My kids are in sync with the Lunar New Year celebrations: They’re obsessed with explosions. We refuse to allow them (of course) but it doesn’t matter. People give them huge roman candles, or tiny ones you throw. Unless I chained them in a room I couldn’t prevent them setting off firecrackers. They’ve been ecstatically joining groups setting them off day and night. Small packs, giant boxes. They’re 3 feet long rockets or poppers the size of a match. Twice they joined a group of youths with enough to last an hour. Terrifying — I hid leaving Dad in charge. One kid has been coughing ever since he couldn’t outrun the smoke. It’s not even a city yet we hear fireworks almost nonstop, so it sounds like war. Flying last night, from the air we saw little explosions in every direction. The red paper leavings are everywhere, like the petals of spent cherry trees.*
Tiny Chinese kids set off fireworks, some maybe only 3 years old. The fireworks packages are decorated with cartoon characters. (Maybe they were older…as Chinese folks seem to think our kids are 3 years older than they are — perhaps these little ones I saw I underestimated their age by 3 years. Our size differential is an unexpected cultural disconnect.) We saw these babes with gunpowder in a Guanxi farming hamlet, Stone Village.
Back to explosives. Their eyes light up like from nothing else. It’s weird. (Non)Jokes about lost fingers and eyebrows aside, fireworks are serious here. They turn up in high culture. At a 700-year-old mansion of the ‘chieftain’ (their word) of the Naxi people down here in Yunan (we’re visiting southwestern China, beside Burma — town of Lijian), the leader’s palace had wooden carved windows. Along with birds, dragons, flowers, there were decorative images of fireworks.
(Lijian is a beautifully preserved town; here’s a pic.)
*Fireworks were originally set off, so we are told, to frighten away evil, and to awaken the slumbering dragon, a beneficent god-like creature who brings the crops spring rain.
Then there’s the NBA: It’s celebrating the Chinese New Year on government-owned tv! The kids are overjoyed. NBA games every day for the holiday, a gift to Chinese fans. Games include: “Houston because it was Yao Ming’s team, Dallas because it has a Chinese player, the Clippers because Blake Griffin is popular here, the Thunder because they love Kevin Durant, the Lakers games because Kobe Bryant is so popular here, the Heat games because of LeBron James, the Celtics.” Thanks, Kenny. Between games, close-ups of star players saying, “Ni hao,” and speaking earnest Mandarin to their Chinese fans, as well as English: “Thank you for your tremendous enthusiasm and support for the game of basketball!”
(Shin ning KWAH luh)
“Wishing you a happy Chinese new year!”
KA – BOOM!
P.S. Thank you so much, friends and relatives (and a few people we don’t know) for sharing Coplans in China with us, we have now passed 5,000 visits. If you want to receive an email when we post, please click “Sign me up” on the right.