We arrived in Beijing in the middle of Chinese New Year. We missed the biggest fireworks day when New Years kicked off, but there was a huge day Sunday night when fireworks just exploded everywhere. The sheer number of fireworks going off is overwhelming in addition to how long they go on and on and on and on. What is amazing is that all of this is done by individual ordinary citizens buying and blowing up fireworks themselves, these are not fire works shows put on by the city or some organization. Granted the individual fireworks aren’t quite as huge as the big commercial fireworks shows in the US on the 4th of July, but they are still big banging and impressively large fireworks, way way bigger than anything I’ve ever seen anyone shoot off in their backyard. This minor deficiency in size is dwarfed by the number of different folks shooting off fireworks and for the length of time that it goes on; the fireworks were non-stop for literally hours and hours. The major impression of these fireworks is just what you can locally experience in the immediate neighborhood or two next to you, but its going on in neighborhood after neighborhood all across the city; You can hear the sound reverberating and if you get a chance to get higher with more perspective you can see them going off all over.
Fireworks are sold in colorful blue stands that pop up all over the city around Chinese New Year. They are government regulated and inside the city there are restrictions on what kinds of fireworks can be used, but frankly the stuff they allow inside the city is way bigger than anything you’d see in the states. Apparently outside the 6th ring road you can buy some serious explosive stuff, maybe next year I’ll try to get out and see some of that stuff. In the states most of the stuff you see in a fireworks stand is geared towards local regulations and is therefore “small” stuff : tanks that shoot tiny little sparks, snakes that burn and smoke, sparklers etc. In Washington the “biggest” stuff are Roman Candles, Bottle Rockets and Fire Crackers. In China the firework stands do sell a few things for kids like sparklers but mostly its all about Big Boom. Fire Crackers are also sold, but in the states they come in packs of a 100 and maybe bricks of 500; but they are usually shot off individually. I remember as a child (or even a couple of years ago 🙂 ) I could make a pack of fire crackers last all day, lighting them one by one. In China the only respectable way to light fire crackers is by the 1000s. The smallest size they came in was 1000, and the common one was 2000. I saw several strands spread out though that had to be 5000 firecrackers. And there is no one by one, you light them all off at once. The rest of the fireworks are boxes the start small and get progressively bigger. The bigger the box, higher, bigger and louder the fireworks. They range in price from 30 rmb for a 6 inch box to 500 rmb for one the size of a small suitcase. They typically shoot exploding fireworks in the air with different colors and sizes and explosions. Some just shoot loud bangs and some of them have screamers.
Ning accompanied me to buy fireworks and we bought 6 packages of sparklers, a couple of fountains, 3000 fire crackers, several small box ones, and several mid-sizes boxes and a couple of large ones that were 100 rmb a piece, I didn’t want to spring for a suitcase. In all we spent 600 rmb, around a $100 US which was three large plastic bags. Ning carried two and I carried the heaviest bag, it alone must have weighed at least 40 lbs. I had to keep switching from hand to hand as we walked back to the office as it was so heavy. That night around 6:30 the family and a bunch of guys from work went over to Chen Hao’s house who lived in an apartment complex next to the office. We proceeded to join many other folks out shooting off fireworks. There were some apartment security guards walking around making sure people didn’t shoot them off too close to the buildings. They had a bucket of water in case any of the grass or wooden benches caught fire. The kids lit of sparklers while the guys lit off the firecrackers and big boxes. Didn’t take long and everything was up in smoke and flames. Everyone else took off for home and we hung around for a bit and watched the explosions. After we went home I went back up to work and took some photos out the 28th floor at the fireworks exploding across the city.