all over the world to visit the festival, which is one of the largest in the world.

The festival officially launches on 5 January and will remain open until late February – barring a sudden heatwave.

Below is our selection of picture highlights from the festival.

Frozen moments
Fairytale scenes - but where is the Snow Queen?REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Frozen moments
Brrrrrmingham?REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Frozen moments
Snow surreal: Harbin Ice and Snow Sculpture FestivalREUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Frozen moments
Freeze! A solitary snapper captures the momentREUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Frozen moments
Letting it slide: kids enjoying the iceREUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Frozen moments
Walking in a winter wonderland
Frozen moments
Harbin Ice Festival has been held since 1963REUTERS/Sheng Li
Frozen moments
The festival opens on 5 January and is open until late February - barring a sudden heatwaveREUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon