Many historians credit the Chinese in ancient Liuyang with creating the first natural firecracker around 200 B.C. Roasting bamboo caused it to explode due to its hollow air pockets. The noise it generated was said to ward off evil spirits. Some 800 to 1,000 years later, Chinese alchemists mixed saltpeter, charcoal, sulfur and other ingredients to discover an early form of gunpowder. When they stuffed that mixture into bamboo shoots and threw them into a fire, boom – the first “modern” fireworks were born.
Capitalizing on its pedigree of two centuries of fireworks production, Liuyang has focused its economy on becoming the undisputed fireworks capital of the world. Overall, China produces some 90 percent of the world’s fireworks. Around 60 percent of those are made in Liuyang.
Whether you bought a multipack of screamers, bottle rockets, and roman candles from a roadside stand, or plan to watch a professionally-designed community display this Fourth of July, chances are the fireworks themselves were produced in China. In 2016, the United States imported $307.8 million worth of fireworks. Nearly all, $296.2 million worth, came from China. U.S. consumers purchase about half of the pyrotechnics China exports globally.
That may not be very surprising when you consider the abundant use of pyrotechnics at American events and celebrations. “Thunder Over Louisville” is an annual event that blasts through 60 tons of fireworks in 30 minutes.