Lantern Festival Comes Alive At Missouri Botanical Garden

The Missouri Botanical Garden brings an unprecedented international exhibition to St. Louis for a limited run this summer. “Lantern Festival: Art by Day, Magic by Night” features elaborate, illuminated works of art from China. The striking sets, crafted primarily of colorful silks and molded steel, showcase Chinese culture, traditions and symbolism through larger-than-life displays lit for evening viewing. Experience “Lantern Festival: Art by Day, Magic by Night” through August 19.

“When most people think of a Chinese ‘lantern,’ they immediately think of a small, round, hanging paper lantern,” said Lynn Kerkemeyer, special exhibits and events manager at the Missouri Botanical Garden. “Visitors will be overwhelmed when they see what our ‘lanterns’ actually are. These are incredible, vivid, elaborate sets created from thousands of pieces to form amazing, large-scale works of art. When illuminated at night, they are nothing short of awe-inspiring!”

The Lantern Festival sets are erected outdoors throughout the northern half of the Missouri Botanical Garden grounds, anchored in grassy areas, pools and fountains. People, plants, animals, buildings and other scenery elements are created in three-dimensional form by shaping steel to make an inner framework for each piece. Trained artisans brush the armature with special liquid adhesive and stretch pieces of colorful silk tightly across it to form the lantern exterior. Seams are trimmed with a shiny gold ribbon for extra finesse. Facial and other fine details are hand-painted. Interior lights make each piece pop brilliantly against the evening sky.

Welcoming Dragon Each lantern set portrays an aspect of Chinese culture, history and tradition. Mythical dragons, traditional symbols of the Chinese people, are represented in many forms, from the mighty Welcoming Dragon to the towering Dragon Embracing the Pillars to the replication of Beijing’s intricate Nine-Dragon Mural. Several Chinese legends are depicted in great detail, including the celebrated tale of Jiang Tai Gong Fishing and The First Emperor’s Quest for Immortality. Represen-tations of the Terracotta Army warriors, Buddha, panda bears and lotus flowers showcase well-recognized symbols and figures from China.

Several sets are composed of creatively recycled materials with silk accents. Tiny glass medicine bottles filled with colored water are twined together to create the Qilin, a mythical hoofed creature that is part dragon, part lion. Approximately 4,600 recycled plastic water bottles form the Sail Boat installation. Around 40,000 individual blue-and-white pieces of porcelain dishware are painstakingly hand-tied with kite string and transformed into the Porcelain Dragon set—a pair of giant creatures fighting over a pearl in the Garden’s central reflecting pools.
Lantern Festival continues throughout the summer. View the “magic by night,” Thursday through Sunday evenings, May 31 through July 29, and then nightly, August 1 through 19 from 6 to 10 p.m. (last entry at 9 p.m.). Stroll through the Garden at dusk to experience the ambiance and elements of traditional lantern festivals in Asia. Toss an oversized coin with dangling red ribbon into the special wishing tree. Turn your pocket change into luck at the wishing well by ringing one of the gongs for good health, wealth or happiness. Purchase tokens to exchange at traditional artisans’ tents for souvenir merchandise and experiences, such as pearl engraving, seal carving or Jianzhi (paper cutting) silhouettes. Watch nightly stage performances. Shop the special outdoor Lantern Festival Bazaar filled with beautiful Asian merchandise and souvenirs selected by Garden Gate Shop buyers. Pick up Asian-inspired fare available for purchase at the Food Court, including crispy pork pot stickers, vegetable egg rolls, crab Rangoon, fried rice, lo mein noodle salad and more. Additional dining selections are also available for purchase inside the Sassafras café at the Ridgway Visitor Center (open 6 to 8 p.m. on Lantern Festival evenings). Be amazed as the 26 lantern sets flood the Garden with light starting at 8 p.m.

Join or renew your Missouri Botanical Garden membership on site during the Lantern Festival and receive free same-evening admission for two adults and children ages 12 and under, plus enjoy discounted Lantern Festival evening tickets of $15 for adults and $5 for children (ages 3 to 12) for the remainder of the exhibition (the number of member-rate tickets available for purchase is based on the level of membership). Visit www.mobot.org/membership or call (314) 577-5118.

The Missouri Botanical Garden is located at 4344 Shaw Blvd. in south St. Louis, accessible from Interstate 44 at the Vandeventer exit and from Interstate 64 at the Kingshighway North and South exit. Free parking is available on site and two blocks west at the corner of Shaw and Vandeventer. Visit www.metrostlouis.org to plan your route using public transportation.

For general Garden information, visit www.mobot.org or call (314) 577?5100 (toll-free, 1?800?642?8842). Follow the Garden on Facebook and Twitter at www.facebook.com/missouribotanicalgarden and http://twitter.com/mobotnews. For information about “Lantern Festival: Art by Day, Magic by Night,” visit www.mobot.org/lanternfestival. To learn more about visiting St. Louis, log on to www.explorestlouis.com.