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Spring Festival in Kunming

February 22, 2011

Photo taken with a 30 second exposure, courtesy of Liz Phung.

For the New Year’s holiday, some friends and I decided to have dinner at a friend’s house. They live on the 13th floor of a 17 floor building in a massive housing complex called Think UK in Kunming. While eating our potluck dinner around 8pm, we were surprised to see massive firework explosions at eye-level between their building and another building in the complex, across a small patio. At first, we were surprised that people would be so risky to shoot fireworks so low and close to buildings, then we grew accustomed to the outrageous quality of Chinese New year.

We continued to eat, drink and hang out, before heading up to the roof of their building, which I guess one could consider the 18th floor, at around 23:40. I witnessed the most impressive firework display I have ever seen. Across the horizon, constant, simultaneous massive explosions intermingled with the city lights. I’m sure during the peak, there were hundreds of fireworks going off within every 5 second interval. It’s important to consider, as well, that Kunming is a relatively small city. I’m sure many other, larger cities have much more impressive shows than this. However, I hesitate to call what we saw a show, as it was an instance of organized chaos, simply people that want to do their own private celebration, coming together for an amazing few minutes. It was, however, absolutely incredible.

Walking home around 1 or 2 in the morning, we breathed in the rancid chemical air, dank with firework debris, stumbled over wrappers left on the sidewalk and dodged drunks walking along the sidewalk and driving in the street. The next day, throwing something in the trash, I discovered multiple trashcans full to the brim with firework papers. This level of enthusiasm for beautiful and unorganized, albeit dangerous, celebration is something that I have not seen at home in the US, and I am interested in seeing the way it progresses as it comes across the greater calls for safety and organization that comes with development.

UPDATE (23 Feb):  I just saw this graph of how foreigners experience Spring Festival in China, and thought others may enjoy it.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Mom permalink
    February 25, 2011 01:14

    The graph is hilarious and supports the sentiments you shared. The choice between impressive fireworks or clean air is an easy one to make – at least for those who have experienced clean air.

    • Tim Quijano permalink*
      February 25, 2011 18:59

      Maybe with American sensibilities and priorities, but for many Chinese….

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