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Lunar Lanterns 2016

Home > Sydney > Chinese New Year | Cultural Events | Festivals | Performing Arts | Workshops
by Irenke Forsyth (subscribe)
A writer sharing travels, experiences, a love of festivals & events. Life is a journey and I hope to inspire others. Visit my blog at
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Follow the trail and find your zodiac
Chinese New Year and the colour it brings with it in Sydney will dazzle again with familiar and new events this year of 2016, the year of the monkey. Lanterns are part and parcel of celebrations and you'll find many across our harbour city.

The City of Sydney Council is bringing us a trail of huge glowing lanterns, from Circular Quay to Chinatown, representing each of the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac calendar. Curated by Claudia Chan Shaw, they feature the works of some of our best contemporary artists and have a sense of humour installed in them.

Follow the path and find your zodiac lantern, watch community performances and enjoy a Lunar Feast. Here's where you can find each lantern, the years of birth associated with each animal and other activities in the vicinity:-

The Monkey (2016, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968)

If you were born in one of the years above, you are the monkey – cheeky, fun loving, charming, inquisitive and wise. You can find three charismatic monkeys at the Sydney Opera House perched on a pencil with the Chinese characters for 'Sydney'. They see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil.

Whilst there, wine and dine at Bennelong, Cured and Cultured with a special lunar feast priced at $50 per person or take a tour of the sail-shaped building, our busiest performing arts centre.

Monkey around to Customs House Library where you can print your own 3D monkey (cool stuff) or check out Monkey Business in The Rocks, an exhibition of Australian handcrafts featuring ceramics, glass, jewellery and silk. It's in the Craft NSW gallery at 104 George Street and is free.

The Rabbit (2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963)

In Customs House Square, opposite Circular Quay station, you'll find 22 playful rabbits in elegant silk waistcoats practicing Tai Chi. Very appropriate and in line with the rabbit being known as friendly, outgoing and preferring the company of others, having taste in dress and the arts. Try out your best rabbit Tai Chi pose for a selfie with a difference.

Nearby at The Rocks is the Shangri-La Hotel (176 Cumberland St) where celebrity pastry chef Anna Polyviou is putting on a modern twist to a Chinese-inspired High Tea. East meets West creations with spectacular views of the harbour.

The Dragon (2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964)

The Dragon
The Magical Dragon

At Dawes Point, the northern end of The Rocks under the Bridge, is a towering dragon – the creature of myth and legend. A symbol of intense power and good fortune, it represents China's emerging cultural identity.

This contemporary design uses traditional Chinese 3D carving techniques with colours of Western pop art.

Channel the dragon's power and take the Karaoke Climb to try and hit those high notes at the top of the Bridge.

The Ox (2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961)

The Eastern end of Martin Place, near Castlereagh St, is where a magical celestial ox awaits. Made of hundreds of illuminated Mahjong tiles, at night this lantern illuminates an electric blue hue meant to create a link between heaven and earth.

The Ox is known for its strength, diligence, dependability and determination. Keep up your strength with a delicious 6 course lunar feast at the Japanese Yayoi Garden restaurant. Located a couple of blocks away at 38 Bridge St, it is priced at $50 per person.

Alternatively, at the other end of Martin Place in nearby Angel Place, the City Recital Hall is holding a very special Chinese New Year Concert – Treasures of the Nation – conducted by the Chinese Music Orchestra. A new world of music complemented with stunning visuals, it's on for one night on 20 February at 7.30pm. Adult prices range from $58-98 per person. Children are $10 cheaper in each seating category.

In a different direction, head to the China Cultural Centre at 151 Castlereagh St for the Happy Chinese New Year exhibition. Showcasing traditional lunar decorations, it provides a hands on experience for all ages.

The Tiger (2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962)

People born in these years are brave, competitive, self-confident and unpredictable.

The forecourt of the Queen Victoria Building will be home to the happiest tiger you'll come across with Chinese symbols on it translating to 'Always at peace. Always be safe'. In bright colours, this lantern represents happiness, wealth, peace and prosperity as well as warding off disaster, keeping you away from evil and disease.

Inside the building, under the majestic dome, are more lanterns in a stunning oriental display.

Whilst there, shop till you drop and enjoy a meal in one of many eateries. Chinese restaurant, Fat Buddha, is offering a special Chinese New Year Banquet at $55 per person. It includes sumptuous garlic king prawns amongst other seafood and fried rice, sautéed veal cubes with black pepper sauce and chicken sang choi bow.

