In the ancient town of NuanQuan just west of Beijing the Dashuhua tree flower festival is held to mark the final day of the Chinese lunar new year festivities. The locals pride themselves on celebrating this differently to the traditional fireworks in a unique display including molten iron.
History into the performance goes back over 500 years ago when blacksmiths stores were all around the village in the farming town of NuanQuan. The town was poor and only the wealthy could afford put on a big firework display at the end of the lantern festival to mark not only the end of the celebration but also make sure that any of the demons that may be on the way to village were scared off by the fireworks, so no harm would come to the towns and locals that year.
The blacksmiths were inspired by the sparks that were created in their iron working so much that they decided to try something different to create the fireworks. They soon figured out that by splashing molten metal onto the walls of the city gates, this created bright flower shapes like the firework effect and from then the poor man’s firework was born. As the years went by the molten iron fireworks known as the Dashuhua performances in NuanQuan have grown and grown more popular and have overtaken the original fireworks display themselves, locals donate any scrap metal that they have gathered and saved over the year to the blacksmiths, so they can have the yearly performance in the town.
With different metals, the performers can now produce different colours other than the red that was given off by the burning of the iron that was first used many years ago. Aluminium and copper now give off green and white coloured flowers capture the audience’s attention and give off a bolder and brighter display.
A small team of farmers take part in the performance with no more than sheepskin coats, goggles, fireproof shoes and straw hats take to the stage set at the city gates to give the locals and tourists a performance of a lifetime. The wooden ladles that are used for throwing the molten metals are soaked in water for 3 days before to prevent combusting on impact. the temperature of the molten can reach up to 1,600 degrees Celsius (2,912 degrees Fahrenheit).
One of the four artists to do this dangerous performance is a local man named Wang De he first witnessed a performance during the spring festival, he now farms by daytime and then performs at night. He has become a bit of a celebrity amongst the visitors as they ask for photographs and even had a documentary made about what he does. He found out not long after taking the role as a performer that it had been in three generations of his family been passed down from father to son. Putting his life on the line with every performance he bears the scars from the molten iron all over his body. This is not only this been a game for the brave, but you need professional skills and physical strength and courage. with the danger included, not many want to learn the skill but now the government has focused more on protecting the cultural heritage the Dashuhua will not die out.
See below some of the fantastic displays that have been captured over the years of this fantastic but dangerous performance.