This year marks the second annual Lantern Festival – Illuminasia – at the Calgary Zoo, and what a festival it is!
We didn’t get a chance to visit this last year, so we made an effort to check it out this time around. This year’s theme is all about the seasons; in China each season is represented by a flower. The four noble plants, as they are referred to, are Orchid (Spring), Bamboo (Summer), Chrysanthemum (Autumn), and Plum Tree Blossom (Winter). All of these flowers are represented throughout the zoo in lantern form, as are some of the animals that reside at the zoo.
They look wonderful during the day, but come really alive once the sun sets. There are a total of 260 lanterns, all were hand-made by very skilled artisans. In total it took 55 artisans over 40 days to create the lanterns; they used around 19,000lbs of metal, 30,370lbs of material and around 960 LED bulbs with 10,000 feet of LED light belts/tubes and 800 LED modules. Together with the lanters came a team of 14 artisans to set them up and ensure they work perfectly during the nearly 5 week festival, which runs Thursdays to Sunday evenings.
The ancient art of Chinese lantern making goes back a long way, and I mean long. It all began in the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. to 220 A.D) and this dynasty was a significant period of time for science and invention in China. Zigong in China is the heart-land of traditional lantern making and to this day around 30,000 artisans practice their skills in the area.
So, here are some of my favourite lanterns from our visit (and I am sure I will upload more as the days go by).