Artist Fulfills Dream With 'Sky Ladder' Firework

Cai Guo-Qiang's fiery 'Sky Ladder' was more than 21 years in the making. . (Photo: Cai Guo-Qiang)

I promise you, this is not like any fireworks display you've ever seen before.

Cai Guo-Qiang, a Chinese artist who utilizes a variety of materials such as gunpowder and flora and fauna for his artworks, recently unveiled his latest piece using fireworks. Titled "Sky Ladder" or "Ladder to Heaven," it was launched earlier this summer above Quanzhou Metropolis in China’s southeast Fujian Province. The 1,650-foot dazzling ladder of flame glowed for nearly 80 seconds, completing a dream more than 21 years in the making.

Cai dedicated the piece to his 100-year-old grandmother, his parents, family and hometown.

“Behind 'Sky Ladder' lies a clear childhood dream of mine," he said in a statement. "Despite all life’s twists and turns, I have always been determined to realize it. My earlier proposals were either more abstract or ceremonial. 'Sky Ladder' today is tender, and touches my heart deeply: it carries affection for my hometown, my relatives and my friends. In contrast to my other attempts, which set the ignition time at dusk, this time the ladder rose toward the morning sun, carrying hope. For me, this not only means a return but also the start of a new journey.”

So just how did this fiery ladder seemingly rise into the morning sky? As you can see above, Cai Guo-Qiang attached a massive white weather balloon with a 5-ton pulling force to the 1,650-foot long, 18-foot wide ladder made of steel and gunpowder. The entire structure was already well off the ground when the fuse was lit, but the early morning conditions create the illusion that the artwork is climbing towards the heavens on its own.

"After 60 seconds, the fireworks started to die out from the bottom up, bit by bit, as if the ladder was moving upwards, leading the viewers to look up and converse with infinity," Guo-Qiang added.