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Stowe bring Chinese art to the garden

Some of the lighted animal figures created for the Chinese Lantern Festival at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden this fall
Some of the lighted animal figures created for the Chinese Lantern Festival at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden this fall Hanart Culture photo

China has come to Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, bringing a wealth of its culture to the garden this fall.

The event is a Chinese Lantern Festival, running Sept. 7 through Oct. 29, that features about 800 hand-made illuminated figures of animals and plants from all corners of the world, everything from pandas, cheetas and giraffes to flamingos, frogs and tulips. Stowe management said this is the largest exhibit in the garden’s history.

While the lighted lanterns fashioned into flora and fauna are the star attractions of the event, the festival includes Chinese folk art and crafts, Kung Fu shows, shadow plays and a marketplace.

Some flower beds and gardens have been refashioned to create naturalistic, Asian-inspired plantings with such plants as Japanese maples, ornamental grasses, bamboo and ferns to support the lighted display. While the display is visible and enjoyable in daytime, its lighted beauty across more than 12 acres will be most beautiful during special evening hours for the garden this fall.

The hundreds of shapes and figures in the show are the product of Hanart Culture, which has had previous shows in North America, including the Canadian city of Calgary, Alberta, plus Dallas, Boca Raton, Fla., and the Washington, D.C. suburb of Vienna, Va. Some of the exhibits have been used before, some partially refashioned and some are brand new, the work of 19 artists the company brought from China, said president George Zhao. A few artisans will stay to maintain and keep the lanterns in top form through the fall, he added.

All are hand made, largely created by shaping wire into forms such as small butterflies or tulips to larger ones such as big bears to convey the event’s theme of “The Wild,” which is apt for the display of wild animals in a large botanical garden such as Stowe. Animal life from all seven continents are included, not forgetting the penguins of Antarctica.

Strings of LED lights, a far cry from the candles used in olden times, are arranged carefully with an artist’s eye so that all parts of the figure are lighted naturally, and not too dark or too light. Weatherproof satin fabric covers each form and artists spray specially made, long-lasting paint to create the most realistic look possible, says Zhao. That requires a precise eye and close attention to details, such as eyes and the texture of fur.

The festival also gave the garden an opportunity to emphasize plants from Asia with various ones rearranged and such traditional Asian garden elements as rock and raked sand added to complete this fresh look at Asian culture in the Piedmont.

If You’re Going

Special evening hours for the Chinese Lantern Festival at Daniel Stowe Botanical garden are 5:30 to 9:30 p.m, Wednesdays through Sundays until Oct. 29. The garden is at 6500 S. New Hope Road, Belmont. Advance tickets bought online are reduced. For further details, admission prices and events: www.dsbg.org.