"Taofu firecrackers are new every year, and the Lantern Festival is never over. Try your best to compete for nothing else, and Nong’s family has a tea-picking lamp. " Li Songlin, a Shanghai scholar during the Jiaqing period, wrote this poem on bamboo branches to record the customs of his hometown. The custom of setting off firecrackers in Shanghai has been passed down for a long time. Until the ban on firecrackers in recent years, this trend lasted for a long time. The sound of firecrackers has long been a common memory of generations. However, in the hundred years after Li Songlin, Shanghai has undergone earth-shaking changes, from a county in the south of the Yangtze River to an international metropolis. The custom of setting off firecrackers and relevant regulations have also changed from time to time, from which we can get a glimpse of the historical process of urbanization and modernization in Shanghai.
Meet the god of wealth, the city streets in the early morning of the fifth day of 2013.
For quite a long time, firecrackers, as a special offer for the Spring Festival, were not shown in public only once a year in the first month. In previous occasions such as weddings, funerals, housewarming and opening, it was inseparable from crackling. What is even more grand in the scene is the community festival held regularly-the God Meeting. Houses and shops along the street have already placed incense tables and hung firecrackers on the roadside. The crowd surrounded the gods through the streets and lanes, and the guns rang for the second time, and the smoke spread.
Firecrackers set off by the roadside in the contemporary God-welcoming Games
For modern Shanghai residents, it is far from necessary to wait until the annual sales season to buy firecrackers as daily necessities. There are many firecrackers in the incense shops and tin foil shops around the temple, as well as shops along the street selling matches and cigarettes. Firecrackers sold in Shanghai since the late Qing Dynasty are mainly divided into two categories: citizens can choose to buy foreign products or support local manufacturers. In modern Shanghai, fireworks and firecrackers were very dependent on imports. After the opening of the port, the scale of the city expanded and a large number of migrants poured in, and the demand for fireworks and firecrackers also increased. Liling, Liuyang and other places in Hunan Province have been important firecracker industries since the Ming and Qing Dynasties, and their reputation has spread far and wide overseas. During the reign of Emperor Xian in the Qing Dynasty, there were more than 100,000 people engaged in "weaving guns" in Liuyang. By Xuantong, firecrackers exported by the two counties contributed 902,000 silver to the national finance every year. Wuchang and Hankou are also important producing areas, rich in a kind of firecrackers called "Quanhong". Fireworks and firecrackers in the middle reaches of the Yangtze River went down the river and appeared in the streets and lanes of Shanghai. There are a large number of businessmen from Hunan and Hubei who travel to Shanghai, and many of them take this as their business. The wealth brought by firecrackers makes them worry about food and clothing. Even if their hometown is in a bad year, there is a stable industry to make a living, so they will not go out to escape and be displaced.
Shanghai Qugong Real-life Temple was once a gathering place for Hunan businessmen traveling in Shanghai. Now the temple no longer exists, and the place was renamed Quxi Road.
According to the market survey in the late Qing Dynasty, the firecrackers produced in Hunan and Hubei are mostly 40,000 to 50,000 rings, which can’t fully satisfy the desire of Shanghai residents. Shanghai prefers big ostentation and extravagance, and favors the "high rise" of around 80,000 rings. If you don’t trust foreign firecrackers coming from afar and are worried about potential risks such as getting wet on the way, you can buy products freshly baked by local workshops in Shanghai. In modern Shanghai, with the convenience of geographical location and industrial development, materials gathered in all directions, and it was not difficult to obtain the five raw materials needed for the production of firecrackers: potassium chlorate, potassium nitrate, mirabilite, refined mirabilite and sulfur. The entry threshold of firecracker production is not high, and the technology is relatively simple. Hiring women and children for piecework production not only provides a livelihood channel for the urban poor in Shanghai, but also saves the production cost for firecracker manufacturers, and the price is naturally lower.
