In ancient China, people believed that fire could disperse evil spirits. Sparks were a good omen, sound could frighten ghosts, and smoke could create a healthy atmosphere. The alchemy of these three disparate elements have fueled luminous streams of colored stars across the skies for centuries.
In modern China, much like their ancestors, people set off fireworks to express their happiness and to pray for peace and invite good luck. Fireworks are so deeply rooted in people’s consciousness, the presence of these miracles of alchemy are conspicuous throughout the nation, reinforcing the beliefs of Taoist sages that human beings are earthly deities who can cultivate their spirit, mind and bodies causing them to become supernatural beings that will bring about long, or, even, eternal life.
So prominently featured are firecrackers in the literature of China, it has been called the kingdom of the Poet with the most beloved of these verses being recited and enjoyed by generations.
A figurative poem of a fireworks devotion:
“Just for the applause of common people
They tear themselves into pieces
Let their lives
Come down in multiple colours.”
Artist: Harold Edgerton (American, 1903-1990)
Descriptive Title: Lit Match and Firecracker
Gelatin silver print
Gift of The Harold and Esther Edgerton Family Foundation, 1997