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Firelight fancies

By Yang Feiyue | China Daily | Updated: 2024-01-30 10:19
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Xu Bin is devoted to innovative lantern making.[Photo provided to China Daily]

When the night draws in at the Jardin d'Acclimatation park in the north of Paris, a dazzling and fantastical world of colorful animals and plants comes alive.

Since mid-December, visitors to the park have been transported into a world of ancient Eastern mythology through an immersive sound-and-light show.

Featuring 2,000 fabulous traditional-style lanterns shipped from China, the French Yuyuan Lantern Festival, developed by Yuyuan, the well-known traditional Chinese-style garden in Shanghai, has kicked off the 2024 China-France Year of Culture and Tourism.

In keeping with the arrival of the Year of the Dragon, the makers of the traditional-style lanterns have been inspired by a variety of Chinese dragon totems and mythical creatures from the ancient Shanhaijing (Classics of Mountains and Seas), says Chen Jia, chief cultural officer of Yuyuan Inc that is in charge of the show.

Each of the divine creatures depicted has unique cultural and spiritual significance.

"We tapped deep into the cultural classic that has a history of more than 2,000 years and distilled its essence before creating a series of lantern designs," Chen says.

The Spirits of Mountains and Seas lantern set is rendered as a dynamic series in which mythical fish are transfigured into big birds after jumping out of water to symbolize lofty ideals and aspirations, while dragons are fashioned as warriors to indicate courage and strength.

At the Leap of the Fish in the Dragon's Gate section, a soaring dragon is endowed with a long neck and wings, breaking through the waves.

The image is inspired by the Hetu (Yellow River Chart) and the Luoshu (Inscription of the Luohe River), two cosmological diagrams used in ancient China.

"It showcases the positive, open, and dynamic aspects of Chinese culture, expressing China's willingness to develop together with the world," Chen explains.

Other innovative highlights include the White Deer section. It features a majestic white deer leading a group of fawns, making for a harmonious and heartwarming scene.

"The white deer, phonetically associated with 'hundred blessings' in Chinese, carries auspicious and abundant connotations, while the overall lantern design provides a tranquil and delightful visual experience, conveying the kindness and benevolence at the core of Chinese culture," Chen says.

Additionally, the lantern show incorporates a multitude of elements from ancient Chinese culture, including architecture, sculptures, paintings and costumes.

"Such elements as the flying dragons are commonly seen in ancient paintings and sculptures, so are the coiling dragons from traditional Chinese architectural pillars and cornices," Chen says.

These dragon-related elements are interwoven into the gateways, pathways, and lawns of the Parisian park and enable visitors to feel the festive atmosphere of the Year of the Dragon, she says.

Modern technology, such as "find-out-more" QR codes on the logo of each set of lanterns, has also been employed to enable visitors to enjoy a more immersive experience.

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