In modern times, Shanghai absorbed a large number of immigrants from surrounding areas, especially Ningbo, and the local firecracker workshops were mostly controlled by Ningbo immigrants. During the Republic of China, businessmen from Ningbo and Shaoxing joined forces with businessmen from Wuxi, Changzhou and other places in southern Jiangsu to form the Shanghai Firecracker Trade Association, hoping to compete with the Hunan and Hubei business gangs. When the competition among peers is fierce, consumers naturally benefit, and the shops under the trade association have clear industry norms and price scales, which has put an end to the phenomenon of exorbitant prices during the Chinese New Year holidays to a certain extent.
After determining the store, the timing of purchase is also very critical. According to industry practice, firecracker workshops usually start in September of the solar calendar, and intensive production lasts until March of the following year. April to August is the time for workers to return to their hometowns for farming. In addition to the peak season around the Spring Festival in the first month, there will also be a short sales peak when Tomb-Sweeping Day, the Mid-Autumn Festival and the Shanghai Chenghuang Temple are held in October. In the off-season, firecrackers are unsalable. Because of the difficulty in storage, the store usually gives a discount of about 50%. Around 1927, the price of firecrackers rose sharply, because the government of the Republic of China levied a "superstitious tax"-firecrackers, incense sticks, tin foil, paper horses and other things were regarded as superstitious products and were heavily taxed. Although the trade association and the Ningbo-Shaoxing Association of Shanghai Association jointly presented their grievances to the government and asked for exemption from such taxes and fees, they had little effect.
How to set it off is also a big problem. It should be noted that the prohibition of burning fireworks and firecrackers is not a new decree produced by contemporary cities to control air pollution. Since the Ming and Qing Dynasties, cities have become increasingly crowded, and fire protection has become a major problem. For this reason, Nanjing, Yantai, Ningbo, Guangzhou and other cities in the late Qing Dynasty had clear regulations prohibiting the burning of firecrackers.
Discussion on the Prohibition of Firecrackers in Shenbao in the Late Qing Dynasty
Relatively speaking, the attitude of the concession is more tolerant, and the first day of the first month is the date of discharge; Although foreigners who manage the concession do not participate in activities such as ancestor worship and welcoming the gods, they can also get approval as long as they report in advance. In addition, if it is accidentally set off in violation of regulations, the perpetrators will be released immediately after symbolically "punishing the ocean triangle". Compared with ordinary consumers, the attitude of the concession towards firecrackers vendors is much stricter. It is absolutely not allowed for roadside shops to sell firecrackers on weekdays. As long as they are found by the patrol room, the shops will be arrested and fined less than 100 yuan, and the goods will be detained until the Chinese New Year. This kind of surprise inspection is very frequent, and the patrol house in songshan road, the French Concession, has this hobby. A large number of patrols often drive police cars to search at the door. Whenever such a situation occurs, the store must prepare a set of rhetoric to deal with it, claiming that these firecrackers are only reserved for their own use and have no sales plan. If people get all the stolen goods, they can only entrust the guild to intercede.
Although the concession has a moderate attitude, there are some kinds of fireworks and firecrackers that must not appear in the concession. In a file of the patrol house in Shanghai public concession in 1927, there were some kinds of fireworks, such as Kaushing (Gaosheng), Kio Long (Kowloon) and Liu Shing (Meteor). These kinds of "heavy firearms" which may cause noise nuisance to the people were blacklisted in the concession.
"Gaosheng", commonly known as "Ertui", is still very popular in contemporary times. Image source: Dongfang. com.
