For much of the next two weeks, millions of Chinese will welcome in the Year of Monkey, which begins today, with a cavalcade of fireworks lighting up the night’s sky.
In almost every corner of every city or village in Mainland China, families will light their own firecrackers and boxes of fireworks, with the sounds and flashes of explosions lingering each night into the early hours of the morning.
In the village of Nuanquan, however, which sits on the edge of China’s coal country in Western Hebei province and a five-hour drive from Beijing, there is traditional a pyrotechnic display so unique and dangerous that it is still only found here.
A brave blacksmith, wearing only a wide-brim hat and sheepskin vest for protection, hurls molten iron against the old city wall. When the hot liquid metal, with temperatures of over 2,900 degrees Fahrenheit, makes contact with the cold brick, an arc of sparks rains down over the blacksmith like snow.
They call it “DaShuHua” or, literally, “Beating down the tree flowers.”
Nuanquan villagers claim it has been performed for over 500 years by local blacksmiths. It was traditionally only performed once a year on Lantern Festival, which is the 15th day of the New Year and the unofficial climax of the annual two-week-long festivities. Nowadays, there are a few more opportunities to witness it.
ABC News visited Nuanquan a week before the Lunar New Year and met Sui Jianguo, a 14th generation blacksmith. Sui has been performing “DaShuHua” for more than 25 years and shows off his skills on a new nightly cultural show hoping to draw more tourists to the neglected region.
Sui explained to ABC News correspondent Bob Woodruff that DaShuHua started out being the “poor man’s fireworks.” In the past, only the wealthy residents of Nuanquan could afford firecrackers to ring in the New Year.
So the town’s blacksmiths, noticing sparks flew out when they poured on their molten iron, tried throwing it in the air against a wall. The result is still on display every year since.
When asked whether he thought DaShuHua was more beautiful than traditional fireworks, Sui simply said, “It certainly is the most unique.”