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Behind the lanterns and light at the Huntsville Botanical Garden

They're beautiful and full of light, but what's behind the lanterns glowing on at the Huntsville Botanical Garden?

They’re unlike anything most of us have ever seen. Lanterns in the shapes and colors of plants and animals, larger than life, lighting the paths and ponds of the Huntsville Botanical Garden.

Click below for a slideshow of some of the lanterns on display.

Chinese lanterns were originally for light, but over millenia evolved into an artform all their own. Early lanterns might be made out of silk, glass, or gauze. Some later lanterns included features like shadow pictures, which were made of paper wheels inside that turned when heated and produced moving “pictures” that could be seen on the outside.

Modern lanterns like those seen at the garden are constructed of rayon, porcelein, and even medicine bottles. According to a garden volunteer, this peacock features over 6,500 of them.

Colored bulbs inside add extra brilliance to some of the more than 800 lanterns displayed. There are 17 vignettes across the park’s 112 acres ranging from giant hanging flowers to hippos playing in the lake. Each lantern is made by masters in Zigong, the center of lantern making in China.

Don’t be surprised if you hear noises and see things moving. Many of the displays have animatronics and sound effects, including these alligators. The lanterns shine brightest at night, but their colors and detail are on full display during the day, too.

The lantern are in the garden until May 19, 2019. The exhibit is open each day for daytime Garden visitors, regular Garden admission or Huntsville Botanical Garden members.

The lanterns light up the night Wednesday – Sunday from 5:30 pm – 9:30 pm. Separate tickets are required for evening hours and can be purchased here.

Admission includes other Chinese art and cultural activities like live Kung Fu shows and demonstrations, shadow puppetry displays, and Chinese embroidery art, sugar art, paper-cut and fabric art makers.

Thank you to the Huntsville Botanical Garden for background on the Chinese Lantern Festival.