December 18, 2018

Photo Essay: The Arboretum After Dark, Lit By a Forest of Lanterns

It's too early for Chinese New Year, which will land on February 5 next year.

But the Chinese lanterns of the Moonlight Forest Lantern Art Festival descended upon the Los Angeles Arboretum in Arcadia a couple months early—right before Halloween.

And it's running through the Christmas season until right after the Western New Year of the Gregorian calendar.

There's nothing about the Terracotta Army that evokes Santa or his sleigh...

...and the beast who lights the darkened pathways is a dragon, not a reindeer.

The only ornaments hanging are red, tasseled lanterns.

Fish of Abundance

And yet the parade float-sized installations—dozens of them spread out over a mile in the botanic garden—are both whimsical and festive, two qualities that are perfect for this time of year. 

And the symbolism of Chinese New Year are pretty much the same as what's on our minds as the year wraps up—prosperity, good fortune, well wishes, and such.

It's a good omen for a kylin (a.k.a. qilin, the dragon-headed lion) to cross your path.

Parrots are the bearers of good news (which is comforting to anyone who's been woken up by one of our wild flocks screeching).

The peacock is the all-seeing protector—and, in tribute to the peafowl flock (200+-strong) that roams the grounds of the Arboretum, there are two large peacock displays at Moonlight Forest (and one peacock gate).

Swans bring light and sunshine to our dark days...

...and owls ward off evil spirits.

People often use figures of owls as a talisman.

Birds in general are thought to represent the sky and therefore the heavens.

But the Moonlight Forest is also a place for having fun for the sake of fun, like in the Candy Tunnel...

...and Ocean Tunnel...

...where whales lumber and loom and sharks poke their heads in to say "hi."

The Chinese eat jellyfish for their healing properties, rather than fearing them.

But they've come to associate pandas with friendship and peace.

For a short while, the Moonlight Forest transports you from China to the Serengeti Plain of sub-Saharan Africa...

...with its elephants and zebras...

...and lions, tigers, hippos, and giraffes.

But at its heart, the Moonlight Forest begins and ends with Chinese culture...

...its art, mythologies, and narratives.

At at the center of it all, floating on the Arboretum's Baldwin Lake (named after Lucky Baldwin, though it's actually a sag pond and not a real lake), is a 70-foot-long, 30-foot-high dragon.

All of it was created by Tianyu Arts and Culture from China’s Sichuan province—a first for the Arboretum, and judging only by the visual execution, a stunning success.

Here's to an auspicious end of 2018 and beginning of 2019.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Lighting Up the LA Zoo
Photo Essay: The Speedway Magic of Lights
Photo Essay: Glittering Lights at Las Vegas Speedway

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