I love that after five years, China still has the capacity to surprise me.
A few weeks ago we visited Yu Gardens in Shanghai to see the Chinese New Year lantern display. For my girls it has become an annual rite of passage, just like visiting the Myer department store was when I was a kid, to see their Christmas window display. Every year they would have a different spectacular theme, my child’s mind thrilled with the colours and imaginary possibilities of the little story in each window.
Chinese New Year is the same for Chinese kids – each year they visit the temple at Yu Gardens with their parents to see the exciting new lantern displays for Chinese New Year, usually followed by something good to eat. Ordinary lanterns these most definitely are not – huge and spectacular 3-D masterpieces of technicolour construction, they are as impressive in the daylight as they are lit up at night.
Year of the Tiger, 2010, Year of the Rabbit, 2011
Year of the Dragon 2012
(I missed Year of the Snake in 2013 because we were in Australia. Also, I don’t like snakes, having grown up in a country that considers itself home to seven of the world’s ten deadliest of that species.)
One of the highlights of the lantern display is the narrative tableaux floating in the waters around the Huxinting Tea House at the centre of the gardens. Past lantern epics have included the story of the Yellow Emperor’s flight into immortality from the top of Huang Shan, and the parable of Confucius’ meeting with Lao Tzu.
This year was different though. This year, the inspirational story for thousands of Chinese people at the biggest celebration of the lunar calendar and in the grounds of a Taoist temple was….Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
According to the very economically worded placard to one side of the scene:
And that will be the beginning and end, the Genesis to Exodus if you will, of most of the visitors’ understanding of the Story of Creation.
A dude in a red dress, a snake, an apple tree, all the animals of the Chinese Zodiac, and a pair of very very pale and awkward humans.
Thank goodness around the corner everything returned to normal – there were a lot of reassuring horse motifs, and plenty of honest to goodness regular lanterns.
Happy (belated) Year of the Horse everyone! Here’s to the joy of constant surprises.