BEIJING – As millions of people across China celebrate the Lunar New Year this week by setting of fireworks and loud firecrackers, blacksmiths in the Hebei province, north of the capital city Beijing, were wowing audiences with spectacular molten metal light shows.
Thousands of people flocked to Shixia Pass on the Great Wall of China, just north of Beijing, this week to witness the fiery illuminations first hand.
There were several types of pyrotechnic performance on display, such as the “Thunderbolt” (“Kong Zhong Pi Huo”), in which the blacksmiths slap the molten metal to spread it as it explodes as high as 20 meters in the air, creating a shower of fiery, “golden raindrops,” the organizers said.
The metalworkers also showcased the “Er Long Xi Zhu,” a representation of two dragons playing with a pearl, in which six performers spin metal shelves to create three twirling rings of fire, sending sparks cascading down “like a rain of golden flowers” over a 100-meter (329 feet) radius.
The art form, known in Mandarin as “Dashuhua,” meaning “throwing tree flowers,” is a centuries-old traditional theatrical light show that has been listed as an intangible cultural heritage, according to the state-run China Daily.
It originated over 500 years ago in Nuanquan, Hebei, when blacksmiths, who could not afford fireworks to celebrate the Chinese Spring Festival or Lantern Festival, which marks the end of the New Year period, realized they could re-create their own fireworks by throwing the molten iron against the castle walls.
The spectacle soon attracted locals, who also could not afford their own pyrotechnics, and the theatrical tradition was born.
The event has gained increasing popularity over the years, with performances now held across the province.
Hundreds of kilograms of discarded iron is melted down at scorching temperatures of 1,600 degrees Celsius, making the beautiful spectacle fraught with potential danger for the blacksmiths, who wear little in the way of protective gear apart from a wide-brimmed straw hat, eye goggles and gloves.
The event has boosted tourism in the area, with thousands of people traveling to watch the performances during the New Year festival, which also include other folk shows like singing, lantern dancing and paper cutting.
The nine-day Lunar New Year festival, which this year brought in the Year of the Pig, runs until Sunday.