News / Asia

Chinese Sculptors Bring Their Talent to US Holiday Ice Show

No matter what the thermometer shows about the weather in your neighborhood - this next story will keep you cool.  For the Christmas holiday, a huge attraction at the Marriott Gaylord National hotel near Washington, DC is made entirely of ice.  Actually, more than 900,000 kilograms of ice!  

Walk inside a massive white tent and the noise hits you first, followed by the brisk air.

You're hearing the sounds of forklifts and chainsaws, slicing through ice.  

The temperature is minus 12 degrees Celsius....the air turns a smoky color when someone exhales. But it must be this cold to preserve the 6,000 massive blocks of ice. Carvers are chipping the blocks into life-sized characters from a children's Christmas storybook.

The carvers only speak Mandarin, like Xu Rui who is the art director of the exhibit.

“We learn it since we were really young," said Xu Rui.

For Xu Rui, that was age 9.  He, like all the others, lives in Harbin, China, known as the Ice Capital of the World because of its annual ice festival that draws 800,000 visitors. This is Xu Rui's 11th exhibit in the U.S. and, he says, the best - as he gestures to the ceiling of the tent.  The tallest sculpture - depicting New York City's Empire State Building - is nearly seven meters-tall.  

Xu Rui looks at blueprints and yells out orders to move one of the ice blocks and to carve it into a circle.  The ice architects build the exhibit without understanding its theme - "Twas The Night Before Christmas," is an American classic, read aloud on the Christian holiday.   

“Now the story is uh…sorry… I can’t recall," he said.

Same with Zhang Haijun who is chiseling windows in the skyscrapers of a Christmas scene in Manhattan.

"I’ve never been to New York, I carve from the pictures people show me. But when I’m finished with this project, I really want to go to New York to see it for real," said Zhang Haijun.

Zhang Haijun wears oversized rubber gloves - he holds a chisel with a long handle - some of the ice equipment he brought from Harbin.

“We can’t get these tools from the store. They are customized and I’ve been using them for years," he said.

The low temperature inside the tent must stay steady because if it's too cold, the ice is too brittle.  Too warm and it won't chip properly.  

The carvers spend 12 hours a day in this frigid workplace  - in a month, they are finished:

The bare brown blocks have become eight lifesized reindeer suspended above the crowd, pulling Santa's sleigh.

Plain slabs have transformed into an exquisite clear ice nativity, the religious centerpiece of Christmas.  Visitors stare and are tempted to touch the sculptures, to confirm they are made of ice.

The yellow ice blocks that were carried in on forklifts are now a lifesized New York City taxi.  Visitors climb into the real leather seats for a perfect photo.

The slanted plank is now a two-story ice sliding board.  Nearby is a floor-to-ceiling green ice Christmas tree with gold garland and vibrant yellow, pink, and purple colored ice presents stacked underneath.

The display, simply called “ICE!” is a Christmas gift for Washington, D.C., wrapped in 900,000 kilograms of ice,  from 34 expert carvers from China.

  • New York skyscrapers made of ice at National Harbor in Maryland. (Carolyn Presutti/VOA)
  • A man stands in front of a New York taxi made of ice at National Harbor in Maryland. (Carolyn Presutti/VOA)
  • A sign made of colored ice at National Harbor in Maryland. (Carolyn Presutti/VOA)
  • A man works on ice displays at National Harbor in Maryland. (Carolyn Presutti/VOA)
  • Santa, his sleigh and reindeer made of ice at National Harbor in Maryland. (Carolyn Presutti/VOA)
  • Brightly colored presents made of ice at National Harbor in Maryland. (Carolyn Presutti/VOA)
  • A nativity scene made of ice at National Harbor in Maryland. (Carolyn Presutti/VOA)
  • A holiday themed ice Statue of Liberty at National Harbor in Maryland. (Carolyn Presutti/VOA)

Carolyn Presutti

Carolyn Presutti is an Emmy and Silver World Medal award winning television correspondent who works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters.   She has also won numerous Associated Press awards and a Clarion for her coverage of The Syrian Medical Crisis, Haiti, The Boston Marathon Bombing, Presidential Politics, The Southern Economy, and The 9/11 Bombing Anniversary.  In 2013, Carolyn aired exclusive stories on the Asiana plane crash and was named VOA’s chief reporter with Google Glass.

You can follow Carolyn on Twitter at CarolynVOA, on Google Plus and Facebook.

You May Like

Germany Celebrates 25 Years of Unity

October 3 is a public holiday, marking the day in 1990 when East Germany and West Germany reunited More

Analysts: Russia's Syria Strikes Shake Regional Powers

If Moscow bolsters Assad, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf countries may feel obliged to step in More

Video Innovative Nano-Tech Water Filter Prevents Disease

It can absorb contaminants like copper, bacteria, viruses and pesticides, says Askwar Hilonga, who has been successfully trying out his product in Arusha More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs