HARBIN, China — A cold snap in northern China has thrown daily life into confusion, but is ideal for fairy tale palaces, towering pagodas, and even a sphinx — all carved from ice — that make up the sights at this year’s Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival.

The annual event in northern China, now in its 26th year, pulls crowds from across China and even a few visitors from overseas, drawn to the unique visions of an international roster of sculptors who illuminate their creations with multicolored electric lights encased in the translucent ice.

Tuesday night’s opening ceremony featured a fireworks display, lighting up the sky above the festival’s main site on Sun Island alongside the frozen Songhua River running to the north of Harbin, a metropolis as far north as Toronto that styles itself China’s “ice city.”

Past festival themes have included the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, while perennial motifs include famous Chinese tourist sites such as Beijing’s Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China. Tired of looking at the sculptures? Take a ride on the ice slide, but be sure to get out of the way quick as other thrill seekers zip down on you from behind.