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amazing
Tuesday Feb 19 2019
By
AFP

Blacksmiths keep alive the flame of China's molten steel 'fireworks'

By
AFP
This photo taken on February 18, 2019 shows a Chinese blacksmith (L) throwing molten metal against a cold stone wall to create a shower of sparks, on the eve of the Lantern Festival, which marks the end of Lunar New Year celebrations, in Nuanquan, in China´s northern Hebei province. Photo: AFP
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NUANQUAN: Blacksmith Wang De flings a ladle of molten steel against a cold brick wall, sparking a spectacle of white-hot light in the night sky and keeping alive the flame of a centuries-old Lunar New Year tradition.

Fireworks were invented in China and have been a mainstay of Lunar New Year celebrations, but the remote village of Nuanquan in northern Hebei province has perfected an alternative kind of light show for the past 500 years.

For the performance, known as the Da Shuhua (Beating the Flower Tree), scraps of metal are melted at scorching temperatures and poured into a bucket, where performers like Wang create mesmerising spectacles of light by tossing ladles of the liquid against the wall.

The molten metal — heated to temperatures of up to 1,600 Celsius (2,900 Fahrenheit) — creates spectacular effects that fill Wang De with pride.

This photo taken on February 18, 2019 shows a Chinese blacksmith throwing molten metal against a cold stone wall to create a shower of sparks, on the eve of the Lantern Festival, which marks the end of Lunar New Year celebrations, in Nuanquan, in China´s northern Hebei province. Photo: AFP
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"When you see it, it'll affect you profoundly," the 55-year-old blacksmith, wearing a sheepskin jacket and protective glasses, told AFP.

The three-day show is only put on around the Lunar New Year, but is a fast-growing attraction that now draws over a thousand people to each performance.

Its future is not certain, however, as only four blacksmiths remain — and the youngest is 50-years-old.

Few people are interested in learning the skills — scars and burns are inevitable — and the younger generation is anyway tending to leave rural China for a better life in the cities.

This photo taken on February 18, 2019 shows Chinese blacksmith carrying a bucket of molten steel as a shower of sparks descends behind them, on the eve of the Lantern Festival, which marks the end of Lunar New Year celebrations, in Nuanquan, in China´s northern Hebei province. Photo: AFP
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"It's extremely dangerous and it doesn't make much money," said Wang, who also farms corn to supplement his blacksmith's income.

He has passed on the craft to his son, but he has moved to Shanghai to seek a different career. Still, Wang De is hopeful he will return to keep the flame alive.

"When we no longer can pull this off, people can learn from him. I have this confidence that (Da Shuhua) will be passed on."

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