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Exhibition highlights Chinese lantern art

Courtesy Missouri Botanical Gardens

ST. LOUIS — Elaborate, illuminated works of art from China will take center stage this summer at the Missouri Botanical Garden. “Lantern Festival: Art by Day, Magic by Night” showcases Chinese culture, traditions and symbolism through larger-than-life, detailed scenes crafted from colorful silks and molded steel.

A team of skilled artisans from Zigong in the western province of Sichuan, the center of the lantern-making industry in China, will spend two months in residence at the Missouri Botanical Garden to construct 26 elaborate, multi-piece lantern scenes from scratch using steel rods, Chinese silk and gold trim.

The final creations are lit from within or adorned with an exterior piping of lights, giving them a brilliant evening glow. The striking lanterns, ranging in size up to three stories tall, will be lit for special evening viewing, giving visitors the opportunity to experience a cultural event that is rarely staged outside of Asia.

Each lantern design alludes to celebrated aspects of Chinese culture. A luminous dragon, stretching nearly half the length of a football field, welcomes visitors at the Missouri Botanical Garden entrance. A group of 10-foot-tall Terracotta Army warriors depict the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China. The three-stories-tall showstopper Heavenly Temple mimics the beauty, magnificence and majestic presence of the Beijing Heavenly Temple, constructed in 1420 as a grand shrine where emperors would pray for a fruitful harvest.

“Lantern Festival: Art by Day, Magic by Night” runs for a limited 12-week engagement, May 26 through August 19.