The Fireworks Display for the Wedding Ceremony

That night after dinner, there was to be the promised fireworks display. Afei seemed to have made himself the sponsor and exponent of this display. He talked about in the whole day and watched the pyrotechnics set up the high pole on the west of the house near the temple ground. Ti was thought that the orchard at the back was too small and too full of trees which would obstruct the view, and Malan’s father wanted this to be a show for the whole neighborhood. The wedding was well known , and rumors about the special fireworks had gone about, so that at seven o’ clock the alleys all round were jammed with people, and some even sat perched on the temple wall.

   The series of different fireworks were arranged on horizontal bars like sail yards extending from a wooden pole about twenty feet high. The fuses were so timed and connected that once the first spark was set the scenes followed one another automatically. Before the display started, it looked like a number of packages of paper and folded bamboo frames suspended on the yards; yet these had to be so arranged and protected from sparks that they should not catch fire and burn before their time. At the  top of the pole was a fairy stork, which started the show by emitting from its mouth a flame which shot high into the sky and then with an explosion broke into a cascade of falling stars of gold and purple. Then followed nine successive shooting rockets, which were called “nine dragons entering the clouds.”

   “this is not the best,” said A fei. “ there is the rotating monkey to come nest.”

True it was, for suddenly there sprang up from one of the bamboo frames the shape of a red monkey lighted from within and whizzing around by the force of its backfire, spreading from its buttocks a circle of hissing sparks,  so that the faces of the women and children standing near the pole were suddenly lighted.

“that’s the monkey passing urine!” cried Afei triumphantly.

Next a great green watermelon burst open, scattering sparks and making a succession of small explosions. Red jade put her hands over her ears in fear, and Afei said, “that is nothing to be afraid of . Afei seemed to have memorized the whole sequence. When the last cinders from the watermelon were dying out, out dropped indeed a cluster of purple and white grapes, suddenly brightening the scene with a silent glow. Everybody gasped and enjoyed the beauty, watching the resinous stuff gradually burning out and dropping to the ground.

After this came the “dropping peaches” and a rotating wheel turning by its own force on the rocket principle, and then came the most beautiful scene of all. All of a sudden a seven-storied paper pagoda five feet long sprang from its frame and hung down, every story lighted from within. Two or three silent scenes followed, which spread thick clouds of colored smoke. Then came the “quick-opening lotus” and the “slow-opening lotus”. Then “darting mice” were let loose in mid-air in the form of small colored flames which fell to the ground darting and wriggling in all directions and creating great excitement in the inner circle before they died away. After these came various lighted tableaus such as “Eight Fairies Holding the Longevity peach” and “seven saints subduing the demon”, with the red demon burning up in smoke. There were pastoral scenes and scenes of houseboats and vermilion towers with ladies sitting in them. The display ended with “three successive promotions” in the form of a great rocket which gave out three successive explosions high in the air. When this was finished, the crowd went away, regretting that the end came so soon.


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