BEIJING – 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.