With its beautiful mountains, lakes and lush forests, Mudanjiang city in northeast China, is a hub for the great outdoors. It is located in the south of Heilongjiang province, with Harbin to the north and Russia’s Vladivostok to the east.
Here lies China’s so-called Snow Town, the nickname of a place called the Shuang Feng Wood Farm, which looks like it could have been lifted right out of a fairy tale. The snowy season here lasts for more than seven months and the average snowfall reaches two meters, hence its nickname. Little wonder that it’s the national ski training base.
Probably the most famous attraction here is Jingpo Lake (which means Mirror Lake), the second largest volcanic barrier lake in the world, second only to Lake Geneva in Switzerland. It was formed some ten thousand years ago when the flowing lava from a volcanic eruption blocked the Mudanjiang River.
As it’s so far north, Jingpo Lake begins to freeze in late November and the ice can be as thick as 70cm. If you’re up to it, have a go at ice fishing. Experienced fishermen select the location to drill a hole into the ice according to its colour, and then place their nets.
There are a number of sightseeing spots scattered around the lake area. The most attractive is the 25m-high Diaoshuilou Waterfall at the lake’s northern outlet. The waterfall is usually 40m wide, and in winter it freezes into cliff-hanging icicles, transforming the fall into a glistening tower of crystal.
But in summer, the water crashes down the cliff into a deep pool below with a thunderous roar that can be heard for miles around, while the mists turn the sunshine into rainbows. Back in 1983, Di Huanran, a resident of Harbin, did the first recorded cliff dive here. As a China Daily report from 2011 recalls:
"Di pressed his palms together as if in prayer, then lifted them above his head. The thousands of bystanders had little inkling he was about to make a tremendous leap of faith. With legs like piston rods, the then 25-year-old pounced head-first from the crag, training his fingertips on the bull’s-eye created by the vortex’s centre.
“Onlookers gasped as the human missile shot toward the roiling swirl, detonating a frothy explosion upon impact. They held their breath in suspense as Di was sucked several meters underwater and the ferocious maelstrom whipped his figure to and fro.
“Then the crowd’s inhalations became eruptive cheers as Di thrashed free from the chokehold of the watery spiral’s tentacles, pulling his dripping body onto the bank, unscathed.”
Di continued diving there with other friends and 19 years later, in 2002, cliff diving replaced chauffeuring as his livelihood, when the Jingpo Lake park and forestry bureau hired him to stage regular performances. Twenty-five years after his first dive at Diaoshuilou, on 21 Sept 2008, the Guinness Book of World Records recognised Di for doing the highest waterfall dive at 12.19m.
Of course, cliff diving is an extreme sport that is not everyone’s cup of tea.
Those who prefer more relaxing winter pursuits at Jingpo Lake have lots of options, such as snow football, spinning tops on the ice, taking a ride in a “train” made from old tyres, or just soaking in hot baths. – China Daily/Asia News Network