Sparks ensure bright and clean start to new year

World | 9 Mar 2018

Working themselves into a trance, bare-chested men in eastern China lean into incandescent fountains of sparks to cleanse themselves of evil spirits and ensure a fortuitous new year.

The spectacular scene takes place annually in villages such as Xiaohu in Fujian province, which is home to an array of colorful centuries-old Lunar New Year rites linked to ancient customs and local gods.

Selected devotees allow themselves to be "possessed" by those gods, then chant intonations and blow on horns as they are escorted to the courtyard of Xiaohu's main temple.

There, they lean for up to 10 seconds into a spray of bright white sparks shooting upward from fireworks while waving small flags or fans as hundreds of people watch. Opening their mouths, they pretend to "eat" the sparks, thus giving the custom its local name, "eating flowers."

The villagers emerge singed and darkened with soot, but off to a clean start to the Year of the Dog, which began on February 16.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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