Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Ominously quiet?

I haven't seen any fireworks on sale in Beijing this year.

Uusually there are 'restrictions' of some kind in place, attempts to raise fees from hastily imposed 'licensing' regimes and so on; but these are usually cheerfully disregarded by many small vendors.  While you don't see itinerant vendors selling them off carts and blankets as you do in many other Chinese cities, many xiaomaibu (the hole-in-the-wall neighbourhood groceries that proliferate in the city's small sidestreets) have them.  Well, not this year.  And in the past year or two, the major firework manufacturers set up a number of marquees in prominent locations around the city.  But not this year.

I'm not sure exactly what the regulations supposedly in place this year are.  I've heard that there are to be no sales of fireworks within the city's 5th Ringroad, and/or that the number of days on which fireworks can be let off (and the time of day that fireworks can be let off) is to be more circumscribed this year.  But this kind of thing has been tried in the past, and there has been little or no effective enforcement; and Beijingers have paid very little attention.  There has been a steady scaling down in the firework mayhem at this season since the big peak in 2006 and 2007, but.... this year has been dead so far.  Why is the 'crackdown' biting this time??

I heard my first firework in Beijing this year three weeks ago - which was worryingly early; but, since then, there's been relatively little activity: isolated bursts of explosions every day, but not the steady ramping up of pyrotechnics over the week or 10 days prior to the holiday that we typically suffer.

I woke this morning - late, for me - to a strange silence.  I didn't hear my first firework until around 8am.  And then I didn't hear any more for a while.  It's started picking up now, forty minutes on, but it's still pretty mild, pretty sporadic.  And most of it sounds far away to the north.  A few explosions to the east and south as well - but all sounding as though they are at least two or three miles away.  There's been absolutely nothing in my immediate neighbourhood yet.

This is Chinese New Year's Eve, for heaven's sake!  What on earth is going on???

Live Update:  Ah, finally, at 10.10am, I heard the first detonation near my apartment - a bunker buster!  And then a long string of firecrackers just a little later.  But it's still P-R-E-T-T-Y quiet...

And another:  Things started getting going 'properly' at last between 2pm and 3pm.  It seems like they're stepping it up every two hours.  4pm could, therefore, be pretty loud.  I'm fairly sure 6pm - dusk - will be!!


Cedra Wood said...

Maybe it's been comparably hushed in homage to the zodiac...the year in like a tiger, out like a rabbit?

Froog said...

I think it's probably just that the fireworks are getting more expensive, so people are rationing themselves a lot more than in past years.

There was a BIG splurge around midnight (and it went on for a couple of hours, whereas last year it was pretty much played out by 12.30), but during the evening it was relatively restrained.

Froog said...

I think the 'bunker buster' may have been outlawed these days. Or the manufacturers just stopped producing them, as they've started to develop fancier products (those multi-rocket selections - 'display in a box' - have become all the rage over the past three or four years.

However, there are some very BIG mortar fireworks, which are very nearly as loud as the 'bunker busters' of old - and do the same job of setting off all the car alarms within a few hundred yards' radius.