Lighting up Chinatown's mane road

This article was first published in The Straits Times on Jan 8, 2014. 

CHINATOWN will be lit with 88 massive horse-shaped lanterns and decorated with dazzling gold coins to usher in the Year of the Horse.

"In the Chinese zodiac, the Horse symbolises intelligence, speed, strength and ambition," said grassroots adviser and Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar GRC, Dr Lily Neo, at a preview of the Chinese New Year light-up yesterday.

Hoping to attract youth to Chinatown, organisers of the festivities, the Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng Citizens' Consultative Committee, have planned walking tours on some weekends.

"We want to introduce them to the cultural activities of Chinatown and educate them about traditions. This will make CNY more meaningful to them," said Dr Neo.

Tradition will meet pop culture at the official light-up this Saturday, when lions will prance to Psy's Gangnam Style alongside martial art and acrobatic performances. President Tony Tan Keng Yam will be the guest of honour.

The seven-week celebrations, Galloping to Prosperity, will also feature a Facebook photo competition. Visitors can post their photos on Chinatown Festivals' Facebook page, and the one with the most votes will win $888. The competition ends on Jan 30.

Drawing inspiration from the Chinese idiom, wan ma ben teng, or 10,000 horses galloping, the 88 horse-shaped lanterns are mounted between New Bridge Road and Eu Tong Sen Street.

The decorations, designed by 19 students from the Singapore University of Technology and Design and assembled by 55 master craftsmen from China, took 625 days to design and produce.

"The whole of Chinatown is filled with vigour with these galloping horses," said tourist Daniel Baker, who was one of many taking pictures of the light-up. "They look spectacular at night."