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"When you think Saint Louis, think Saint Louis Front Page," a weekly publication covering the news and events in the greater St. Louis area.
by Betty Moore, SLFP.com
ST. LOUIS, MO, (SLFP.com), May 31, 2012 - The Lantern Festival at the Missouri Botanical Garden is spectacular by day with people, plants, animals and buildings created in colorful three-dimensional forms throughout the grounds.
On Thursday evening, May 31, the garden hosted a special volunteer night. Despite cool weather and a light mist, thousands of volunteers brought their families and friends to experience the magical beauty of the lanterns glowing at night.
Crowds gathered at each of the 26 displays, waiting patiently for the lanterns to be illuminated at 8 p.m. Near the Gatehouse, lantern pandas hiding in the forest of yellow groove bamboo, Panda' Paradise, suddenly came alive to the delight of onlookers who began taking pictures with cell phones and cameras. Nearby, couples strolled through the Moonlit Pathway, gazing up to see ancient Chinese characters overhead like a star-studded sky.
Chinese music could be heard at the elaborate display, "The First Emperor's Quest for Immortality." Visitors stopped to watch, captivated by the slow animation of the huge figure atop the set.
At the Double Seventh Festival, a young father was overheard telling his son the story of the lantern display. "This is about a beautiful weavergirl who got married without telling her mother, the Goddess. She had to go back to heaven and the Goddess created the Milky Way to separate them," he said. The little boy's face lit up as he listened to the ancient Chinese tale. Pointing at the figure carrying large buckets, the father went on to explain that the magpies fly up to heaven to form a bridge on one night each year so they can be together."
Laughter and shouts of 'make a wish' could be heard across from the display of the "Butterfly Lovers" as visitors stopped at the "Wishing Tree," which was covered with hundreds of oversized gold coins dangling from the end of a bight red ribbon.
The show stopper was the Porcelain Dragon in the Milles Sculpture Garden reflection ponds, created from more than 40,000 individual pieces of Chinese cooking utensils including bowls, spoons, bottles and wine cups tied together with kite string using ancient techniques.
Spontaneously, the crowd clapped and cheered as the giant dragon heads began to slowly rotate, smoke billowing from their fierce mouths. The action was dramatically reflected in the water beneath the towering angel musicians sculpture.
"That is so cool," said one onlooker enthusiastically. "Look at the eyes of the dragon," shouted another. "They are glowing."
With this incredible lantern display, seen for the first time in the United States, the Missouri Botanical Garden has created a wonderful magical experience for all ages to share.
As one young mother related to her son, "This is the only time in your life that you will see these beautiful lanterns. But, they will be here all summer long."
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, 137-foot-long 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. Representations of the Terracotta Army warriors, Buddha, panda bears and lotus flowers showcase well-recognized symbols and figures from China.
Trained artisans, from Zigong in the western province of Sichuan, brushed 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.
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.
The "Lantern Festival: Art by Day, Magic by Night" continues throughout the summer. View the "magic by night," nightly August 1 through August 19, from 6 to 10 p.m. (last entry at 9 p.m.).
Purchase tickets online at www.mobot.org/lanterfestival or in person at the Missouri Botanical Garden. For more information, call (314) 577-5100; 1-800-642-8842 toll free.
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Discover the Hidden Beauty of Missouri Botanical Garden
The Missouri Botanical Garden, fondly known as Shaw's Garden to St. Louisans, contains a formal English garden, traditional Japanese garden, Margaret Blanke Grigg Chinese garden, the Flower Trial Garden, greenhouses and extensive landscaping. The garden also features the Climatron Complex, water lily reflection ponds and the William T. Kemper Center for Home Gardening.
The Climatron® geodesic dome and rainforest conservatory was dedicated 40 years ago in October 1960, replacing an old house built in 1913. The structure incorporates principles established by innovative architect R. Buckminster Fuller and was the first application of geodesic engineering for a greenhouse. The St. Louis architecture firm of Murphy & Mackey developed plans for the facility with Garden director Frits W. Went, who coined the term, Climatron.
The dome is 70 feet high and 175 feet in diameter, permitting tall palm trees to tower majestically above the tropical vista of streams, waterfalls and 1,200 different species of exotic trees and plants. Temperature ranges from 64 to 74 degrees and average humidity is 85 percent.
Visitors can enjoy a sense of being in a jungle while making their way by orchids, passion flowers, hibiscus flowers, cycads and a number of endangered species. In 1976, the dome was named one of the 100 most significant architectural achievements in United States history.
The Garden, covering 79 acres, is located at 4344 Shaw Blvd, just south of Hwy 44 between Vandeventer and Grand. Extended summer hours are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays only from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Free parking on premises, as well as an extensive gift shop and restaurant with patio dining. For more information, call the GardenLine at 314-577-9400 or 800-642-8842.
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