Things to do

In pictures: Lunar Lanterns 2021

Representing the 12 animals of the lunar zodiac, these larger-than-life artworks are a modern interpretation of an ancient tradition.

  • The Ox

    Having grown up in her parent’s Chinese takeaway shop, Chrissy Lau was inspired by the familiarity of the Japanese Maneki-neko beckoning cat which has been adopted into Chinese culture.

    Each ox is adorned with an endless knot necklace to symbolise good luck and features a waving arm to summon people to receive their lucky red packets.

    The mixture of traditional Chinese patterns and contemporary colours on the ox lantern symbolises Australia’s multicultural society.

    The design is also a nod to the unique upbringing of Asian-Australian children who grew up in their parent’s restaurants and businesses.

    Located in Dixon Street

    Credit: Chris Southwood
  • The Dragon

    New to the exhibition for 2021, the ‘tomorrow dragon’ brings a fresh energy and a sense of optimism and strength. The blending of yellow, orange and pink washes signifies a harmonious balance of energy, while the dragon’s pearl takes on a new form as a globe, placing the ‘world in his hands’.

    The dragon lantern is the work of Alexandra Sommer and Brad Clark and Gorilla Constructions. Alex and Brad have worked on the Lunar Lanterns exhibition since 2016.

    Located at the southern end of Dixon Street, Chinatown

    Credit: Chris Southwood
  • The Rooster

    The work of artist and former festival curator Valerie Khoo, her giant rooster design celebrates Sydney’s diversity. Brought to life by hundreds of egg-shaped glowing lights draped on a metal frame, the Rooster lantern the concepts of yin and yang.

    The design is inspired by Sydney’s many thriving communities – with each light representing a unique voice, story, or idea.

    Located on the corner of Campbell and George Streets.

  • The Sheep

    The Electric Sheep the 2.5-metre-tall sheep lantern pays homage to the ancient tradition of applying paper-cut designs to lanterns, with a nod to a Philip K Dick’s sci fi novel ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’.

    The impressive sheep lantern was created by Brisbane-born artist Pamela Mei-Leng See, who has exhibited in Australia and China.

    Located at the QVB.

    Credit: Chris Southwood
  • The Rat

    Designed by artist, author and fashion designer Claudia Chan Shaw, the golden glowing rat lanterns were unveiled in 2020. Resembling wind-up toys and 1950s sci-fi robots, each animatronic rat has a wind-up key in its back and the Chinese symbol for good luck spinning on its chest.

    In Chinese culture, the rat is a symbol of wealth and surplus and gold is a prestigious colour, signifying luck and prosperity.

    Located in Sydney Square.

    Credit: Chris Southwood
  • The Tiger

    In Chinese culture, the tiger incites both awe and admiration for its prowess, ferocity and beauty. This big cat is full of life and embodies the spirit of achievement and the drive to make progress.

    The tiger represents the greatest earthly power and protection over human life. The sign on this tiger’s forehead spells ‘king’, which is common in most Chinese symbols depicting a tiger.

    Malaysian-born Kevin Bathman is an artist and graphic designer who has worked in Sydney, Auckland and Kuala Lumpur. Among his projects is The Chindian Diaries, an arts and community project exploring the connection, history and forgotten stories of Chinese and Indian communites.

    Located at First Fleet Park, Circular Quay.

  • The Monkey

    Sydney-born artist Louise Zhang’s impressive 8m tall monkey tower captures the monkey as playful and child-like. Their poses were developed from imagining the monkey as acrobats hopped on each other’s shoulders.

    Born in Sydney, Louise Zhang is a Chinese-Australian artist, whose multidisciplinary practice spans painting, sculpture and installation.

    Located on the corner of Ultimo Road and Thomas Street, Haymarket.

    Credit: Katherine Griffiths
  • The Dog

    The large, friendly, fibreglass lanterns combine traditional Chinese three-dimensional carving techniques with Western pop art colour palettes. The pattern and colour of the red and blue dogs reflect the opposite qualities of yin and yang, as well as the celebratory atmosphere of the Sydney Lunar Festival.

    Artist Fan Dongwang studied traditional Chinese art at Shanghai School of Arts and Crafts in the 1970s and later taught there. In 1990 he migrated to Australia, obtaining a Master of Arts at COFA in 1995, and a Doctor of Creative Art at Wollongong University in 1999. He lives and works in Sydney.

    Located in Barrack Street.

    Credit: Chris Southwood
  • The Rabbit

    Taking inspiration from the popular ‘White Rabbit’ candy, the Rabbit Lantern is reminiscent of sweet childhood memories, fun and play, indulgence and treats.

    Taking colourful candy packaging as a cue, this playful 5-metre-tall Rabbit lantern is inspired by the ancient art of Chinese paper-folding.

    The artwork is a collaboration between Nancy Liang, a collage artist who uses drawing, paper cut-outs and animation to explore Australian urban landscapes, and Fiona Lu, an artist who explores the ‘in-between’ of Chinese and Australian culture through her art.

    Located at the corner of Alfred and Pitt streets.

    Credit: Chris Southwood
  • The Pig

    Delicate and airy, a deconstructed 3-dimensional grid has been carved out to form an abstract silhouette of a pig by artist Qian Jian Hua (Justin).

    Qian Jian Hua was born in Nanjing and came to Australia in 1991 as a visiting scholar. He now lives and works in Sydney and his sculptures have been displayed in many major exhibitions in Australia.

    Located at Customs House.

    Credit: Chris Southwood
  • The Snake

    Inspired by the traditional art of Chinese kite-making, this golden snake flies above the public, representing prosperity and wealth. The artists have also featured the Chinese happiness symbols in the snake’s eyes as a symbol of good fortune for the coming year.

    The slithering snake is the work of amigo and amigo. Co-founded by Simone Chua and Renzo B Larriviere, the Sydney-based lighting and design studio explores the combination of light and sculpture in public spaces. Best known for large-scale interactive works, amigo and amigo has exhibited extensively in Australia and in Shanghai, China.

    Located under the Cahill Expressway, Circular Quay.

    Credit: Chris Southwood
  • The Horse

    Taking on a robotic form, the horses are embellished with vibrant Korean flowers and patterns including the dancheong found on traditional Korean wooden buildings.

    The magnificent horse lanterns make reference to traditional totem poles that identify village boundaries and serves as protective guardians. With an illuminated beating heart, the pair of 6-metre-tall horses are designed as modern guardians for the Lunar New Year.

    Located at the corner of Alfred and Loftus streets.

    Credit: Chris Southwood