Port and capital of Heilongjiang province, northeast China, on the Songhua River; population (2010) 5,878,900. It is a major rail junction. Industries include metallurgy, food-processing, and sugar-refining; the manufacture of machinery, ball bearings, chemicals, cement, and paper; and tourism. Harbin was developed by Russian settlers after Russia was granted trading rights here in 1896, and more Russians arrived as refugees after the October Revolution (1917). In World War II, it was the key objective of the Soviet invasion of Manchuria in August 1945.
Features Harbin owes its early growth to its siting at the junction of the main Chinese Eastern Railway, built by the Russians as an extension of the Trans-Siberian Railway, and the branch running southwest towards Dalian. As a result, unlike most Chinese cities, the city is built around the rail line which runs through its centre. Many examples of Russian-style architecture survive throughout the city.
Harbin's climate, with very cold winters and mild summers, gives it two tourist seasons in the year. The principal one is in the winter when the Ice Lanterns Festival is held; from 1 January onwards, the parks are decorated with large ice sculptures which are illuminated at night. Harbin also has a winter sports season with frequent outdoor ice-hockey matches. The second tourist season is less pronounced, when visitors come to escape the heat of the summer in the rest of China.
Industry Harbin's economy is based on heavy industry, particularly engineering. China's first domestically produced electricity-generating equipment was manufactured here, as well as generating equipment for the Three Gorges Dam project on the Chang Jiang River. Other precision engineering products made in Harbin are motors and engines, and meters and measuring equipment. Papermaking and sugar-processing, using local raw materials, are also important to the city's economy.