Tianyu actually puts on these incredible lantern festivals not just in Boston, but all over the world! They’ve done 50 events over 27 cities for 6 years, and over 3 million visitors have enjoyed their stunning displays! Keep scrolling to catch more of the amazing lantern displays we saw at the zoo, and peep some of their displays outside of Boston too!
History of Tianyu Lantern Festivals
Did you know Tianyu Arts & Culture, Inc. is the largest Chinese lantern festival producer in North America? It’s so cool to see how they modernize a tradition that dates back nearly 2,000 YEARS to the Eastern Han Dynasty!
Historically, the Chinese lantern festival would take place on the 15th day of the first month of the Lunar calendar (known as the Yuan) – which usually occurs in February in the Gregorian calendar. The idea is to honor our deceased ancestors while promoting peace and reconciliation through the lighting of these lanterns, as we celebrate the New Year. This tradition is believed to have originated in the Han Dynasty all the way back in 206 BC to 220 AD with Buddhist Monks to honor Buddha.
There are so many fascinating myths and legends surrounding the Lantern Festival too! One legend involves a Jade Emperor (You Di) who accused a village of killing his goose and planned to burn the village down as punishment for their crime. A spirit intervened, and told the villagers to light lanterns across the town on the day the emperor planned to burn their village. When the emperor arrived, the lanterns made it appear as though the village was already consumed by fire, and so he left it behind unharmed. The village was spared, and to show their gratitude to the spirit, the villagers celebrated every year by decorating their homes with lanterns!
There is always a history of food linked with traditions like these too! A popular one is yuanxiao, a delicious rice ball filled with nuts or fruits that is traditionally found in Northern China. Its round shape and the bowls they are served in symbolize togetherness. These tasty treats also appear in Southern China but are called tangyuan and are molded into a flat circle before getting wrapped around a filling that can be either sweet or savory. While yuanxiao only use sweet fillings like red bean or jujube paste, the tangyuan can be stuffed with minced meats or vegetables.
I couldn’t believe it when I realized that these light displays were actually intricate lanterns! Over the years, artisans have become way more ambitious with their designs, now using most complex shapes and colossal sizes like these. A lantern’s main structure is typically made of bamboo, wood rattan or wire, while the shades are made of silk or paper are typically red with decorative gold designs symbolizing warmth, happiness, and good fortune.
When I was little, history really bored me. But now, I really love learning about different cultures history and the origin of so many different traditions! You can learn more about the festival traditions here!
Behind the Scenes: Tianyu Lantern Festivals in the U.S.
Tianyu has been creating these unique festivals to cities all over the U.S. for over 20 years! They partner with zoos, aquariums, city parks, and botanical gardens to build these magical larger-than-life lanterns.
The cool part is that they utilize the natural features of each event space – for example, at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden and the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Garden (shown below) have large bodies of water which are used in the lantern displays.
Setup for these lanterns takes many artisans, and includes modeling and assembling the steel frames, gluing colorful fabrics, painting details like dragon scales— in addition to the creation of an above-water platform where the lantern pieces would be placed and fully assembled.
It’s really cool how these lantern festivals and light events take place in public spaces, so Tianyu essentially creates ticketed experiences for attendees to enter at night, while still allowing residents and visitors to enjoy the public spaces they love with minimal interruptions. You can read more about the behind the scenes of these lantern festivals here!
Tianyu Boston Zoo Lights
They have over 60 seriously RAWRSOME displays made out of 20,000 LED lights and hundreds of beautifully crafted lanterns spanning the Zoo’s 72 acres! This one was my favorite: an 87-foot long T-Rex tunnel that you can walk through! They even played the Jurassic Park theme song in the dinosaur section of the zoo – so cool and nostalgic!
They’re open in Boston 6pm-10:30pm form now through October 11th (be sure to get tickets in advance since they do sell out)! I actually have a giveaway on my Instagram right now to win 2 tickets!
Tianyu’s lantern displays are so bright, memorable and unique! They’re definitely great for photos and are super IG-worthy!
My favorite section at the Boston Zoo Lights was definitely the dinosaur section! My dad is a huge dinosaur buff & expert (he even had his own dinosaur trading card company that was super cool), so Jurassic Park and everything dinos has a huge place in my heart! These displays really made the dinosaurs come to life, and having them at a Zoo of all places really give that Jurassic Park feeling!
This one really reminded me of Pokemon – Vaporeon vibes!
It’s great that Tinyu created a safe outdoor experience with appropriate COVID-19 protocols in place to guarantee visitors’ safety. This involved creating contactless, interactive lanterns that used sensors and stepping boards to activate displays, allowing for a socially distanced experience for everyone.
The pandas were hands down the cutest lantern display at the Boston Zoo. I loved these pretty purple trees with them!
How to Create a TikTok or Instagram Reel from a Visual Event
The trick to getting a TikTok or IG Reel from an event like this is balance. Take your shots & videos quickly at each display, then put your phone down and be in the moment, so that you can truly enjoy and experience the event for yourself too!
This way, you can easily splice all the video clips together later and add trending music in TikTok or an app like Splice in order to increase the production value and make the experience really pop.
Pro Tip: Try to include a human element in your shots and videos too, like showing you walking through and interacting with the event. People like to see people, and they probably follow you for your take on the event too, so always try to include yourself every now and then.
Finally, put your own spin on it with a voiceover or text overlay!
A visual display like this will really dazzle the audience on it’s own, so as long as you collect a good variety of video clips then your TikTok or IG Reel will come out really exciting!