Horses going to new homes

SINGAPORE - More than 70 of the 176 lanterns at Chinatown have been adopted by individuals and organisations

Now that the Chinese New Year celebrations are over, some of the horse-shaped lanterns which adorned South Bridge Road in Chinatown will be heading to new homes.

More than 70 of the 176 lanterns, which are made of steel and canvas, have been adopted by individuals and organisations.

They were used to usher in the Year of the Horse and were designed by students from the Singapore University of Technology and Design based on the theme "wan ma ben teng", a Chinese idiom which literally means "10,000 horses galloping ahead". The horses vary in size, ranging from 1.5 to 6m in length. The tallest, which is 3m long and 10m tall, is in the heart of Chinatown.

Kreta Ayer-Kim Seng Citizens' Consultative Committee, which organised the festivities in Chinatown, says it did not announce that the horses were up for grabs. But it has been receiving inquiries from interested parties about adopting them since the end of January.

The committee also began contacting private and public organisations to ask if they wanted the lanterns from the middle of last month. It decided to give the horses away for free.

"We hope to recycle the lantern sculptures, especially since so much effort was put into designing and putting them up," says Mr Vincent Tan Chor Khoon, 50, chairman of the Chinatown Chinese New Year Celebrations 2014 Organising Committee.

"To inspire a good response, we decided that partners, associations, companies and the public are free to adopt them as long as they are willing to arrange for their own transport," he adds.

There is no restriction on the number of lanterns each party can have. But the organiser will not be taking anymore requests to adopt the lanterns, as the remaining ones have not been maintained as well as the others.

Nam Sieng Dragon & Lion Dance Activity Centre will adopt 24 of them, the biggest number by a single party.

Mr Lim Chew Seng, 48, who handles public relations at the centre, says these will be used at its 24th anniversary celebrations on May 1.

"We thought the horses looked nice and this is the Year of the Horse. So we are going to use them to decorate the field in front of Paya Lebar MRT station, where we will be having our celebrations," he says.

The lanterns, which will not be modified, will be lit during the event.

Kampong Ubi Community Centre, which asked for 20 lanterns, will be using them in its visual arts event for this year's PAssionArts Month in June.

Ms Melissa Leong, constituency manager for community arts and culture at the centre, says the 1.5m-long horses will either be sandblasted or plastered, and residents will get to paint them in a painting competition after attending a workshop by an artist.

The horses may get a new lease of life after the event, as Ms Leong, 29, says the centre plans to ask schools in the constituency to adopt them. Some will also be kept in Kampong Ubi Community Centre or Kampong Kembangan Community Club.

Two of the horses will get to "roam free" at their new home at Rider's Lodge in Turf Club Road. Mr Kunalan, the hotel's administrative manager, had suggested adopting the lanterns as the emblem of the hotel features a horse's head.

"They are works of art by local students. I sincerely feel that if they are taken down and destroyed, it would be a waste," says the 66-year-old.

The horses are now displayed on the front lawn of the hotel.

Dr Lily Neo, MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC, was among the individuals who wanted to take the horses home. She had planned to turn a horse into a topiary and place it in her garden. But she had to give up the idea after she realised her garden was too small to fit even the smallest 1.5m-long lantern.

"When the horses were being constructed, I thought they were beautiful and that it would be a waste if they were to be used for only a month," says Dr Neo. She then had the idea of using them to grow plants.

At her suggestion, the Tanjong Pagar Town Council will be taking eight horses and turning them into works of topiary. These will be placed in the rooftop garden above the Chinatown Complex Food Centre at Block 335 Smith Street.

Then, there are those who hope a horse will make a good present.

Mr Daniel Ladd-Hudson, 41, a director of a recruitment firm, is adopting a horse for his daughters, Taylor, five, and Ruby, two. The girls had seen the lanterns when they visited his office in Temple Street and were smitten with them.

"We're from Sydney and we had a pony. We had to leave it behind when we moved here and I can't get my daughters a pony here," says Mr Ladd-Hudson. "So I thought if I could get one of the horses in Chinatown, I could take it to the girls and they would be very excited."

He plans to put the horse in his daughters' bedroom so they can play with it.

"I'll be getting a 1.5m-long one, which is still considered big. I haven't spoken to my wife about it. Hopefully I won't get into trouble with her," he says with a laugh.



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