Marking the start of the Sydney Lunar Festival, the City of Sydney has unveiled two 2.4-metre-high illuminated ox lanterns, proudly standing at the gateway to Chinatown.
Designed by Sydney-based Chinese artist Chrissy Lau, the ‘hero lanterns’ are part of a free outdoor exhibition of 12 larger-than-life lunar zodiac animals from Friday 12 February to Sunday 21 February.
This year’s lanterns are dotted across the city from Customs House in the north to Thaitown and Dixon Street Mall in the south.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore today encouraged Sydneysiders to rediscover their city during the festival.
“This Sydney Lunar Festival we welcome more people back to our city centre to enjoy the incredible feasts, cultural activities and community entertainment on offer,” the Lord Mayor said.
“With zodiac lanterns in new parts of the city, this is a great way to support local businesses who’ve been doing it tough over the past 12 months.
“Today marks the beginning of the Year of the Ox and we’re celebrating with Chrissy Lau’s delightful pink ox lanterns in a fun and creative interpretation of a centuries-old tradition.
“I’m also pleased to say that according to lunar astrologists, the Year of the Ox will bring prosperity, success in business and career advancement, and it’s also said to signify wellness for all signs.”
Award-winning artist Ms Lau took inspiration for her ox lantern design from the Japanese Maneki-neko beckoning cat which has been adopted by other Asian cultures.
“I grew up in a Chinese takeaway shop my parents ran in the north of England and there were lucky cats on the counter, so for me the design has a great sense of nostalgia, as well as being a nod to multicultural Australia,” Ms Lau said.
“Each ox has a moving waving arm to beckon children to come to receive their Chinese red packets (ang pows) filled with money. They wear an endless knot necklace to symbolise good luck, commonly displayed during the lunar celebrations.”
The mixture of traditional Chinese and contemporary patterns is said to symbolise Australia’s multicultural society.
“The Sydney Lunar Festival celebrations are a time for creating good fortune, happiness, wealth, health, prosperity and longevity, and the waving Ox represents this auspicious occasion,” Ms Lau said.
It took around 10 weeks to create the ox lantern moulds that are cast in acrylic. The oxen have a steel frame with a printed stretch lycra ‘sock’ covering, with a UV print stretched over it.
The 12 Lunar Lanterns will be on display during the day and lit up each night after 8pm, and are located in the north, centre and southern parts of the city.
People can enjoy a virtual guided Lunar Lanterns walk using their mobile phone. The free, self-guided tour is available in the Sydney Culture Walks app, downloadable from the App Store or on Google Play.
Three large lunar gateway arches will also be on display in the city, located in the QVB forecourt, Martin Place and Customs House forecourt. Each gateway is handpainted with design and cultural references to Korean, Chinese and Vietnamese architectural features.
In Chinatown, a colourful lantern curtain has been installed the length of the Dixon Street Mall to create an illuminated suspension of glowing paper lanterns – creating a perfect Instagram opportunity.