Lanterns lit up Mid-Autumn festive in Malaysia's capital to disperse pandemic blues

2020-10-01 Xinhua Editor:Feng Shuang

In a hidden alleyway in downtown Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's capital, colorful lanterns and calm music create a "moon like" atmosphere ahead of the traditional Mid-Autumn festival. 

The center piece of the display during the important festival when Chinese celebrate family reunion are eight lanterns featuring jade rabbit which exist on the moon in Chinese mythology. 

Zeen Chang, one of a group of enthusiasts rejuvenating the alley, said the Mid-Autumn festive decoration and exhibit were uniquely Malaysian with Chinese characteristics, with the artists expressing their art in recognition of Chinese culture. 

Drawing attention to one of the eight rabbit lanterns, Chang said artist Farah Mohan had researched the Chinese mythology, incorporating elements of the story into her work. 

On the ears of the rabbit lantern, the artist depicted the story of Chinese moon goddess Chang'e, who flied to the moon and live there with the companion of the jade rabbit. 

"We inter-learn about each other's culture. So when I told her about this project, she was excited but nervous at the same time, because she doesn't know any about the Mid-Autumn festival. Then she studied about Mid-Autumn Festival and she came up with the idea of showing the story of how the rabbit got its title as the jade rabbit," Chang told Xinhua. 

Siow Ho Phiew, maker of another rabbit lantern, said he drew inspiration from Malaysia's traditional Batik technique, where wax is applied to the portions of the cloth that will be left undyed in making his work. 

"I did it with the intention to mix Malaysian and Chinese culture together," he said. 

The alley, known as Kwai Chai Hong (Little Ghost Road in the Cantonese), has been open to the public as an accessible and faithful recreation of the look it had decades ago when it was a point of congregation for the local Chinese community. 

Chang has been working with partners to transform the once neglected alley into a vibrant tourist trap. She said maintaining the historical Chinese footprint and heritage of the area is important. 

Besides the rabbit lanterns, there are more permanent exhibits include six murals depicting the daily activities of local residents in the area during the 1960s, one of which is a Chinese calligrapher, who usually wrote down dictated letters by those living in the area to be sent back to China. 

As many of traditional events to celebrate the Mid-Autumn festival in Kuala Lumpur were cancelled or moved online due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the alley and exhibits drew many visitors. 

A visitor who identified herself as Jinnie said she came to see the exhibition to get a feel of the festival. 

"Because this year we can not do the gathering, so I decided to drop by and see for this exhibition," she said. 

Chang said precautious measures have been taken to ensure the safety of the visitors. 

"Whatever we plan, we are very conscious about keeping people safe. We know that there is a lot of (cases), especially now there is a spike," she said. "On a weekend, we are much more particular, we go through the number of pax that can come in. So once we reach about 60 people we will stop. The gate will be closed." 

Siow, the maker of a rabbit lantern, said the COVID-19 pandemic would not stop people from celebrating the festival of reunion. 

"The pandemic has affected the whole world, but as artist we should not just give up when large events are cancelled," he said. "We could just change how we do it like here in the Kwai Chai Hong."

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