In China’s Henan Province, performers throw searing hot molten iron on to the cold brick surface of the city wall causing it to explode into cascades of flares and sparks. Dubbed Da Shuhua, meaning ‘beating down the tree flowers’, the ceremony is a part of the Lantern Festival celebrations which take place on the 15th day of the Chinese New Year. The practice can be traced back 500 years and arose when poor blacksmiths, who were unable to afford fireworks to let off during celebrations, began to improvise their own displays using molten iron. The practice proved popular and soon became an annual fixture.
Each year, villagers donate scrap metal to the blacksmiths who heat it to more than 1,500°C in a vast, burning furnace placed in the heart of the village. The liquid metal is then flung into the air using wooden ladles that have been soaked in water for three days to protect them from the intense heat. The practice is certainly not for the faint-hearted – the performers are often burned by the flying sparks.