Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Fifth Day

Over this fortnight and more of firework craziness that is the Chinese Spring Festival there are certain days that are crazier than others.

It's hard to discern any significance in this, since the pattern of firework usage isn't very consistent from one year to the next, or one day to the next.

However, over my many years here now, I had noticed that the fifth day of the festivities is almost invariably one of the heaviest gunpowder days.

Apparently it's because it's the traditional birthday of Guan Yu (or Tsai Shin Yeh), the God of Wealth. And he likes fireworks (so they say)!

I maintain that overall this has been a pretty wussy year so far for the exploding of ordnance on our streets. I'm not sure whether there were any government-sponsored meltdown-counteracting incentives to firework purchasing in place last year, but I gather the market in Bejing was much more competitive than it had been for some time, with three or four major wholesalers going toe-to-toe for the first time and getting into a vicious price-cutting war. This year, it would appear, fireworks are quite a bit more expensive, and people have been showing some restraint.

Concerns about last year's torching of one of the new CCTV buildings (almost certainly arson, but that's another story) may have been mildly inhibiting too: firework bans are back in place in a number of major public spaces and near important buildings (hence, unfortunately, the Bell Tower Square - minutes away from where I live, and a great place to watch the madness last year - has been dead this time around).

Even on New Year's Eve..... well, things were INTENSE for fifteen or twenty minutes either side of midnight; but usually that period of non-stop mayhem lasts two, three, four hours, dragging on well into the following morning. This year, things were fairly sedate again by 12.30am.

This has been the quietest Chinese New Year I've known in Beijing (since the 'firework ban' was lifted.... four years ago?).

Well, until tonight..... Day Five. I was woken by firecrackers at 10 this morning, and it's been going on sporadically all day. Once darkness fell, things got batshit crazy. Seems like people were maybe reining themselves in a little on New Year's Eve so they could do Guan Yu's birthday in style.

There is so much shit blowing up outside my study at the moment that I genuinely fear for my windows. There is a powerful whiff of gunsmoke in my apartment, even with all the windows firmly closed. I'm doubting whether it's going to be feasible to get much sleep tonight...


JES said...

Interesting -- I'd never heard of Guan Yu before (that I know of).

Having checked Wikipedia about him just now, I see that he played a significant role in a recent B-grade horror/comedy by Bruce Campbell, My Name Is Bruce. However, the article didn't say anything about his birthday's being a holiday. Is that a recent development?

Froog said...

Don't know for sure, but I imagine it must be very old. Most of the 'Spring Festival' traditions go way back.