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kiting, diving, trippin' I ain't never been lost, just confused for a few days - Daniel Boone

Spring Festival - Chinese Coal Country Style

CHINA | Friday, 8 February 2008 | Views [1900] | Comments [2]

Everywhere you look in this area you see either coal, coal dust or coal smoke. Shanxi Province is one of the main coal producing regions in China and everything from the power stations to the stove in the earth house on the outside of the city is fueled by the black rubbish.

We have just celebrated Chinese New Year - Spring Festival - and you can even buy a coal tower to burn on the eve of the New Year. The other areas of China apparently don't have the coal towers burning, and if they don't, I don't think the fireworks would any where near as spectacular as here. In minus 10 to 20's, the heat from a burning pile of coal is necessary!

It all started ( the fireworks ) a week before Spring Festival. I woke up one morning thinking I'm in a war zone. Some of the bungers they have here are just bombs. The lights in the stairwell of my apartment block are noise activated and they were coming on from these bungers down the road, not to mention the car alarms and any other clown for miles with a stash of crackers to make sure no one sleeps in. That went on all day, and I mean ALL day. It was amazing to hear and see this going on all around the place ALL day long. By daylight next morning most people had run out and we had relative peace for the next three or four days .... and then it was on !

Fireworks stalls were set up on major intersections and in front of the local baijiu - firewater(translated as 'white wine') - supplier. A one stop party shop - alcohol and fireworks from the same place.

We, being novices, thought we'd better get in some practice so we didn't let the international community down, so after work as our driver would get close to the stalls he'd get all excited to see how much, and what, we would buy today. We had a good night trialling our stash in the courtyard of one of the house our guys lives in, and giggled like schoolkids next day as we went over what we'd got up to the night before. This is something that we couldn't do at home even years ago, let alone today. NO restrictions - just common sense. Not that that was high on the agenda. We bought a couple of what we later called "mortars". These things are a round ball with a stem to make them stand up, and once lit, they are put into a tube that is weighted at the bottom to make it stand upright. Once the fuse is lit, they're dropped into the tube and fired into the air, making the mortar sound, and exploding in a brilliant flash of colour. They worked well and looked really good.

That is until I lit one and dropped it into the tube. When I turned around, everyone is back inside and the door is shut. The fuse I'd just lit was sitting in the snow burning away and everyone thought the mortar was still attached. Lucky for me it wasn't. It had pulled out when I slid it into the tube, so we inserted a sparkler as a makeshift fuse, had another nice display, then I gave my 'friends' a spray for closing the door on me.

Not that that did any good. 

The next day I had to go over to Zhungeer in Inner Mongolia on the other side of the Yellow River - an Autonomous region in China and yet another province, the same as Tibet and the Uigher region in the west. The trip was for work and timed to fire a big blast as part of their Spring Festival celebrations. The blast went well, they managed to throw 4.5 to 5 million ton of their province across the pit for the dragline to clean up, and then the serious work started. Fireworks shopping for the night ahead.

With a couple of local guys, four Aussies managed to spend an absurd amount of RMB on every style we could find at Chinese prices. Chinese will never pay full price for anything if they can help it. I have stood behind women haggling with check out chicks at the local supermarket. We got our crew together for a meal at a hot pot restaurant to warm the belly and get to know each other, as most were meeting for the first time. Hot pots are a table with a fire in the middle, a tub - usually split into spicy and mild - and a heap of meat, vegies, noodles and all sorts of strange looking creatures that stop kicking after a while.

After that we went back to where we were staying. By this time the coal towers were lit, so it was from fire to fire once we were warm enough. Back at our hotel we got a few beers - if you get too many they freeze - and bought out the arsenal we had acquired in our shopping spree. Right up to midnight there were constant displays and explosions. At one point we all looked up the road after one 'serious' sounding blast - I guess that comes with the work we do - then looked at each other, laughed, shrugged, and lit another one.

Then midnight stuck.

So there we were in minus who knows what, amongst the biggest fireworks display I have ever seen, with my new friends, giggling again. It didn't stop for at least an hour after midnight. And this is seriously constant fireworks. There was not a second go by without the flash or bang of a few more RMB for the whole hour. Everyone had saved the majority of their haul for the first hour of the Year of the Rat.

In three days time the dragon raises it's head.

A good time to get a haircut.......

On the fifteenth day of the new year the Chinese celebrate Lantern Festival. I've been told that in the north it is a bigger do than Spring Festival. The trouble is I will be in the south on Hainan Island again for a work do. But it will be warm, no need for coal towers!

Gotta love these Chinese customs .... hang on, gotta throw some more crackers out the window ....


Tags: Culture




Boy, are you going to find it hard to live in Aussie again. WH&S laws are really going to feel restrictive!
I'm glad you're still in one piece but how is the hearing??

  Mum Feb 9, 2008 3:39 AM


I too attended the 2007 Gallipoli services. It was wonderful and can relate to all you said. You've given a great overview. CK

  Carolyn Kennedy Apr 24, 2008 5:56 PM

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