An Impressive Display of Culture, Colour and Lights…
29 January – 7 February 2014, 4pm – 9pm
Quadrangle, Old College, South Bridge, EH8 9YL
Entry is free
A few weeks ago I watched a documentary about the Terracotta Warriors unearthed in the Xi’an province of China in 1974. Could you imagine being a farmer, just working in your field and you discover a hidden world of 8000 warriors, arranged in battle formation, below your feet? I’d be a little freaked out that’s for sure!! I’ve been lucky enough to visit Pompeii in Italy; it was a surreal place. Homes and people frozen for eternity; a glimpse into another time and place. I’m sure that’s how it would feel to visit the Terracotta Warriors in their ‘home’. I don’t know if I’ll ever get that opportunity so I was so excited to hear that a lantern version of the ‘warriors’ (well, instead of soldiers the larger than life lanterns represent men, women and children) was coming to Edinburgh as part of the Chinese New Year celebrations.
The wonder of the exhibit is enhanced by its setting within the courtyard of the Old College of the University of Edinburgh. Stepping through the glowing blue archway opens up a secret world, revealing 80 figurines hidden from the noise and light of the busy Royal Mile by the 4 walls of the quadrangle. The dark grey imposing stone walls were softened by the colourful glow of the lanterns however the sombre faces and the eerie shadows cast across the facade of the buildings helped maintain an element of mystery. We entered and were immediately greeted by the glowing figure of a white horse – quite appropriate as it is now the year of the horse. The horse was surrounded by a small lantern family and finally row after row of multi-coloured ‘warriors’, swaying in the wind in a strangely lifelike manner.
These lanterns were originally created by Chinese artist Xia Nan as part of the celebrations of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, and have been touring the world ever since. These touring exhibitions are a great way to learn about other cultures without leaving home – so a big thanks to the Chaoyang Cultural Centre, Beijing for sharing and to the University of Edinburgh for organising. Edinburgh is lucky to have free events like this, accessible to people of all ages; the kids especially seemed to love it – mesmerised by the colours, the lights and the scale of the lanterns and not at all put off by the rain as they ran and played amongst the glowing figures…
I thought we would just be allowed to walk around the edge of the courtyard but it was a great surprise to be able to walk amongst the lanterns for close-ups and a bit of fun.
But if the crowds are a bit much, you can also retreat up to the steps of the university for a more private viewing (the people seem to disappear into the darkness) and to appreciate the scale of the exhibition.
Prior to our visit I had already seen many pictures of these lanterns circulating around the internet, and there were so many people making the effort to come see the exhibit here in Edinburgh, which made us wonder – just how many people around the world have walked in the glow of these same lanterns?
If you would also like to be one of the lucky ones to walk amongst these lanterns, this free outdoor display of Xia Nan’s installation of 80 illuminated, colourful larger than life lanterns is open to the public until the 7th of February. I highly recommend checking it out – and don’t forget the camera!!