The Horse (2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966)

Animated, active and energetic are people born in the Year of the Horse. They love being in a crowd and taking centre stage.

Beautiful Hyde Park (south end) will be the scene of the horse lantern depicting the might of ancient Chinese armies with terracotta war horses led by a shimmering chariot.

Close by at the Sydney Mechanics' School of Arts (280 Pitt St), you can listen to a talk '88 Objects' on Chinese-Australian history. On 13 February from 1-3.30pm, cost per adult is $10.

The Rat (2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960)

The quick witted rat is also in Hyde Park and whilst often looked down on, is actually a very positive sign of the lunar zodiac.

The rat is also resourceful and ready to take hold of opportunity when it presents itself.

Chinese New Year Rat
The rat in 2011. How will 2016's rat compare?

For a feast, reasonably priced at $30 per person, Lotus-The Galeries (500 George St) will be providing elegance and a meal that offers spring rolls, crispy skin chicken, steamed seasonal vegetables and more.

The Rooster (2017, 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969)

There's an Australian twist to this rooster in Hyde Park in which it comes in the form of a corrugated iron chook shed.

The confident rooster is hard working, talented, resourceful and courageous.

For some Chinese fashion, see and learn about the beauty of Qipao dress, its traditions and history. Down at the Sydney Congress Hall Function Centre (140 Elizabeth St) on 13 February, from 2.30-4.30pm, 300 gorgeous dresses brought out from China will be on display. You can even try one on and get photographed in it.

The Goat (2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967)

Chinese Garden of Friendship
The Chinese Garden of Friendship has loads of activities

Fond of the quiet life and thus making it calm, the goat is also creative, compassionate, wise and dependable.

Chinatown is where you will see this zodiac lantern as well as lion dancing and a host of feasts in Dixon Street.

A hop, jump and a skip away is the Chinese Garden of Friendship having lantern decorating workshops, tea ceremonies and more. Entry is a gold coin donation.

The Snake (2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965)

Also making an appearance in Chinatown, with inspiration from the ancient art of Chinese basket making, is the impressive snake lantern reminiscent of a snake charmer's basket.

The enigmatic snake is private, wise and intuitive.

Whilst here, perhaps take an historical walking tour of the area, learning about ancient traditions and cultures of Chinese dynasties or wander over to World Square for a screening of the Monkey King (10 Feb only from 6.45pm) and relax with headphones in a deck chair.

The Dog (2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970)

Cantonese Opera
Take an introduction into the world of Cantonese Opera

Another one in Chinatown, the dog is loyal and honest, kind and amicable. Made from Chinese fabric, this lantern is cute and playful like a puppy.

In Dixon St (No.10), there's an interesting workshop on Cantonese Opera and basic performing skills. Produced by the Chinese Youth League of Australia, it is on 11 February from 12pm-3pm and it's free. At the same address you can also learn Han style dancing using fans and scarves as well as a short routine from choreographer, Susan Xu. It's for ages 14 and up, takes place 16 February from 10.30am-12pm and is also free.

The Pig (2019, 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971)

In Pitt Street (around Chinatown) look for a patchwork pig with her piglets which has been inspired by the motherly nature of this farm animal.

Those born in the year of the pig have great focus and concentration in achieving goals, are diligent and generous.

Apart from the zodiac lanterns, there's also a Lantern Festival again in Darling Harbour, lanterns at the Lunar Markets in Pyrmont Bay Park, Market City in Haymarket and many more places.

Chinese New Year
Some Chinese New Year lanterns from previous years. 2016 is sure to be bigger and better.

For a map pinpointing the locations of the zodiac lanterns and info on other Chinese New Year celebrations, visit the council's website.
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Why? For vibrant colour and celebration
Phone: 02 9265 9333
Where: Circular Quay to Chinatown
Your Comment
thank you It will be a lovely day out on the town I look forward to it together with my grandchildren. How exciting
by maria (score: 1|57) 1716 days ago
Have found out the lanterns will be switched on at dusk so around 6pm
by Laris (score: 0|6) 1702 days ago
NOTE: Since writing this article the Council have moved some of the zodiac lanterns. The Horse is now in Martin Place and the rat, rooster and pig are now all in Pitt St Mall. Lanterns light up at dusk...Irenke
by Irenke Forsyth (score: 3|2228) 1700 days ago
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