A question for my American readers — did you enjoy your local fireworks display last night? They were most likely made by hand in a small factory somewhere in China.
The Asia Society blog recently posted a series of photos from a fireworks factory in China. Here is some of the accompanying text:
Fireworks and the United States have a longstanding relationship dating back to 1777, when John Adams commissioned a fireworks show as part of the Independence Day celebrations, prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. He wrote that the festivities should include “pomp and parade” but most notably, “illuminations from one End of this Continent from this time forward forever more.”
Though some may believe fireworks to be a distinctly American tradition, they are — like many things — believed to have been invented in China more than 1,300 years ago. Indeed, most of the fireworks exploding in the U.S. skies this weekend will have come from China, the world’s largest producer and exporter. And there’s no shortage of demand. In 2012, the U.S. spent roughly $1 billion on fireworks, with a staggering $645 million spent on July 4 festivities alone. According to the American Pyrotechnics Association (APA), this number continues to grow steadily, earning the industry the title “recession-proof.”
The amount of hard work to produce these short lived light shows is eye-opening. In China, fireworks are predominantly made by hand by factory workers.
And in case you’re wondering, I did not go anywhere to watch the fireworks last night. This video clip showing the scene from my apartment window in Beijing during Spring Festival every year will explain why!
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The world’s largest annual human migration reaches its peak on Friday, as millions in China travel home for the lunar new year. With around 200 million people on the move, pressure on the transport network is reaching a critical point. One traveller has devised a head-support sleeping aid to make the long journey home more pleasant.
About 3,000 years ago, give or take a couple of decades, the Chinese people began celebrating the beginning of their calendar year with a joyful festival they called Lunar New Year. They cleaned their homes, welcomed relatives, bought or made new clothes and set off firecrackers. And there was feasting and special offerings made to the Kitchen God for about two weeks.
More than 200 million people are on the move in China to be with their families for the Lunar New Year this weekend. Many will be watching the carefully co-ordinated Lunar New Year Gala, where hundreds of acts will be expected to perform. The BBC’s John Sudworth has gained exclusive access to plans by Chinese state television for this weekend’s New Year gala programme.
In the basement of an office tower in central Beijing, a cloud of gloom hovers over the canteen at lunch time. Groups of young women huddled over large bowls of noodles look depressed when asked about the February’s impending Chinese New Year holiday. “I’m pretty old – I’m almost 30 – but I’m still single,” explains Ding Na, a woman hailing from China’s northeast. “I’m under lots of pressure. My sisters and my relatives all ask me why I’m not married. When they call me, I’m scared to pick up the phone.” […] Luckily for some, China’s most popular online marketplace, Taobao, offers a band-aid solution: the rental of fake boyfriends. For as little as $50 (£32) a day, dozens of classified adverts promise to provide a male companion for the holidays, pretending to be a single woman’s plus-one.
Every spring, China’s cities are plunged into chaos as an astonishing 130 million migrant workers journey to their home villages for the New Year’s holiday. This mass exodus is the largest human migration on the planet – an epic spectacle that reveals a country tragically caught between its rural past and industrial future. Working over several years in classic verité style Chinese-Canadian filmmaker Lixin Fan (with the producers of the hit documentary Up the Yangtze) travels with one couple who have embarked on this annual trek for almost two decades. Like so many of China s rural poor, Zhang Changhua and Chen Suqin left behind their two infant children for grueling factory jobs. Their daughter Qin – now a restless teenager – both bitterly resents their absence and longs for her own freedom away from school, much to the utter devastation of her parents. Emotionally powerful and starkly beautiful, the multi-award-winning Last Train Home’s intimate observation of one fractured family sheds unprecedented light on the human cost of China’s economic ‘miracle’.