Gong Xi Fa Cai: Marketplace China Bureau Survives Relentless Fireworks Attack

I recently reported on the arduous start to the journey home for many Chinese migrants during the New Year holiday. Now that many have made it home, it's on to the next thing people have to endure during the holiday: fireworks.

I've been told that fireworks are banned in many areas of Shanghai. That didn't seem to be the case last night at midnight when China ushered in the year of the rabbit. My family spent the evening with my wife's relatives, who happen to live across the street from Marketplace's bureau. After a subdued evening eating a gazillion-course dinner and watching the CCTV New Year's extravaganza (required viewing for anyone living in China), all hell broke loose. Imagine a good portion of a city of 20 million setting fireworks off all at the same time, and you've got some idea of what it was like. Luckily, my wife filmed the proceedings. Check out her rather shaky recording of her cousin Xiao Long setting off his family's stash of fireworks while I look on, safety goggles on, pretending to be useful...after the jump.

There we stand, shards of burning fireworks debris raining down on us from all directions. And make sure not to miss the bus that nonchalantly drives through and OVER the fireworks around the midpoint of the video. Keep in mind this is just one small alley in Shanghai.

On our way home, our taxi driver dodged a cityscape of the charred corpses of fireworks-launching boxes, tubes, and red firecracker paper that carpeted the streets and sidewalks. I'm proud to say the Marketplace bureau still stands. But others weren't so lucky. A five-star hotel in Shenyang burned to the ground last night, thanks to the celebrations. My ears are still ringing.

About the author

Rob Schmitz is Marketplace’s China correspondent in Shanghai.
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The only time I come in contact with fireworks is during our Fourth of July celebration in Wisconsin, which only last about 20 minutes. I can’t even imagine how chaotic and thunderous the cities in China are during their festivals, and also how dangerous it is with all the burning fragments falling to the arid environment. I find it very peculiar that even with the ban on fireworks so many people still set them off. If that were to happen in the US, the fireworks would be confiscated and you’d be slapped with a fine. In a lecture on Chinese history, the professor was describing the relevancy of Chinese culture in modern life today and said that when comparing ritual vs. law, Chinese believe that following rituals is more valuable than abiding rules. So when it comes to the ban on fireworks, I don’t think it’s a matter of enforcing the law, but rather holding true to traditions. Was warding off evil spirits and misfortunes for the year of the rabbit worth the disaster of the hotel?

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