On a cold and windy day in December we travel to the city of Emmen to visit the China festival of Lights. The China Festival of Lights, or Yuan Xiao as the Chinese call it, is a unique Chinese light spectacle that has never before been shown in Europe. In China, though, Yuan Xiao is already celebrated since the first emperor Qin Shi Huang, who unified China in 221 BC. Just after passing the welcome gate, we drop into a party of dinosaurs. Closest to the path is a huge Tyrannosaurus rex who looks at us with wide open eyes and a gaping mouth full of razor sharp teeth. At a safe distance a group of herbivorous dinosaurs huddle under a palm tree. Gently they wave their heads left and right as if they don't know where to look. A young Triceratops seems the least impressed by the nearby Tyrannosaurus. But one of its parents keeps a watchful eye. In stark contrast with Tyrannosaurus, one of the dinosaurs almost looks cute. Which cannot be said of the Brontosaurus in the back. After a last look over our shoulder we leave the dinosaurs behind and continue to the next sculptures. The entire China festival of Lights consists of 32 different light sculptures, that is without the many lanterns that are hanging over our heads. The lanterns are devoted to Shangdi, the Lord of Heaven, and the color red, the color of luck, dominates. Apart from illuminating the darkness, the lanterns also lead the way to the next group of sculptures. In the distance a happy lion, part of the lion's gate, can be seen. But before walking to that group we give the various lanterns a closer look. Many contain Chinese characters meaning happiness and luck. In the meantime the sky has darkened from a deep blue to black. The next group of sculptures is on our right: a group of playful panda bears. It's the family of YangYo, who came over from Shaanxi, China, especially for the festival. A young panda bear from YangYo's family stands next to a small illuminated bamboo sprout. At the same time an elder panda bear sits between bamboos and colorful mushrooms. In the wild panda bears are shy, but in Emmen they're easily seen. A total of six panda bears are visible while a seventh one rides around in a chart. We say goodbye to the pandas and continue to the next group, this time on our left. In a pond a pair of Mandarin ducks floats between several lotus flowers. The ducks are four meters high and covered by silk being provided by silkworms that have their origins in China. As there's hardly any wind, the surface of the pond mirrors the floating ducks. Being monogamous, Mandarin Ducks, according to Chinese folklore, signify eternal love. Mandarins ducks also stand for loyalty and happiness. Another interesting lantern shows two fish bent around a pink heart. And not just one set of fish, but an entire line of fish and hearts stretching behind the ducks towards a distant Elephant gate. The views and colors are so beautiful that it is hard to stop making pictures. Leaving the ducks behind the next sculpture is the Lions gate and several happy lions. On the right there are two happy lions, a yellow one and a blue one. On the right there's a white one and a red one. Happy lions symbolize good things like luck, prosperity, peace and friendship. Happy lions are also funny to look at and cute as well. On the left there's this lovely purple lion. And on the right a pink lion looks at us. Turning to the left we cross another gate, this time with illuminated elephants. It isn't easy to make pictures without other visitors as there are many others enjoying the scenery. A little further on the road, next to the path we come upon a couple of flamingos. They seem a little bit out of place on this dark and cold December evening. Flamingos have a calm and relaxed way, and are a symbol for peace and harmony of the natural world. From a branch of a tree we're being watched by a flying insect. At the same time a bug climbs the trunk of the same tree. In the distance an illuminated pagoda towers above the surrounding area. Then there's a garden with all kinds of crawling creatures, like a bug, a giant snail, and a life-size cricket. A preying mantis looks like it's going to have a lot of food tonight and a ladybug symbolizes peace and harmony. From the tiny garden creatures we walk towards two ferocious tigers. Tigers symbolize dignity, ferociousness and courage. Fortunately they're separated from the public by a small fence. Golden monkeys live in the cold mountain forests of China and symbolize friendship. The next sculpture looks like the Temple of Heavenly Peace in Beijing. It's a beautiful pagoda of several stories high. And then, the China Festival of Light's most impressive sculpture, an awesome dragon. The dragon has the power to control everything. For over 8000 years the dragon is China's most important symbol. The dragon symbolizes luck and prosperity. Realization of the dragon has been directed by Wu Zuxiang, one of the 44 artists who have worked 40 days 15 hours per day to realize all these beauties. In China Wu Zuxiang has received an extremely rare distinction for his extraordinary artistic achievement. Only from a distance the dragon's full 100 meters length and 6 meters height can be framed in one picture. Further to the peacock gate. The peacock is loved because of its beautiful feathers. The peacock's beauty and splendor are clearly visible in the arches. The Manchurian Crane has a patch of red skin on its head. This patch of skin becomes bright red when the crane becomes angry or excited. In China the crane stands for luck, longevity and fidelity. The combination with the pines in the background symbolizes eternal youth. According to Chinese wisdom lion's are friends of men. The lion carries the message "Love nature and nature will love you". In China, the lion is regarded as the king of the forests and of the other animals. It has thus long been used as a symbol of power and grandeur. The Fenghuang is a mythical bird superficially similar to the phoenix. It is the second most-respected legendary creature (second to the dragon). The Fenghuang is largely used to represent the empress and females, and as such as the counterpart to the Chinese dragon, traditionally seen as masculine or imperial. To many Chinese the alligator is malicious and dangerous. In the wild the alligator's habitat has been reduced to little more than a few ponds containing a small number of animals along the lower Yangtze River. A young alligator climbs out of its egg. The other egg is still intact, guarded by one of its parents. The only live animals this night are the sea lions, swimming under a giant se lion sculpture. And there's another gate, a monkey gate this time. The gate has been decorated with monkeys especially for the Emmen zoo. Children playing on the back of an ox are a common scene in Chinese folklore. They symbolize the happy and peaceful farmer. In rural areas, possession of an ox is an important status symbol: the more oxen the richer the farmer is. For a magnificent sculpture of three elephants and two towers Chinese porcelain is used. It is one of the most traditional subjects of the Chinese lantern festival. The elephants stand for innovation and the hope of a good life, the sculpture as a whole represents the desire for social development and the hope of a better life. The elephant in the middle is purple, the two elephants on the outside change from purple to green. A couple of swans is floating between lotus flowers. Again the absence of wind turns the water of the pond into a beautiful mirror. The graceful swans symbolize purity and faithfulness. The last sculpture is giant blue vase. On the sides of the vase several panda bears are depicted. The panda bear is China's national symbol. The blue color originates from over 80.000 small used bottles filled with a blue fluid and illuminated by LED-lights. The vase is adopted by the World Wildlife Fund and reminds us of the fact that we can recycle waste and even create art out of it. Using LED-lights for lighting the vase also saves a lot of energy as it is more than 90% more economical that a normal bulb. And with a last look at the vase we leave Emmen after a great evening with a fantastic light show.
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