Chinese Firework

Fireworks, also called firecrackers or Baozhu in China, are widely used in occasions like festivals, weddings and business-opening ceremonies. As an indispensible part of Chinese folk culture, it has a history of more than 2,000 years. The largest usage in China usually comes from the celebration of the Chinese New Year (Spring Festival).

Fireworks Show
Fireworks Show at Hong Kong Victoria Harbour

Origin and History

The predecessor of Chinese fireworks is "pao chuk", exploding bamboo, which refers to the bang and cracker sound caused by heating bamboo with fire. A legend has it that people used this simple device to ward off evil spirits, ghosts and monsters who are afraid of loud sounds, fire and the color red.

With the invention of black powder in the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 AD), an inventor Li Tian from Liuyang, Hunan, managed to cram gunpowder into bamboo tubes to make louder sounds, and he used the crackers to expel beasts and evil spirits. Therefore, he is reputed to be the Chinese Father of Fireworks. After a series of improvements in the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279 AD), bamboo tubes were replaced with paper casing. A string of tiny crackers linked by a powder train was invented later, making continuous cracker sounds for a long time. This technology of firecracker making is inherited and still in use today.

Manufacturing Bases

Endowed with rich saltpeter and charcoal resources, the hometown of Li Tian, Liuyang is at the center of fireworks production. Today the manufacturing bases are mainly located in Liuyang in Hunan and Pingxiang in Jiangxi Province. In nearby Liling, people are also occupied in work related to firecracker production and most of them take it as their primary career. The entire supply of fireworks used in China comes from these areas, and a great deal is also exported.

Occasions to Use It

With the most massive usage of fireworks on this planet, Chinese apply it in many recreational and ceremonial occasions like public festivals, weddings and even funeral ceremonies. Here is a list of the most common occasions.
Chinese New Year Among all traditional festivals and holidays, firecracker use is the most massive during the Chinese New Year. People will set off them on Chinese New Year’s Eve, First New Year Day and the Lantern Festival. It is meant to say goodbye to the old and welcome the lunar new year, and people believe it may bring good luck and happiness.
Qingming Festival (Tomb Sweeping Day) This is a woeful occasion, so the usage is not for celebration but for commemoration. It is said that the deceased will be awakened by the sound and take the offerings. However, now this custom is usually seen only in rural areas.
Wedding Ceremony When people have their wedding ceremonies, especially the traditional style of wedding, the cracker is quite necessary, bringing blessings and happiness to the newlyweds.
Funeral In funerals, fireworks are used to memorialize, and people use them to see off the dead.
Housewarming When moving into a new house, the house owner's friends and relatives will come to celebrate the move by setting off firecrackers, which is the best way of housewarming.
Opening a Shop In urban cities, the tradition is still kept that people set off crackers to foreshadow a favorable business start. It is also a good way to make people around get to know the new shop instantly.
Project Start and Completion When a construction project is started, firecrackers will be utilized to call for smooth development and accident avoidance. Sometimes, when a great project is accomplished successfully, people will also set off crackers for celebration.

Current Problems

The tradition of setting off fireworks is widely kept in China, but there are also a lot of problems with it. There are numerous accidents caused by firecracker explosions every year. For example, on July 12, 2015, a fireworks manufacturing plant exploded, causing 21 deaths and hundreds of injuries. During the Spring Festival, fire hazards are also frequent, leading to damages and loss in different levels. In addition, this activity results in severe pollution, especially air pollution. During the Chinese New Year, the air quality may be the worst of the whole year.

Legal Restriction

In recent years, there have been more legal restrictions on fireworks in terms of manufacture, selling and possession as well as individual use. People can only get firecrackers in designated shops and set off them in restricted time frames and zones. The ban is looser in rural areas, so sometimes people prefer to go to the countryside to spend the Spring Festival.

Best Places to See Firework Shows

Because of legal restrictions on firecrackers, people can hardly ever enjoy firework displays on normal days. Here are some regular shows in China for your reference.

 Liuyang, Hunan Province
There is a grand show held biennially at the Liuyang River bund area. The show usually takes place in October and lasts for three or four days. It is a show to display the new products, which is always full of surprises.

 Changsha, Hunan Province
In Changsha, the capital city of Hunan Province, there is a show at 20:30 – 20:50, every Saturday night from May 5 to October 31. It is at Juzizhou Islet, located in the center of the Xiangjiang River, where you can enjoy a stunning feast for your eyes.

Shanghai International Music Firework Festival usually falls on the late September to the early October. The event takes place in the Century Park, and there you can view the magnificent shows conducted by different countries, such as Germany, Canada, Spain, UK and Austria.

 Victoria Harbor, Hong Kong
To celebrate the Gregorian New Year's Day, there will be an annual show along the Victoria Harbor skyline. The best place to enjoy the scene is the Avenue of Stars, or visitors can take a ship at the harbor to view it.

 Disneyland Resort, Hong Kong
If you miss the show for the holidays, there is another choice for you, and that is the display at the Sleeping Beauty Castle in the Disneyland Resort, which is available every night.

 Macau Tower, Macau
Macau Firework Competition is a worldwide event which usually falls in September and lasts to October. The show takes place in an open field near the sea, and the Macau Tower on the opposite bund is always the most ideal destination for the show. Besides, tourist can also enjoy it by cruise ship.

On Gregorian New Year's Eve, a large annual firework show is launched at the 101 Tower. The lighting platform is quite high at the tower, and people in the city can watch it just at their own balcony or roof.

 Further Reading:
Chinese New Year Dates
Customs and Activities
Chinese New Year Facts 
Chinese New Year Celebrations around the World

- Last modified on Nov. 20, 2018 -
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