Dragon dancers perform at the annual "She Huo" Festival in Jinzhong, Shanxi Province, Feb. 6, 2012. [Photo: China.org.cn]
Across China, communities celebrate Yuan Xiao Jie [Lantern Festival], the end of the lunar New Year holiday, by hanging colorful lanterns on houses and lampposts, setting off fireworks, and eating tangyuan [sweet rice dumplings]. Few places, however, send the New Year off with as big a bang as Jinzhong, in eastern Shanxi Province.
Throughout the year Jinzhong is mostly known for its agriculture and production of Shanxi vinegar, but during the Lantern Festival the prefecture-level city with roughly 3.3 million inhabitants (530,000 in the urban district) comes together for She Huo Jie ["Community Fire" Festival], a spectacular New Year sendoff that is steeped in tradition.
Over 30,000 performers from around the province paraded into Jinzhong's city center in the Yuci District to stage 15 distinct traditional performances for an audience of thousands as well as local community leaders and guests. Many of the traditional acts performed here have a history going back as far as 2,500 years.