On Feb. 7-8, China.org.cn reporter Corey Cooper visited Zuoquan County, Shanxi Province to view local She Huo Jie ("Community Fire" Festival) activities during the Lantern Festival at the conclusion of the Chinese New Year holiday. Here, Corey meets with members of a local dance troupe in a village near the Zuoquan town center. [Photo: China.org.cn / Qiao Yongqi]
It's a high-energy feast for the eyes: drummers, cymbal players, dancers or actors come charging in, hundreds at a time, dressed in multicolored traditional clothing and often wearing bright face makeup. Certain groups, including a group of brides in traditional wedding chariots, or women in make-shift boats, represented symbols found in ancient life. Modern symbols, such as a float resembling the recently-constructed Tiangong-1 Spacelab, were present in the parade as well.
Of the fifteen spectacles that comprise the show, perhaps the most unique were the platform performers. First were children performers arranged on platforms carried by local men. Often two or three young children, between 8 to 10 years old, were balanced on one man's shoulders. According to tradition, the locals originally believed children to be deity-like figures brought to the community from heaven, which is why children are placed on a platform in the parade. In another group, girls dressed in long robes performed on stilts, bringing much joy to the audience.
The cornerstone of the event was certainly the immense dancing dragons, with as many as nine dragons, each handled by dozens of performers, simultaneously moving across the parade route. For the Dragon Year, three separate dragon dances, each with different style and significance, brought the excitement in Jinzhong to a fever pitch.
Although the parade subsided by mid-morning, residents of Jinzhong and guests were treated to a spectacular fireworks show sponsored by the local government that evening after the full moon rose high into the sky.