To Inspire, Transform & Heal

Linda Wiggen Kraft
Creativity for the Soul

This Week in the Garden – Ginormous Lantern Festival

Missouri Botanical Garden – Largest Chinese Lantern Festival ever in the United States.  These are not small lanterns, some are three stories tall.

The 137 foot long entrance dragon welcomes visitors to the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Lantern Festival.  It is called Art by Day and Magic by Night. And it certainly is. I first saw these amazing steel and silk sculptures when I  visited the “garden”, as we all call it in St. Louis,  before opening day.  I went back recently to see the night magic.

The details are spectacular during the day.  The ridges on each piece show the steel framework.  A special type of strong silk is stretched over the frame and glued on.  Thirty seven lantern artists from China came months before the festival’s opening to create these masterpieces.  Their beauty shines both day and night. Especially at night, when interior lights make them glow.

Some of the silk is hand painted, while other solid areas of color trimmed with gold and other colored trimmings.



Chinese lantern festivals are over 2,000 years old.  The art form is still carried on by the artists who came to St. Louis from Zigong which is in the western provence of Sichuan.


The size of the lanterns is ginormous.  This lotus with the a globe on top is probably over 20 feet tall.   This sculpture is in the waterlily pond that normally has the giant water lily pods that are rumored to hold people up as they stand on them.

On both sides of this lotus in the long water lily ponds are two giant dragons made out of over 40,000 individual pieces of ceramic eating and drinking pieces.  The plates, cups and other pieces are tied together with intricate knotting.

At night the dragon’s head moves, eyes glow and steam comes out of its mouth.

Chinese culture, traditions and beliefs are honored in the lanterns.  A large, maybe almost 20 feet tall,  four sided Buddha lantern shows four different poses of Buddha with various hand gestures, called mudras.  Mudras help bring about certain patterns of energy to those who hold these gestures and to those who are nearby.

This mudra is the Shun Mudra, where the middle finger and thumb are held together. It helps people to be in the moment and to gather patience.

This mudra is the Prana Mudra that promotes the flow of prana, the universal life force.  It is for health and well being on all levels of life.

The goddess of compassion is portrayed by Kuan Yin, who is a bodhissattva who has vowed to free all sentient being from suffering. Here Kuan Yin bestows her blessings on others as she moves in this animated lantern.

Pandas are right at home in the bamboo groves.


The rose garden arches are like moon gates with yellow Chihuly glass framing the large Chinese vase and lotus flowers on pedestals.

The unique artistry of these lanterns is not to be missed.  I’m inviting all my out of town friends to come.  The festival ends on August 19th.  Find out more at Missouri Botanical Garden’s website.


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