Goats & gold coins take centrestage at this year's Chinatown light-up

Goats & gold coins take centrestage at this year's Chinatown light-up

Miss Nurul Marsya Mohd Shahruddin did not know much about Chinese culture, aside from the little she had picked up in school.

But the 19-year-old read up about it and was one of 13 students from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) who designed this year's annual Chinese New Year light-up in Chinatown.

The festive decorations include 338 goat-shaped lanterns and 1,500 lanterns resembling gold coins.

The group of first- and second-year students, from an art, architecture and design interest group in SUTD spent six months designing the light-up.

Miss Nurul Marsya said she read up on Chinese culture for the project, especially the significance of the Year of the Goat.

Her teammates also helped by explaining Chinese culture to her. She was particularly fascinated with the homonyms - words that sounds the same but have different meanings - in the Chinese language, incorporated in the design.

The two Chinese phrases - forming the festival theme Abundance of Joy and Prosperity - have Chinese characters in them that sound like "three goats" and "five bats".


As a result, the design had a 10m-high centrepiece of three goats standing atop a mountain and coin-shaped lanterns with five bats printed on them, she explained.

Miss Nurul Marsya managed to offer valuable input in the discussions on the designs. "Goats are often seen huddling together, so I came up with the idea of goats on a pilgrimage back home together," she said.

"Coming from a different cultural background, this project was a refreshing experience and has helped me better appreciate the Chinese culture."

This is the fourth year SUTD has partnered the Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng Citizens' Consultative Committee and the Singapore Tourism board to design the New Year light-up.

Team leader Tan Wei Lin, 21, said the final design was a blend of ideas from individual members. It took cues from mountain goats portrayed in old paintings: Vibrant, gazing down from mountain tops, and in herds.

Some goats even had moving heads to make them look like they were munching on grass.

Rather than hanging the lanterns in straight lines across the road, the students formed a zig-zag pattern with them so that it would look like an orangish-yellow canopy was covering the street.

Mr Tan said: "I enjoyed being able to design something and witness the final product come to life."

The light-up begins at 6pm tonight and will last until March 19.

This article was first published on January 31, 2015.
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