Asia

Molten iron creates bursts of light at Chinese New Year show

  • FILE - In this Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 file photo, performers at the Great Wall Iron Sparks show prepare molten iron that they throw in the air to create sparks that mimic fireworks in Yanqing county on the outskirts of Beijing, China. As the rolling booms of fireworks and firecrackers echoed across much of China for the Lunar New Year, this group of performers staged a celebration with the centuries-old custom of dashuhua, or molten iron fireworks. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)

    FILE - In this Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 file photo, performers at the Great Wall Iron Sparks show prepare molten iron that they throw in the air to create sparks that mimic fireworks in Yanqing county on the outskirts of Beijing, China. As the rolling booms of fireworks and firecrackers echoed across much of China for the Lunar New Year, this group of performers staged a celebration with the centuries-old custom of dashuhua, or molten iron fireworks. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • A performer at the Great Wall Iron Sparks show turns a mechanism to spin molten iron and create sparks in Yanqing county on the outskirts of Beijing, China, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. An ancient craft that can be traced back several hundred years, the company is trying to revive the practice of throwing the molten iron and using the Lunar New Year period to showcase their latest choreography. Chinese character reads "Shanhai Pass" a reference to a section of the Great Wall of China. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

    A performer at the Great Wall Iron Sparks show turns a mechanism to spin molten iron and create sparks in Yanqing county on the outskirts of Beijing, China, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. An ancient craft that can be traced back several hundred years, the company is trying to revive the practice of throwing the molten iron and using the Lunar New Year period to showcase their latest choreography. Chinese character reads "Shanhai Pass" a reference to a section of the Great Wall of China. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)  (The Associated Press)

  • Li Qingfa wears a helmet he uses to protect himself from sparks when he performs in the Great Wall Iron Sparks show in Yanqing county on the outskirts of Beijing, China, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. An ancient craft that can be traced back several hundred years, the company is trying to revive the practice of throwing the molten iron and using the Lunar New Year period to showcase their latest choreography. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

    Li Qingfa wears a helmet he uses to protect himself from sparks when he performs in the Great Wall Iron Sparks show in Yanqing county on the outskirts of Beijing, China, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017. An ancient craft that can be traced back several hundred years, the company is trying to revive the practice of throwing the molten iron and using the Lunar New Year period to showcase their latest choreography. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)  (The Associated Press)

Inside a dark amphitheater near China's Great Wall, four performers carry long, wooden spoons filled with molten iron. Each performer throws the iron against a giant wall. The iron lights up the night in an array of orange showers and sparkles.

As the rolling booms of fireworks and firecrackers echoed across much of China for the Lunar New Year, this group of performers staged a celebration with the centuries-old custom of dashuhua, or molten iron fireworks.

The tradition is a vestige of northeast China's steel-producing regions and a source of pride for generations of miners and their families.

Several groups in Beijing's countryside offer multiple performances a week, and the shows are getting popular around China's Lunar New Year holiday. More than 50 spectators attended Saturday's show on a very cold January night.

As the audience started to arrive, 56-year-old Li Qingfa put on a cow-skin helmet, cow-skin shoes, and a sleeveless goat-skin jacket over thick cotton clothes. He and the other performers covered every part of their bodies.

"The performers may easily get hurt or scalded," Li said. "So good protection is a must."

The group practices and cleans the machinery required to produce the molten fireworks every day. Half an hour before, they turned on a large forge and placed several pieces of scrap iron inside. Molten iron began to slowly drip out.

Their show had five parts, interspersed with songs and dances. One part featured molten iron falling from the branches of a tree. The finale featured the four performers lighting up a wall.

"I have fallen in love with it," Li said.