Why The Silk Road Theme?

The ‘Silk Road’ was chosen as the festival theme for 2017 due to its historical significance. A very current topic of huge cultural importance as it spread trade and culture between East and West dating back to the Western Han Dynasty of China in 206 BC.

Xi Jinping, the president of China is drawing up plans to revive the myth and build a New Silk Road, in large parts along the old trade route. It would mark the return of a legend. It is a gigantic project, and China envisions about 60 countries being involved, or about half of humanity.

Lantern festivals also date back to the Western Han Dynasty so whilst lantern festivals are growing in popularity in the West, the Silk Road is being revived from the East. The marriage of these two great historic and cultural exports from China, make the perfect topical theme for this years Magical Lantern Festival.

Visitors will discover magnificent life-sized and oversized lantern scenes, which represent and highlight this significant route of trade and culture from Europe to Ancient China.

London – Big Ben & Houses of Parliament

The Silk Road theme begins with a beautifully constructed 15 metre wide by 5 metre high lantern recreation of London’s most famous landmark, Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. This amazing colourful and vibrant installation is an artistic three-dimensional lantern representation. The perfect photo opportunity when visitors first enter the festival. This lantern is the perfect introduction to Europe along the Silk Road as the route is traced back from Europe to Ancient China.


Silk Road Through The Roman Empire

The Romans traded spices, perfumes, and silk. After the Roman conquest of Egypt in 30 BCE, the European part of the Silk Road became hugely popular and prominent. Regular communications and trade along the Silk Road between China, Southeast Asia India, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe blossomed on an unprecedented scale. The Roman Empire connected with the Central Asian Silk Road through their ports in Barygaza (known today as Bharuch) and Barbaricum (known today as the cities of Karachi, Sindh, and Pakistan.

This giant 20-metre wide lantern recreation is an artistic representation of the European part of the Silk Road.

Silk Road Through Central Asia

The Han dynasty expanded Central Asian sections of the Silk Road trade routes around 114 BCE, largely through the missions and explorations of the Chinese imperial envoy. Chinese armies established themselves in Central Asia, initiating the Silk Road as a major avenue of international trade.

The Silk Road through Central Asia reached its high point during the Mongol Empire under the guidance of Genghis Khan and his successors. The Mongols spread their power into Iran, the Caucasus, Southern Russia, Persia, Iraq and Eastern Europe. Central Asia exported camels, which were highly appreciated in China, military equipment, gold and silver, semi-precious stones and glass items, all considered to be luxury goods.

These two huge lantern installations are artistic representations of the Central Asian part of the Silk Road. Visitors will notice the cultural and architectural aspects of these lanterns, which highlight Central Asia.


Silk Road Through Arabia, Persia and Egypt (Middle East Region)

The Arabs mostly controlled important trade routes, known collectively as the Incense Routes. The incense trade flourished from South Arabia to the Mediterranean between the 3rd century BCE to the 2nd century CE. The demands for scents and incense by the empires of antiquity, such as Egypt, Rome and Babylon, made Arabia one of the oldest trade centres of the world.

The Persian Royal Road, which would come to serve as one of the main arteries of the Silk Road, was established during the Achaemenid Empire (500-330 BCE). The Persian Royal Road ran from Susa in north Persia (modern day Iran) to the Mediterranean Sea in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey) and featured postal stations along the route with fresh horses for envoys to quickly deliver messages throughout the empire.

The camel caravan routes crossing the desserts of Arabia were a vast trade network covering most of the world. South Arabian merchants utilized the incense route to transport frankincense, myrrh, gold, ivory, pearls, precious stones and textiles.

The four lantern scenes below are artistic representations of the ancient Middle Eastern part of the Silk Road. Visitors will notice key landmarks, culture and architecture which connect and highlight this region, in particular the camel caravans carrying people and goods, which were a common sight as they crossed the deserts.

Tales of Aladdin

Aladdin is a Middle Eastern folk tale from the world famous piece of literature, ‘The Book of One Thousand and One Nights’. The story of Aladdin is one of the most familiar narratives in the world, a classic ‘rags to riches’ tale featuring a young hero who has to learn an important lesson; an exotic setting; a good healthy dose of magic; a beautiful heroine; and an evil villain.

Along the Silk Road at inns and oases, merchants and travellers also traded many fables, short stories with a lesson for all who heard them. The stories were told in many different versions and languages, however the moral of the stories stayed the same. Some became prominent; Aladdin was amongst them and one of the most popular tales traded.

This larger than life depiction of Aladdin is a magnificent colourful display of lantern artistry and one of the festival highlights at 30-metres wide and 7-metres high. The scene shows well-known aspects of Aladdin’s tale including the famous genie and the lamp.


Silk Road Through India

India was famous for its trade in fabrics and spices along the Silk Road. Spice Routes between India and the Greco-Roman world increased and spices became the main import along the Spice routes from India to the Western world, rivalling silk and other commodities.

Spices such as cinnamon, cassia, cardamom, ginger, pepper and turmeric were known and used for commerce, in the Eastern world well into antiquity. The Indian commercial connection with South East Asia proved vital to the merchants of Arabia and Persia during the 7th century and the 8th century.

