SINGAPORE - Christmas might be round the corner, but a herd of horses is already "galloping" through Chinatown to usher in Chinese New Year next month.
But the equines are actually lanterns, which will illuminate the area in the weeks leading up to the holiday beginning on Jan 31.
Although not all the decorations have been put up, at least four horses are currently out along the divider between Eu Tong Sen Street and New Bridge Road. Another set of horses will be dangled above the bridge that cuts across the two roads.
By the second week of next month, the heart of Chinatown will be decked with 88 horse-shaped lanterns - a lucky number in the Chinese tradition - with their heights ranging between 2m and 10m. Another 88 similar lanterns will be displayed along South Bridge Road, making it 176 in total.
A 10m-high horse leaping over a pile of golden ingots will be the highlight of the decorations.
Designed by 19 students from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), the lanterns are made of silk and wire.
They are being assembled by over 100 Chinese craftsmen, who have been flown into Singapore specially for the occasion.
"Through allowing the horses to stay close to the people, we hope to create many interesting photo spots and a memorable experience for the people," said SUTD student Jezamine Chua, 19.
The Chinese New Year celebrations in Chinatown are organised by the Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng Citizens Consultative Committee.
"The horses are made from scratch - the craftsmen have to bend the metal and cover the frame with cloth," said Ms Jennifer Lee, a committee member who is in charge of the light-up decorations.
She added that some committee members had even flown to China to source craftsmen who were "experienced in creating what we were looking for".
It is the third consecutive Chinese New Year that SUTD is collaborating with the citizens consultative committee on the light-up in Chinatown. Earlier this year, SUTD designed a snake sculpture that was more than 108m long and made of about 5,000 handcrafted red cube lanterns.
"The theme for the new year is the galloping horse, which signifies good health and prosperity," said Dr Lily Neo, MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC. She is also the adviser for the organising committee behind the celebrations. "They suit the zodiac sign for the year, but mainly, they're beautiful."
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.