CNY firecrackers and fireworks roundup – a Chap Goh Meh special

chap goh meh 06

Chap Goh Meh marks the end of the Lunar New Year. Chinese New Year is celebrated for 15 days and Chap Goh Meh literally means (the) 15th night. Firecrackers and fireworks are usually let off liberally to mark the end of Chinese New Year. There is a wide variety of firecrackers and fireworks available in Malaysia and the large self-contained box type is the most popular ones.


Download: Chinese New Year 2006 []

I’m a big fan of firecrackers and fireworks (and everything else that goes “boom”) and it seems that the trend in 2006 shifts markedly to industrial grade fireworks. The market in Sibu and Kuching is flooded with display shells – the catch-all term for the 3″, 5″ and 8″ shell that shoots up before exploding in fascinating pyrotechnics.



This is an example of a “consumer grade” display shell fireworks. Shellshock comes in a box containing 12 pieces of “double break shells”. It’s made in China, that’s where firecrackers and fireworks in Malaysia is sourced (read: smuggled) from.

shellshock open

The Shellshock box opens up to reveal a foot long tube launcher embedded into the package with 6 shells lining each side of the box. The shells are inserted one at a time into the launch tube with the flat end (base) making contact with the bottom of the launcher tube.

shellshock shells

The 1.5″ shells is shaped like a gourd and there is a long conventional green fuse bound intricately around the shell and held in place by a colored string on the top indicating the color of the display shell when it is…well, displayed.

shellshock double

Here is a closer look at this consumer grade firework. There are double spheres in the shells – this is a double report, double flare display shell. The shells have a flat base and a visible fuse starter. This firecracker requires the launcher tube to launch the shells into the air and the long fuse is to accommodate for the launcher length.

shellshock launcher

The Shellshock ones come in a disposable cardboard and plastic launcher.

shellshock insert

The display shell type fireworks (regardless of grade) should always be used in conjunction with a launcher tube to guide the shell upwards. I’m sure everyone has tried not using a launcher tube at least once in their lives (at least I did, with a 3″ shell) and the results are not pretty.

shellshock fire
The Shellshock launcher tube does the job well enough…

It’s pretty dangerous since the shell just explodes on the ground, sending out burning debris over a wide area. Notice how large the dispersal area is when it’s airborne? That’s the coverage you can expect when it goes off on the ground. Most residential areas cannot accommodate for this kind explosive power.

shellshock topple
…though it topples after each launch…and the cardboard burns.

The one time I did it resulted in a cracked glass door (with an industrial grade shell), flaming explosions all over the front of the house and shocked family and neighbors. Oh, and I set the lawn of the neighbor on fire too. In my defense, it was dry grass. :p I never did dare to repeat that stunt again, since I didn’t want to pay for damages to vehicles, property and possibly human life. πŸ˜‰

Industrial grade fireworks

shellshock meet big bro

Meet big brother. πŸ˜‰ This is a custom made launcher tube for 3″ industrial grade display shells.

industrial launcher

The display shells (3 inch, 5 inch, and the expensive 8 inch ones) are sold in boxes with instructions on the dimensions of the launcher and the instructions are passed on to a local blacksmith (metal smith) to be custom made.

industrial launcher dimensions

It’s usually made of solid metal alloy so it can be reused without the force of the initial primer explosion from the shells (which is quite substantial) wearing out the launcher tube. The base of the launcher tube is very important – perhaps the most crucial part of the component – it must be heavy enough to hold the structure or wide enough to allow other weighing material (bricks etc.) to weigh it down.

industrial with shells

This is the launcher tube displayed with 3″ display shells. These things are ordered in bulk and come with a sticker specifying the exact pyrotechnics to expect from the particular shell (see below).

display shell boxes

It’s sold in boxes made of heavy paper stapled together to form a “box” of sorts and each box contains a mixed bag of pyrotechnics goodness, with different “grades” of shells e.g. Grade A would be a shell which goes “Purple with sparkling to red ball” (three stages with large initial purple explosion bloom, followed by sparkling edges and a single slowly descending red ball) while Grade B would be a shell that goes “Green to silver” (one explosion, color change at fringe of explosion).

display shell box open

This is a close look at the grenade like display shells. It’s wrapped with heavy reinforcing paper and these fireworks are considered industrial grade as it’s the same ones that the government lets off during official celebrations. Heck, some of them are even “diverted” from official celebrations. πŸ˜‰

red green crackling

The grenade like display shells are individually wrapped and come with a label in two languages of what to expect from that particular display shell. This Grade A shell goes “Red to Green to Crackling”.

blue to silver

This Grade B shell goes “Blue to silver” (two phase change) while a Grade C shell would be a single phase explosion e.g. “Red & Blue wave”.

3 inch shell

I have relatively large palms and this is a size comparison of what a 3″ display shell looks like. It’s remarkably similar to a grenade, except you have to use a launcher tube instead of igniting it on the ground (which would cause a lot of Bad Things (TM) to happen).

industrial launcher insert

The industrial grade shells are inserted into the correctly sized launcher tube with the base of the shell level against the base of the launcher, and with the fuse sticking up and out of the launcher tube.

display shell

Download: Industrial grade fireworks []

I probably should mention that the industrial grade fireworks do not have a long fuse delay, despite its looks. The fuse lights slowly at the top and then *zaps* goes straight down the remaining length of the “fuse” and its pyrotechnica!

The blast is pretty substantial and it’s fun to be close to the launcher when it goes off. It’s a mini shellshock effect, right at your doorstep. πŸ˜‰

Consumer grade fireworks, these are not.

chinese firecrackers

Lest we forget our roots, these are the traditional Chinese firecrackers.

horse brand firecrackers

I love the 50,000 Horse Brand firecrackers.

horse brand expand

It’s fast and furious, burning through 50k of individual sticks of firecrackers in the span of a few seconds.

50k firecrackers

Download: Fast and furious firecrackers []

It got all over me in the video, though I thoroughly enjoyed it. Classic!

Happy Chap Goh Meh everyone!


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15 thoughts on “CNY firecrackers and fireworks roundup – a Chap Goh Meh special”

  1. Jason: Yeah, it’s always available in Sibu. You know where. It’s so openly sold. πŸ˜‰
    Clue: Lanang Road near town center.
    Only open during the weeks leading up to CNY, entrance convienently blocked by crates of soda so it looks like they’re selling soda. πŸ™‚
    Everyone knows it bro, just ask around. Even the police camps outside the place but does nothing.

  2. I was very pleased to find this web-site.I wanted to thanks for this excellent read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it and I have you saved to check out new stuff you post. Respectfully, Glennie.

  3. Nice pics!
    Love those small reloadable double break shell kits.
    Although they are small, I admire the craftsmanship in making them this small.
    And original Horse Brand firecrackers. These are the best. Has been years that I’ve seen these over here. Nowadays, we have to settle with imitations that aren’t as loud. Although these are also illegal in my country, lot’s of people like them and buy them πŸ™‚
    By the way, hope your 3 inch mortartube is made out of aluminium and not thin plated steel. Steel will give you serious shrapnel if the tube doesn’t hold during a mishap. Aluminium won’t πŸ™‚


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