Harbin is a sub-provincial city and the provincial capital of Heilongjiang province, People’s Republic of China, as well as the second-largest city by urban population and the largest city by metropolitan population (urban and rural together) in Northeast China. The city serves as a key political, economic, scientific, cultural, and communications hub in Northeast China and an important industrial base of the nation. It is also one of the top 200 science cities and metropolitan areas globally by scientific research as tracked by the Nature Index.
Harbin, whose name was originally a Manchu word meaning “a place for drying fishing nets”, 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 Chinese Eastern Railway, the city first prospered as a region inhabited by an overwhelming majority of immigrants from the Russian Empire.
Harbin is heralded as the Ice City (冰城) for its well-known winter tourism and recreations with its often harsh winters. It is notable for its ice sculpture festival in the winter. Besides being well known for its historical Russian legacy, the city 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 was voted “China Top Tourist City” by the China National Tourism Administration in 2004.