Sunday, 14 September 2014

Mid-Autumn Festival Lantern Displays in Gardens by the Bay

Lunar bunny (Yutu) in Westgate shopping mall, Singapore
Lunar bunny (Yutu) in Westgate shopping mall
The main decorations of Mid-Autumn (or August Moon) Festival used to be in Chinatown. They're everywhere, but the focal point seems to be shifted from Chinatown to Gardens by the Bay. Well, Gardens by the Bay didn't exist until only 2 years ago. It hadn't opened yet when my friend Bill visited me, and I remembered the conversation we had on the balcony of the Marina Bay Sands hotel overlooking Gardens by the Bay 2 years ago. You can read more my visit to Gardens by the Bay here.

Of course, there're still festive decorations in Chinatown (and large shopping malls). It simply doesn't have the space that this place has to display all these big lantern set peices.

Mid-Autumn Festival street decoration in Chinatown in 2009
Mid-Autumn Festival street decoration in Chinatown in 2009

Mid-Autumn Festival street decoration in Chinatown in 2014
Mid-Autumn Festival street decoration in Chinatown in 2014

In getting there, I also took the opportunity to check out the new blue DT (Downtown) Line. Quite a number of mega projects had completed since my last 5 years stay in Singapore. The CC (Circle) Line was only completed only some 2 years ago, and the DT Line has now just opened this year.

Even without these 2 new MRT lines, if some places in Singapore aren't covered by MRT trains, they will be covered by buses. Just about every inch of this city-state is covered by the cheap and efficient public transport (sorry, I meant every metre, not inch. Only 3 countries in the world are still clinging onto the Imperial System, and Britain isn't one of them).

Resort World Sentosa under construction, Singapore
Resort World Sentosa under construction. Taken in 2009

Several large projects in Sentosa Island (Universal Studios, RWS Casino, S.E.A. Aquarium, etc), this sprawling Gardens by the Bay complex, the neighbouring Marina Bay Sands hotel, ArtScience Museum next door, 2 MRT lines, all these and more were all completed within the 5 years that I stayed here.

This Asian Tiger economy was leaping in the 1980s and 1990s. Today it's slowing down to a prey hunting speed. It isn't slowing down to a crouching position any time soon by the look of it.

After got off at the Bayfront MRT station, we needed to walk through the Singapore Hall of Mirrors, ok, it's more like Tunnel of Mirrors to get to the Gardens. With all these mirrors, it's anything but dark.

Underground tunnel connecting the Gardens by the Bay and Bayfront MRT station
Singapore solution to the Hall of Mirrors in Palace of Versailles

The theme for this year's lantern display is obviously international cultures with iconic images of different cultures.

Lantern display of iconic images of India: Taj Mahal, Hindus and Sikhs,  cobra and snake charmer, and Ganesha, Garden by the Bay 2014
Lantern display of iconic images of India: Taj Mahal, Hindus and Sikhs, cobra and snake charmer, and never forget Ganesha
The Indian lantern display lit up at night during Mid-Autumn Festival, Garden by the Bay, 2014
The Indian lantern display lit up at night
(click photos to enlarge)


Lantern display of Zhenghe's voyages to the Western seas on his Treasure Ship, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore, for the Mid-Autumn Festival 2014
Lantern set piece based on Zheng He's voyages to the Western Seas (鄭和下西洋) on his Treasure Ship
I wrote a piece on Zheng He's Voyage in passing in this article.

Lantern display of Chinese Eight Immortals Crossing the sea, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore, for the Mid-Autumn Festival 2014
Lantern display of the Chinese Eight Immortals Crossing the Sea (八仙過海)




Of course, the exhibits couldn't be considered complete without the following theme.

Chang'e flying to the Moon, accompanied by Jade Rabbit or Yutu (嫦娥奔月)

Etta was quite disappointed by all these large, impressive and elaborate lantern set pieces. When I said to go to see lanterns, she expected to see the small handheld paper lanterns that hold candles in the middle. This is  understandable, and revealing that she's from the baby-boomer generation (the late end). Because these small traditional paper lanterns would bring back fond childhood memories of kids spending Mid-Autumn Festival carrying such lanterns, running around in rowdy delights.

I believe that these set pieces were made out of silk, which is waterproof as they're displayed outdoor in all weather condition during their appearance in the few weeks around the August Moon Festival.

Mid-Autumn Festival in Singapore is full of activities, but I haven't seen any kid doing the traditional game of carrying  lanterns. Perhaps, I'm guessing here, because of the fire hazard, this festive activity was discouraged, and maybe even outlawed in Singapore.

Well, if it is, it's really a shame. As anyone who grew up with this tradition would tell you that some of the happiest memories were made of these. The other day, I saw a group of 6 people in their early 20s attempted to revive this tradition. They're a bit old for this, and apparently they didn't have any idea how it was done. They just stood there holding their lanterns. None of them was familiar with the spirit of the game. Well, nobody show them how. Even then, they seemed to enjoy themselves.

This is one tradition that I hate to see it's gone. Too bad.


We were also entertained in the gardens by traditional performances from China.

Chinese folk dance routine for the Mid-Autumn Festival, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore
Chinese folk dance routine
Chinese performers at backstage, the Mid-Autumn Festival, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore
Chinese performers at backstage





The unassuming bridge had been smarten up with heart-shape lanterns during this last few weeks. This display created traffic jam at this bottleneck at night time due to the attraction of its photo ops.

bridge with heart shape lantern decoration during Mid-Autumn Festival, Gardens by the Bay, SIngapore
Lovey dovey bridge
bridge with heart shape lantern decoration during Mid-Autumn Festival, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore
in the cold day light

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