One key commonality with most of the Silk Road is the spread of Buddhism. While the Silk Road is a little older than Buddhism, trade was at its peak at the height of Buddhism. In all the key routes, India was able to spread its culture through the route.

This 8-metre high lantern creation represents Indian culture along the Silk Road through a lantern recreation of the Indian elephant standing tall and proud on a bed of flowers. Flowers represent the country’s unity in the form of diversity, liveliness and generosity and have forever remained an integral part of Indian culture.

The Legendary Voyages of Admiral Zheng He

During the Tang Dynasty, 500 years before Marco polo arrived in China, Silk Road land routes fell into decline as sea routes opened up between China and the Middle East. Arab traders established an extensive trade network between China, Southeast Asia, India and the Middle East, which is commonly known as the Maritime Silk Road.

The maritime Silk Road was a channel for trade and cultural exchange between China’s south-eastern coastal areas and foreign countries. There were two major routes: the East China Sea Silk Route and the South China Sea Silk Route. Through the maritime Silk Road, silks, china, tea, and brass and iron were the four main categories exported to foreign countries; while spices, flowers and plants, and rare treasures for the court were brought to China.

Much of the trade on the Maritime Silk Road was carried out by Arab, Persian, Indian and Chinese Ships. But one legendary seafarer was to stand out, Chinese Admiral Zheng, a devout Muslim who is commemorated across China today. Zheng He captained seven naval expeditions to project Imperial power, protect and extend Chinese trade across Indonesia, India, Persia, Arabia and Africa.

Zheng He led his fleet with 62 mammoth wooden ships described as so massive (400ft long and 170ft wide) that it is believed they were the largest sailing ships of their kind at the time. They were capable of accommodating more than 500 passengers, as well as a massive amount of cargo.

The two main highlights of the legend of Zheng He lanterns are a 15-metre and 18-metre wide artistic recreation of scenes dedicated to this adventurous explorer at the height of his power and command. In addition there is a lantern recreation of Zheng He’s legendary ship and a further lantern dedicated to the Maritime Silk Road with a giant blue whale lantern as the focal point.


Ceramic Trade on the Silk Road

One of the earliest commodities traded along the Silk Road was ceramics, porcelain in particular; the most coveted and most technically advanced ceramic in the world. Porcelain was made with kaolin clay, a substance unique to China in this period, which was found near Jingdezhen, a great ceramic-producing city.

Porcelain is the hard clay that demands so much craftsmanship and firing at high temperatures, which was discovered by the Chinese and perfected during the Han Dynasty as the Silk Road was in its infancy. Over the centuries, exquisite porcelain artefacts and the skills to make them were carried down the Silk Road into the homes and palaces of the discerning few on three continents.

This 8-metre high lantern demonstrates the artistry behind ceramics and the products created from it. Ornate Chinese porcelain vases contained amazing intricate paintings making them a highly prized commodity.

Trade of Precious Gems on The Silk Road

Precious gems were hard to extract from the earth because mining was so crude in ancient times. This made gems one of the most expensive commodities traded along the Silk Road. Typically, gemstones were purchased by and for royalty and other wealthy patrons.

The tantalizing precious gemstones traded along the Silk Road used by the lucky Bukara jewellery makers and others were diverse. They included diamonds and beryl from India.  There were also rubies from Thailand, Cambodia, Ceylon (now called Sri Lanka) and Burma (now called Myanmar). Vivid blue sapphires could also be obtained from Ceylon and Burma. But the most dazzling, coveted blue sapphires of all came from Kashmir.

This dazzling lantern recreation of a rare diamond shimmers in the night sky. At 20-metres wide and 6-metres high this maze of diamonds is a true visual feast for visitors.


Tea Trade on the Silk Road

The first written reference of tea made and consumed appeared in 350 A.D.

Kuo P’o’ updated an old Chinese dictionary to include the description of tea as “a beverage made from boiled leaves.” From 350 to 600 A.D., the demand for tea dramatically increased and outstripped the supply of wild tea trees. Farmers began to grow tea plants in the Szechwan district, but soon tea cultivation had spread throughout China.

During the Tang Dynasty, tea drinking evolved into an art form. During the Song Dynasty tea rooms and houses were built in order to enjoy tea at a social and spiritual level. There were even competitions among tea connoisseurs who were judged on the way they conducted their ceremony and on the quality of the tea leaves, water, and brewed tea.

This vibrant and colourful lantern represents how tea evolved through the ages and arrived in the West and has developed into a national habit.

Chinese New Year of the Rooster 2017

Chinese New Year 2017 is Saturday 28th January. 2017 is the Year of The Rooster, the tenth animal sign in the Chinese zodiac. Each year is related to an animal sign according to a 12-year cycle. Years of the Rooster include 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005 and 2017.

People born in a year of the Rooster are very observant. Hardworking, resourceful, courageous and talented, Roosters are very confident about themselves. People born in a year of the Rooster are typically healthy people. They are active and enjoy sports such as hiking and swimming. Roosters don’t get sick very often because they tend to fight illness well. Even when they do become ill, they feel better quickly. Roosters are a little sensitive and feel stressed and moody at times.

This lantern represents Chinese New Year and The Year of The Rooster 2017. The decorated egg giving birth to the rooster is a symbolic announcement that the New Year has dawned.