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Cultural Heritage / Trip Ideas

Making iron blossoms

By Teng Mu

August 30

Making iron blossoms is a 500-year-old folk art that originated in Wei County, Zhangjiakou.

Making iron blossoms is a 500-year-old folk art that originated in Wei County, Zhangjiakou.

An Intangible Cultural Heritage of Hebei

Making iron blossoms (打树花), a unique skill dating back to the Hongzhi period of the Qing Dynasty (1488-1505), is a traditional folk custom listed as the intangible cultural heritage of Hebei province. First used to celebrate the Lantern Festival, it has developed into a professional performance art. Because it’s a skill that takes so much time to acquire, few people have been able to inherit this art form, which makes it even rarer nowadays.

Iron blossoms. [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Chen Xiaodong]
Iron blossoms. [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Chen Xiaodong]
It is said that, poor people used to envy rich people’s festival fireworks, so blacksmiths drew inspiration from the sparks when forging irons and came up with the idea to make iron blossoms.

The artists are melting iron. [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Chen Xiaodong]
The artists are melting iron. [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Chen Xiaodong]
To make iron blossoms, the artists throw melted iron, with a temperature of up to 1600 degrees Celsius, against a cold wall, creating a spectacular display.

The artists are usually in their 40s or 50s. They wear sheepskin jackets and straw hats to prevent lighting themselves on fire. The performance requires strong muscles, superb throwing skill, and courage— any mistake can lead to severe injuries.

Artists are throwing melted iron onto the high wall. [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Chen Xiaodong]
Artists are throwing melted iron onto the high wall. [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Chen Xiaodong]
Where to see?

Thermal Spring Town, Wei County in Zhangjiakou, Hebei (张家口蔚县暖泉镇)

Best time to visit: Winter

Entry: 160 yuan/person

Transport: Take the bus from Beijing Liuliqiao Bus Station (北京六里桥客运站) to Wei County, then a bus or taxi to the Thermal Spring Town.

Opening hours: 07:00 p.m. – 08:00 p.m.

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