One of my favorite activities during our Philadelphia exploration was the evening we spent at the Chinese Lantern Festival held at Franklin Park. This is the 3rd year for this event and how glad I am that we were there. This is an opportunity to see 29 colorful sculptures made from 1,500 individual lanterns and lit with more than 15,000 LED lights! The number of sculptures along with the size, creativity and lighting is truly amazing. Since we arrived before it got dark, we were able to see them during dusk and how they changed when it got dark and the lanterns were lit. Some of the sculptures changed color with the lighting. Above is a picture of the koi fish that beautifully lined the entrance into the park.
Chinese lanterns were originally made from bamboo, wood, wheat straw and stretched silk or paper. In today’s modern world, metal frames, LED lighting and mechanics bring the sculptures to life. In one of the sculptures, the elephant’s ears move back and forth. We were intrigued by a bicycle placed next to the elephant that when pedaled caused the surrounding orbs to change colors. In the picture above, Jonathan gives it a whirl.
The lanterns are constructed by Chinese artisans in the City of Zigong, Sichuan Province which is reported to have been the traditional Chinese lantern making area for thousands of years. The handcrafted lanterns were brought to Philadelphia to be assembled. The sculptures represent a number of animals, plants and mythological figures from Chinese culture. Above is a picture of Luke and Levi in front of one that pays tribute to the Chinese Year of the Dog.
Almost all of the pieces are new to the festival this year. Only two of them, including the 200 foot long Chinese Dragon weighing 3,000 pounds are favorites that returned from last year. The dragon is quite impressive to see and fun to photograph due to its length!
The other returning favorite is the panda collection. These Chinese Lantern Pandas are adorable, just like pandas in real life. This was also Mark’s favorite and one of my favorites too.
The boys enjoyed the Great White Shark tunnel which was fun to walk through with its changing lighting and shades of blues to purples.
Each of the sculptures has a sign describing the animal or object like the Poison Dart Frog above. This description mentioned that the poison dart frog is native to tropical Central and South America and brightly colored. “Their vibrant hues reflect their toxicity and levels of alkaloids and serve as a warning to potential predators.” This lantern frog changed into a variety of colors too!
The Fairy Tree sign said that this display was making its world premiere at this year’s festival. “The Fairy Tree has been depicted in many ancient Chinese stories and it represents vitality and life. With its delicate design, this lantern transports the audience into fairyland.” The orbs on and around the tree changed into a variety of colors. I liked the purple orbs (above) the best.
The Rose Date was a beautiful and fun sculpture. The centerpiece is a giant rose that changed colors from shades of light blue to violet. It is surrounded by colorful red hearts and smaller roses. A place to take photos of loved ones.
Other lanterns were dolphins leaping in the waves (below), giant daisies, a huge menacing spider, a caterpillar with toadstools and sea turtles swimming in a reef, to name a few. I wish I could have shared pictures of all of them but of course my post would have been much too long! As you can imagine, there was a great variety and something that could appeal to everyone.
Besides the lanterns the festival featured stage entertainment of acrobatic feats, music and dancing as well as food. We were so captivated with the lanterns though we spent most of our time admiring them. Our grandsons Luke and Levi wanted to take a few rides on the carousel that is a regular fixture at the park.
I hope you enjoyed reading about our fun and unusual experience in Philadelphia!