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Sparks fly for Lunar New Year in ancient light show

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Sparks fly for Lunar New Year in ancient light show
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AFP
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In the remote Chinese village of Nuanquan, an alternative light show has been performed for 500 years.

Blacksmith Wang De flings a ladle of molten steel against a cold brick wall, sparking an explosion of white-hot light in the night sky and keeping alive the flame of a centuries-old Lunar New Year tradition.

For the performance, known as the Da Shuhua (Beating the Flower Tree), metal is heated to temperatures of up to 1,600 Celsius.

The three-day show is only put on around the Lunar New Year but is a fast-growing attraction that now draws crowds of over a thousand people to each performance.

Its future is not certain, however, as only four blacksmiths remain and the youngest is 50 years old.

Few people are interested in learning the skills — scars and burns are inevitable — and the younger generation are leaving rural China in their droves for a better life in the cities.

"It's extremely dangerous and it doesn’t make much money," said Wang, who also farms corn to supplement his blacksmith's income.

He has passed on the craft who then moved to Shanghai to seek a different career. Still, Wang De is hopeful he will return to keep the flame alive.