Chinatown lantern decorations to be replaced

Greetings on some of them are inappropriate, say some people

One of the banner-like lanterns has a message that translates into "bright and majestic", while another says "joy for the nation" - both phrases are not commonly used to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is a time for family reunions. PHOTO: L
One of the banner-like lanterns has a message that translates into "bright and majestic", while another says "joy for the nation" - both phrases are not commonly used to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is a time for family reunions. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Twelve lantern decorations bearing inappropriate Chinese greetings will be replaced by tomorrow, after they were mistakenly produced and put up in Chinatown last Thursday.

The banner-like lanterns, which were hung up along South Bridge Road ahead of the traditional street light-up ceremony to mark the Mid-Autumn Festival, had drawn comments from members of the public that they did not suit the occasion.

For example, one lantern's message translated into "bright and majestic", while another said "joy for the nation" - both phrases are not commonly used to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival, which is a time for family reunions.

Ms Jennifer Lee, head of the Chinatown Festival Street Light-up Sub-Committee, said the committee had flagged the problematic greetings on some lanterns to its contractor, following internal feedback, and had asked for them to be removed before production began.

But they realised the changes were not made when the lights were being tested last Friday.

"These changes were not made in time," said Ms Lee.

After the banner-like lanterns were strung up, Facebook user Teoh Chee Boon commented that the decorations were an erosion of Chinese culture and opened Singapore's Chinese standards to criticism. He said the choice of some vocabulary was wrong and that one greeting was incoherent.

Another Facebook user pointed out that a phrase that translated into "the bright moon twinkles" did not make sense.

Ms Lee said some of the greetings - like one that read "the stars shine" - might seem unconventional, but were "to recreate the famous retro Hong Kong ambience" which features neon signs.

Among the lanterns being replaced is one that reads "joy for the nation".

The committee did not disclose the other designs being replaced but said it is working with the contractor to replace the affected lanterns.

 
 
 

Ms Lee added that the Hong Kong-style decorations are unique to South Bridge Road for this year's light-up, while more traditional decorations such as lotus flower lanterns and animal lanterns will be found along Eu Tong Sen Street and New Bridge Road.

This year's light-up will be live-streamed on Thursday and will be up till Oct 16. It comprises about 700 lanterns and sculptures which depict traditional festival motifs and characters such as Chang'e, the goddess of the moon in Chinese mythology.

The Chinatown Festival is organised by Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng Citizens' Consultative Committee and is made up of grassroots volunteers.

This is not the first time the light-up has sparked controversy. Last year, organisers had to repaint a two-storey lantern of Chang'e following complaints that its facial features looked too masculine.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2020, with the headline 'Chinatown lantern decorations to be replaced'. Print Edition | Subscribe