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Harbin's ace ice and snow host shares in city's success

Updated : 2024-02-21

By ( Xinhua )

Jiang Kedong still remembers his teacher's angry words when he was punished for talking during class — "Can you make money by talking?" Now, he can answer that question.
This winter, Jiang became a celebrity in China, dubbed "Brother Left and Right", as host of performances at Harbin Ice-Snow World, a landmark theme park in the capital of Heilongjiang province. Since it opened for the new winter season on Dec 18, the park in China's northernmost province has received more than 2 million visitors.
"People are coming not for me, but for my hometown," the 38-year-old celebrity host told Xinhua as he walked past the park's main sculpture in the shape of a tower, which was brightly illuminated for the evening. Against this backdrop, he raised his arms and right foot to make the gesture of a soaring eagle.
"She has always been so beautiful," he said, pointing to the sculpture as an example of the city's visual riches. "Now, more people are beginning to see her beauty," he said, highlighting the growing appeal of Harbin, which has gained in prominence since the beginning of this year as a top winter destination in China.
Jiang described Harbin as a "fashionable city" of that era. "I remember seeing many foreigners in downtown Harbin when I was eight or nine," he recalled. That was in the early 1990s, not long after the start of China's reform and opening-up. At that time, there were not many foreigners in China, even in Beijing.
However, Northeast China, an old industrial base formerly known as China's "eldest son", later became a "rust belt" because of the difficulties it encountered in terms of transformation and development. In 1998, Jiang's mother was laid off.
Jiang became an auto production worker in 2006. But his factory didn't prosper, so he held several part-time jobs, including as a drummer for a wedding band.
The development of science and technology saw live performances replaced by digital music files at weddings. Jiang's drumming career ended, but this experience connected him with the wedding industry.
In 2011, he resigned from the factory to become a wedding host. It was at a wedding that he met the person in charge of performances at the Harbin Ice-Snow World, who invited him to the extravaganza.
This chance meeting marked the beginning of Jiang's association with Ice-Snow World.
The theme park grew from the former Harbin Ice Lantern Festival, which started in 1963.
"My first impression of the park 12 years ago was 'Wow, it's so big!'," said Jiang. "In the following years, I witnessed it becoming even bigger, and the use of science and technology also improved."
Over the years, Jiang has enjoyed growing success. In 2019, the number of people following him on social media soared from 50,000 to 600,000. At the time, there were too many visitors at the site. For fear that they would fall and cause a stampede, during the interactive session he would shout: "Left foot, right foot!" This earned him the nickname "Brother Left and Right".
However, he has also faced some bleak moments, with the COVID-19 pandemic a major cause of disruption. He did not give up, switching instead to livestreaming from the park. "There were so many spectacular ice sculptures. It would be a pity if no one saw them," said Jiang.
"There are ups and downs; it's the law of nature," he added philosophically. "As long as you work hard, you will be appreciated one day."
His thoughtful comments apply not only to his life, but also to Harbin.
Since the beginning of 2024, Harbin has become prominent as a top winter destination. According to research by Tongcheng, a major online travel agency, the city has been ranked as the most popular destination for the 2024 Spring Festival holiday.

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