Chinese ice sculptures in Phnom Penh by sculptors from Harbin, China.
Dong Su has spent his last month and a half in Phnom Penh at freezing temperatures. At Ice Art, an ice sculpture exhibition on the capital’s Diamond Island, the 32-year-old from Guangdong, China, has hosted an increasing number of Cambodian guests on a tour through sparkling ice castles and palaces.
Reactions to the show from the primarily local audience have been that of amazement, Dong said.
“They’ve never seen anything like this before. It’s a completely new experience for almost every visitor who comes to our exhibition,” Dong said.
“And for many of our guests, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We want visitors to walk away with a lasting impression.”
A team of 30 Chinese operates the exhibition, 15 of which are ice sculpting masters from the northeastern city of Harbin. Harbin gained international fame after the opening of China in the late 1970s for its annual ice sculpture exhibition. Dong said he has brought some of Harbin’s most talented ice sculptors to Phnom Penh to produce the show which is housed is a 5,000 cubic metre building.
This isn’t the first international appearance of China’s renowned ice sculptures. Dong’s company, Ice Art, has opened exhibitions in the US, Canada and Germany. Other Chinese companies that specialise in ice presentations have visited Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam.
The decision to open an exhibition in Phnom Penh was purely economic. Current growth in Cambodia’s economy resembles closely that of China some 20 years earlier, Dong said.
“Being here in this country now is definitely an opportunity for businesspeople,” he said. “Right now you see many Chinese people coming to Cambodia to do business. This is because we were in the same situation not long ago. We recognise this chance to do good business.”
Anyone with transportation – whether it be a motorcycle or a luxury car – is the target audience for the show. Dong said the appeal of ice sculptures is not limited to a particular age group or income strata. Tickets are priced low so as to accommodate a majority of the capital’s population.
Despite the similarity in growth patterns between Cambodia and China, customer behavior is disparate, Dong said. Similar ice shows in China and Hong Kong have attracted long lines of visitors for a short period of time, he said. Then the crowds disappear all together. Cambodians, however, slowly trickle in over a long period of time.