Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Chinese New Year

Last night was the single most impressive national celebration i've ever witnessed. Tao said it well with "It's Mardi Gras, the Fourth of July, and Christmas all in one". It's a party, a nationwide celebration of unimaginable proportions. The fireworks are absolutely breathtaking. Think of the most amazing 4th of July fireworks display you've ever seen. It was probably 30 minutes, and the finale was the last 5 of it, 10 if it was truly spectacular.

On New Years Eve, the fireworks really started around 9pm, although they could be heard, seen, and felt all day. At this point, there were heavy mortars shelling the city, everywhere you looked. Citizens were lighting off what previously i had only seen from afar, under controlled circumstances, in a large field. After clearing airspace and people for 1 mile. And obtaining police permits and following city ordinances. And ensuring ambulances and fire trucks available. However, in Beijing, these explosives can be purchased by anyone, and literally, ignited anywhere. On busy streets, in small alley's between 20-story apartment complexes, on sidewalks, from rooftops. Here's what we saw from about 9pm until 10:30.

The view from Chris's window in his apartment on the top (14th) floor. That's a street below, with plenty of traffic, restaurants, vendors. The street is full of people watching.

Those sparks flowing into the upper right are from a massive blast that shook the floor and left my heart racing. Never did i feel any threat.

The parking lot below.

This was amazing. Chris, Tao, Joe, and I watched massive skyrockets exploding at just about eye-level, with no more than 20 feet and double-pane glass separating us. Below was basically just a small alley. But no seriously, we were really just making the jump to lightspeed.

Outside on the street, "regular people" played with roman candles... even the children. Under adult supervision, i'm certain.

Behold the awesome force. I would be concerned if that was my car parked 8 feet away.

After finishing a bottle of wine (each) at Chris', we headed to Hou Hai for a panoramic view of the crescendo. By 11:30, there's a massive fireworks display everywhere you look. Note, it's been steady for about 3 hours already. By the time we get there, it feels like a war zone, only celebration instead of terror. I assure you, we are having a great time in this picture.

Let's play "Count the Fireworks". In a high resolution version of this picture, you can count at least 15 different fireworks displays. Mind you, they are happening everywhere you look, 360 degrees. There were literally 100's of separate events happening, and often they were very close.

Tao posted a great video here of the action last night. This finale continued it's climax from about 11:30 until 12:45. And even then, it just tapered off. I was awoken throughout the night by bombs and greeted in the morning by more. Even now, as i sit at home the next day, there are rockets and explosions happening outside my window. Oddly enough, at precisely midnight, everything went eerily quiet.

Think back again to the 7 minute finale at the most recent fireworks display you attended. This holiday makes the 4th of July it's bitch. The 4th sheepishly saunters over and peers into CNY's backyard to see what a real party looks like.

Another interesting note, from a quick search, i found that in 2006, there were many trips to the hospital, however there were "no major fires, and no reported death or serious injuries that led to eyeball removal." In 2007, there was one casualty and "at least one person had to have his eyeball removed." Can't wait to see what 2008 left in it's wake! Jeff almost became a statistic when he was playing with fireworks very late and wound up catching a piece of shrapnel. In the head.



Anonymous said...

I love the pictures!

The Tao said...

pictures: AMAZING