Thorny challenge for a master

Thorny challenge for a master

SINGAPORE - Even though he does not like the taste or the smell of a durian, master lantern maker Guo Wanlin spent three days studying the fruit.

The 63-year-old is here from China to design a huge lantern in the shape of a durian for this year's River Hongbao carnival.

The King of Fruit posed challenges the master had not encountered in his 50 years of lantern making.

Mr Guo is part of a team of 36 craftsmen from Zi Gong county in Sichuan province who were given 45 days to design and build the lanterns for this year's festival.

He told The New Paper that he had not made, let alone seen a durian-shaped lantern before.

Speaking in Mandarin, he said the first thing he did when he landed in Singapore was to buy a durian at Chinatown, so that he could study it for three days.

Mr Guo then noticed something important.

"I realised each thorn on the fruit can be of a different shape and size and I wanted to translate that to the lantern," he said.

So in his design, each of the spikes on the lantern was painstakingly handcrafted to form the basic structure of the 2.5m-tall frame before silk fabric of various colours and shapes were pasted on it.

Five craftsmen took at least a week to make that lantern alone.

Mr Guo said the durian lantern was the most challenging piece to make for this year's River Hongbao.

Another possible crowd favourite, a 18m-tall God of Fortune lantern which is still being built, poses a less thorny challenge.

But because of its size, a hydraulic crane will have to be used to lift and assemble the structure.

Mr Guo said the main difficulty will be getting the belt of the God of Fortune at the right position on his belly.

This year's River Hongbao boasts the largest number of lantern groups since the carnival's inception in 1986.

It will also showcase traditional auspicious elements such as the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac, a two-tier revolving lantern featuring the eight major festivals on the lunar calendar, and locally adapted themes to reflect Singapore's unique culture.

There will also be displays by Chinese and Taiwanese dance troupes and musical performances by groups from local clans and schools.

And for good luck, visitors will be showered regularly with flakes containing auspicious numbers daily.


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