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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Video Scientists Say We Need Softer Robots

Today’s robots are mostly hard, rigid machines, with sharp edges and forceful movements, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say they should be softer and therefore safer More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs