PICTURES

A durian lantern to light up CNY festival

Craftsmen from Sichuan Zhi Gong City prepare a giant horse lantern during the media preview of the River Hongbao 2014, held on Jan 3, 2014. There will be 28 large handmade lantern displays at this year's carnival, to be held at the Floating Platform
Craftsmen from Sichuan Zhi Gong City prepare a giant horse lantern during the media preview of the River Hongbao 2014, held on Jan 3, 2014. There will be 28 large handmade lantern displays at this year's carnival, to be held at the Floating Platform @ Marina Bay from Jan 29 to Feb 8. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Mr Guo Wanlin, an artistic director and master craftsmen from Sichuan Zhi Gong City, demonstrates how he paints eyes on a horse lantern during the media preview of the River Hongbao 2014, held on Jan 3, 2014. There will be 28 large handmade lantern d
Mr Guo Wanlin, an artistic director and master craftsmen from Sichuan Zhi Gong City, demonstrates how he paints eyes on a horse lantern during the media preview of the River Hongbao 2014, held on Jan 3, 2014. There will be 28 large handmade lantern displays at this year's carnival, to be held at the Floating Platform @ Marina Bay from Jan 29 to Feb 8. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Mr Li Huiyu, a craftsmen from Sichuan Zhi Gong City, prepares a durian-shaped lantern at the media preview of the River Hongbao 2014, held on Jan 3, 2014. There will be 28 large handmade lantern displays at this year's carnival, to be held at the Flo
Mr Li Huiyu, a craftsmen from Sichuan Zhi Gong City, prepares a durian-shaped lantern at the media preview of the River Hongbao 2014, held on Jan 3, 2014. There will be 28 large handmade lantern displays at this year's carnival, to be held at the Floating Platform @ Marina Bay from Jan 29 to Feb 8. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Mr Fu Minggang (foreground) and fellow craftsmen from Sichuan Zhi Gong City prepare a dragon lantern at the media preview of the River Hongbao 2014, held on Jan 3, 2014. There will be 28 large handmade lantern displays at this year's carnival, to be
Mr Fu Minggang (foreground) and fellow craftsmen from Sichuan Zhi Gong City prepare a dragon lantern at the media preview of the River Hongbao 2014, held on Jan 3, 2014. There will be 28 large handmade lantern displays at this year's carnival, to be held at the Floating Platform @ Marina Bay from Jan 29 to Feb 8. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Craftsmen from Sichuan Zhi Gong City pictured with a giant horse lantern during preparations at the media preview of the River Hongbao 2014, held on Jan 3, 2014. There will be 28 large handmade lantern displays at this year's carnival, to be held at
Craftsmen from Sichuan Zhi Gong City pictured with a giant horse lantern during preparations at the media preview of the River Hongbao 2014, held on Jan 3, 2014. There will be 28 large handmade lantern displays at this year's carnival, to be held at the Floating Platform @ Marina Bay from Jan 29 to Feb 8. -- ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Craftsmen Liu Hong (left), 38, and Li Huiyu, 46, from China's Sichuan province putting together the durian-shaped lantern yesterday for the River Hongbao. There will be 28 large handmade lantern displays at this year's carnival, to be held at the Flo
Craftsmen Liu Hong (left), 38, and Li Huiyu, 46, from China's Sichuan province putting together the durian-shaped lantern yesterday for the River Hongbao. There will be 28 large handmade lantern displays at this year's carnival, to be held at the Floating Platform @ Marina Bay from Jan 29 to Feb 8.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Chinese zodiac animals will also feature at this year's River Hongbao

The annual River Hongbao returns at the end of the month, ushering in the Year of the Horse with the largest number of lanterns on display in the carnival's 28-year history.

Behind the 28 large handmade lantern displays - which include elements such as the God of Fortune and the animals of the Chinese zodiac - is a team of 36 craftsmen flown in specially from China's Sichuan province.

They arrived in Singapore last Dec 8 to embark on a 45-day challenge to build all the installations from scratch.

Leading the team is master lantern-maker and artistic director Guo Wanlin, 63, who has been honing his skills since he was 13. It is the first time he is involved in the River Hongbao, but he has designed lantern displays in countries such as France, Canada and the United States.

This time, the challenge for the experienced craftsman came in the form of a spiky, pungent fruit uncommon in his hometown.

He was tasked with crafting a durian lantern as part of an installation which was daunting for him, as he had never seen the fruit before.

"We went to Chinatown and bought a durian," Mr Guo said in Mandarin. "I put it on my table and studied it for two to three days."

Each metal spike on the durian lantern had to be individually welded by hand to form a 2.5m-high frame. The spikes, as his team was instructed, had to vary in height and point in different directions, adding to the challenge, he said.

Silk fabrics are then pasted onto the structure to complete the lantern, which is still being constructed.

Other challenging displays include the centrepiece - an 18m- high God of Fortune lantern - which had to be assembled using a hydraulic crane.

The lantern will shower visitors with paper flakes bearing auspicious numbers at specific intervals throughout the 11-day event.

The carnival will be held at the Floating Platform @ Marina Bay from Jan 29 to Feb 8.

Other highlights include performances by the acclaimed Yunnan Opera Theatre, a handicraft street and a food street featuring Yunnan delicacies such as Pu'er tea-flavoured drumsticks.

Opening hours are from noon to 11.30pm daily, except on Jan 30, when it will close at 1am after the Chinese New Year countdown. Admission is free.

mellinjm@sph.com.sg

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