Harbin (härˈbĭn) [key], Rus. Kharbin, city (1994 est. pop. 2,505,200), capital of Heilongjiang prov., China, on the Songhua River. It is the major trade and communications center of central Manchuria, the junction of the two most important railroads in Manchuria, and the main port on the Songhua. Part of the great Manchurian industrial complex of metallurgical, machinery, chemical, petroleum, and coal industries, Harbin also has railroad shops, food-processing establishments (soybeans are a major commodity), and plants making tractors, turbines, boilers, precision instruments, electrical and electronic equipment, cement, and fertilizer.
Harbin was unimportant until Russia was granted a concession (1896) and built a modern section alongside the old Chinese town. (Russia surrendered its concession in 1924.) Flooded by White Russian refugees after 1917, Harbin had one of the largest European populations in East Asia. Most of the Europeans left the city following the rise to power of the Chinese Communists. Harbin's institutions of higher learning include Harbin Polytechnical Univ., a medical college, and several technical institutes. The city has a well-known winter ice festival.