Winter swimming is a physical activity with folk rich cultural characteristic in Harbin, showing off the native people’s strong physique and iron will in Harbin. In winter, the outdoor temperature in Harbin drops to 10 or even 20 degrees below zero. Winter swimmers break up the ice of the swimming pools on Songhua River and make it a natural swimming pool for winter swimmers. The very time of winter swimming is from five to six o’clock in the morning when the sun hasn’t risen yet, but the winter swimming performance begins from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. Winter swimming becomes popular among Harbin people, it is evaluated from baptism culture of Orthodox Eastern Church of Russian people in Harbin. At the beginning of the 1980’s, some swimming lovers took winter swimming attempts bravely in Songhua River, and then in December 1983, Harbin Winter Swimming Association was founded.
During the Spring Festival, the performance of winter swimming, which was one of the city’s ten winter highlights, keeps upgrading all the time. It gets more interesting and more professional, attracting a large number of visitors at home and abroad to gather at the winter swimming pool beside the Harbin Road Bridge to watch the show delightfully. In order to present the best show and make visitors amused, winter swimmers use various postures to dive into the freezing water time after time in spite of the low temperature at 20 degrees below zero.
In winter, though the temperature is usually lower than 20 degrees below zero in Harbin, swimming pools are digged on the icy Songhua River and those pools are called Holly Land of winter swimming. Ever since the first Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival in 1985, the performance of winter swimming was listed as an important activity of the festival by the city government. Through the festival, winter swimmers show their unfearing and brave spirits to the world. With almost 1 million visitors so far, watching winter swimming shows has become a highlight of Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival.
The specific place to watch winter swimming performance is near the Winter Swimming Association, not far from the west of Songhuajiang Road Bridge. Swimmers usually choose a place beside the frozen boat, where there is flowing water underneath, as their swimming site. They will chisel a square hole of about scores of square meters deep in the frozen river as the swimming pool, where diving and swimming competitions are held.
When the performance starts, some elder people come to stage in sequence against the harsh wind and jump into the frozen water from hath pace. In the water, they do some butterfly stroke or freestyle stroke for a few minutes before they get out of the water. The winter swimmers dive in many postures and get loud cheers from visitors in response. When these heroes come out of the icy water onto the frozen boat, their skin turn red and blue because of the coldness, but they still look vigorous and energetic as if they were swimming in summer. Winter swimming shows the courageous spirit of Harbin people and it helps to keep healthy and enhance immune system.