Iron flower of Yuxian County
As a famous zone of national fork arts, Yu County is proud of its popular rural folk dance, paper-cuts and other 30-plus fork arts, among which the most impressive is the iron flower art of Beiguan village, Nuanquan town.
Nuanquan is an old-line town in the far west of Yu County. With well-preserved villages, folk houses, ancient temples and unique customs, it is called as “historical and cultural town of China” and “Hometown of folk houses and customs of Hebei”.
“Iron Flower”----Its distinctive traditional art, has a history of 300 or more years. Every stain of cauterization on the great gate of Beiguan village which is built in the Jiajing period of Ming dynasty, witnessed the local happiness of making iron flowers for the past hundreds of years.
Nuanquan kept being a developed center of foundry industry in the history, and people is familiar with molten iron. In holidays, people collected the pig iron waste of every household, then melted it and splash it onto the village walls to have fun ----which later developed into with improved splashing skills the most unique folk art ----“iron flowers”.
The 15th day of the first month of lunar year is the lantern festival, and the period from the 14th to the 16th is also the traditional season of “iron flowers”. In the morning of the 14th day, men and woman, old and young are all beautifully dressed-up and gather on the barnyard before the great gate of the village. Young boys have already put the heavy melting pot on one corner as assistant of the showfolks. Upon the 3 yellow papers have burned out, people burst into shouts: “Sacrifice begin!” Suddenly, fireworks and crackers explode everywhere and one after another, making the traditional ceremony of “pot sacrifice” before the pot opening. People believe in this way prayers can be sent to all gods that “iron flowers” will be made by the local people and please forgive them if any disturbance occurred, and may all gods grant a rich, lucky and prosperous coming year for Nuanquan people. Even though it may be deemed as superstitious, we modern people can still feel the kindness and simplicity of the local fellow. They give considerable significance to the iron flowers.
When the dark falls, festive lanterns are showed out everywhere in streets and lanes, before doors and courtyards. The tower of the great gate keep shining with all colors around itself. The showfolks have already put the iron waste into the pot. With the blow fan rumbling for about 40-50 minutes, the temperature in the pot rises to above 1200℃, turning the material into hot iron liquid, which is then poured into special containers by the showfolks. 4-5 young men wearing sheepskin jacket and wet straw hats or felt caps as protection for splashing sparks hold on willow spoons which have previously been soaked in the water for 3 days, pick up the iron water in spoons another and splash it onto the walls in turn, making beautiful pictures and upsurges among people one after another.
To be a good showfolk, you have to be brave, strong and skillful enough! Or a slanting spoon will make melt iron splashed onto your head and foot. The “iron flower” art looks original and simple, however operators understand the hidden skills and arts. A good showfolk will turn spoons of melt iron into every kind of sparks onto the walls, e.g. like bars, fans, freeflows and circles. Small or large, concentrated or radiated, sparse or compressed or intricate, flying or flowing-----they makes every appearance imaginable. Some look like heavenly maiden spilling flowers, or stars surrounding the moon, or starry skies, or strings of pearls, or rushing waterfalls, or erupting volcanoes, making your feel entering into another world.
As early as 1982, the Central News & Film Studio brought the iron flowers into their newly-filmed “Lantern Festival”, introducing this art with other unique arts of Yu County to the whole country and world, which makes the Nuanquan people very proud even today.
The iron flower art has weathered for hundreds of years and keeps being a hit in the district, drawing people around China and folk art professionals & scholars around the world to Yu County to enjoy its charm and brilliance. Feng Jicai, chairman of Chinese Association of Folk Arts, was deeply moved and gave high appraise after seeing the show, having a group photo with the showfolks. Zhan Yuliang, professor of Tsinghua University improvised a poem after enjoying the iron show: “Bright Fire in the shadow of old town, burning rains passing booming flowers! Thousands of degrees of the hot iron, how to compare with the warmth felt in the Nuanquan People!
Iron flowers! Ever-booming flowers of arts above the soil of China!