One of the most intolerable firecrackers in the concession is the cannon. It is still very popular in contemporary times, and it is a great weapon for primary school boys to scare girls, commonly known as "throwing guns"; In the period of the Republic of China, the cannon was the source of social panic. On the night of January 9, 1932, a passenger boarded the "Yamato" ship of Daida Company with a bag of guns. The cannon suddenly exploded in a casual touch. Although no casualties were caused, the noise was enough to make the whole ship out of order. People mistakenly thought it was a shooting and rushed into the cold river. The worse influence of slapping guns is produced in the streets. In the patrol house in the concession in the 1930s, it was described that "at the end of the past year, it was a common practice for hooligans and urchins to slap guns. In the streets and alleys, urchins hid the guns in their sleeves, followed by women in boudoir, and suddenly threw them out …" It can be seen that this kind of mischief has a long history. In the eyes of foreigners, it is obviously very ungentlemanly and indecent, and it is really indecent. When it is strictly prohibited, in fact, the police station can’t enforce the law on children, and street guns are repeatedly banned.
Although the concession promised to set off flammable firecrackers from the first day to the fifteenth day, this time was not fixed during the Republic of China. The Nanjing National Government advocated abolishing the lunar calendar and adopting the solar calendar. Therefore, in the 1920s and 1930s, Shanghai was allowed to shoot guns on the 15th day of New Year’s Day, but not during the Spring Festival. After the August 13th Incident, martial law was imposed at night in the concession, and firecrackers were not allowed after 5 pm in the French concession and 6 pm in the public concession. The Japanese puppet government is particularly sensitive to firecrackers, which is used to get rid of evil and filth, and makes the invaders feel pressure. In the early summer night of 1939, a rare lunar eclipse was observed in Shanghai, and the Chinese in the public concession set off firecrackers to drive away the tengu that swallowed the moon. This move made the Japanese military panic and suspected that it was a demonstration directed by anti-Japanese forces behind it. Japan submitted an investigation request to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce of the Public Concession in an attempt to enforce the law across regions.
After the victory of the Anti-Japanese War, the commercial reconstruction, the firecracker guild resumed, and more than 40 firecracker workshops joined the guild and registered with the government for the record. The complete rules and regulations system was made public for the first time and had legal effect. The trade association even fully considered the government’s opinion and agreed not to produce the most unpopular gun. However, the market did not prosper for a long time, and inflation became increasingly serious. The workers in the firecracker workshop first rebelled. They set up the "Fireworks Industry Professional Conference" and started labor negotiations with the firecracker industry trade association, demanding higher treatment and higher wages. Prior to this, the trade association had decided to support Jiang Jingguo’s "August 19th" economic defense line, saying that although prices soared, the price of firecrackers would not rise. As a result, the profit of the firecracker industry has been difficult to support the expenditure of hiring labor.
At the beginning of liberation, the new government took over the old industrial and commercial organizations in Shanghai, and the firecracker industry ushered in a new life. It was no longer regarded as a superstitious product and was heavily taxed. On the contrary, this popular festival item was recognized by the new government and received strong support as a representative of local native products. In 1949 and 1950, various parades and celebrations were held frequently in Shanghai. On National Day, Army Day and the anniversary of the liberation of the city, people woke up at four o’clock in the morning with firecrackers and took to the streets. At eight o’clock in the evening, the parade will reach its climax, and there will be an hour-long fireworks display on the roof of Happy Valley Apartment at Huangpi North Road, Nanjing West Road.
During this period, the firecracker industry developed rapidly, and the number of firecracker workshops in the city rose to more than 50. In 1953, the firecracker dealers of the trade association responded to the call of the government and moved most of the workshops to Pudong towns outside the city, leaving only shops in Yimiao District and Penglai District in the city, but this does not mean that firecrackers are no longer popular in Shanghai. In 1956, the socialist industrial and commercial transformation was at its climax, and the whole city was filled with joy and passion. In the second week of January of that year alone, thousands of people lined up in the city to buy firecrackers every day. The local firecrackers were in short supply, and the trade associations sent people to Jiangyin, Shaoxing, Suzhou and other places to purchase goods every day. According to statistics, Shanghai residents had to set off more than 8 million firecrackers every day during that time. In the sound of firecrackers in the new era, the carnival Shanghai residents witnessed the rebirth of the city after a hundred years of vicissitudes and wars.
Celebration Parade in Shanghai in 1950s