Norfolk Botanical Garden – Lantern Asia

entranceAs promised in my last blog, I’m sharing photos of the Lantern Asia exhibit that was at the Norfolk Botanical Garden this spring. When we decided to visit the Garden back in April, we had not realized that the event was continuing through the end of April and that we would be able to see it. It was a pleasant surprise but changed our plans somewhat. Our original plans were to spend some time in the azalea and rhododendron gardens in the morning, go into Norfolk for lunch, come back for an afternoon checking out the rose garden and maybe strolling around by the butterfly house. Just spend a lovely day in some beautiful gardens.

But the Lantern Asia display would be best viewed at night…so we opted to visit later in the afternoon arriving about 5PM and staying until after dark leaving about 9PM. It worked out for the most part except that we were roaming around the gardens during daylight and ended up walking through the Asia Lantern display a bit backwards coming up to the main entrance last rather than first. It worked out though. We took a short snack break in the parking lot and then walked it all over again – front to back this time.  As a result, I have photos of some displays in sunlight and in darkness…..and I have a bunch so this blog will be mostly about the photos…but I promise that I won’t share all 200 or so photos that I took.

But, first, a little background – well, as much as I got at the time. I thought I’d be clever and just post a link from the Norfolk website once I got around to doing the blog that would explain everything. But, teaching me to be lazy about getting the blog done, the Botanical Garden took down the webpage and moved on to the next event in the gardens….so I have only a scant bit of information to give you and no link to point you to more information. I’ll just share what I know as I go.

So, LanternAsia finds its origins in Lantern Festivals that have been held in China (or were held) in the past 2000 years. The exhibit at Norfolk was a bit of a traveling roadshow of the Lantern Festival that has been to several major cities in the world thus far and will travel to several more before it’s all packed and moved back to China. At Norfolk, it took more than 20 people working for more than a month to put it all together and included about 30 illuminated displays stretching out over about a mile inside the garden. Most of the displays were made with steel and silk and illuminated from within. It really didn’t matter whether you saw the displays in bright sunshine or dark night, they were all quite beautiful.

The photo above is the entrance gate….guarded by two fierce lions…one of which is below.entrance lion

Several of the walkways along the display “trail” were lighted overhead which made for a bit of magic along the way as you strolled through the exhibit.



This is the side gate providing access from the overflow parking lot…daytime and nighttime. It looks like an ornate wedding ring.

Side Gate day and night


This display put me in mind of the movie, Finding Nemo, and the scene with the krill escaping from the whale while calling out, “Run away, run away”.


alley of flowers

This beautiful set of arches was in the rose garden.

rose arbor

And, you gotta have a peacock or two, right?


mount fuji


This is a replica of the Taj Mahal. It was very popular…almost impossible to get a photo without a crowd of people standing in the way.


A Merlion standing (swimming?) in a bright blue ocean.

Korean Drum Dance

An homage to the Korean Drum Dance. I think I liked this one better in daylight hours.


There was a whole section that seemed to be dedicated to children with pandas and bumblebees and all sorts of forest creatures. They were way back in the back way past the butterfly garden. We saw them in the daytime while we toured the garden and opted not to go back to see them in the dark. I’m sure the illuminated displays would have been lovely….but, by this time, my feet were horses 1

As I mentioned, most of the displays were made of silk but these creatures – not quite dragons but, then again, too beastly for horses – were made of small glass bottles filled with liquids of different colors placed together in a beautiful mosaic. They were impressive in daylight but really came to life in the darkness.
glass horses 2

The field of flamingos was one display that I thought looked better in the daylight. The details in the color and feathers were lost once the lights went on inside.


Tribute to Asian fans….with more peacocks.


This is the entrance road which was lit with displays pretty much all the way from the garden entrance to the visitor center. The butterflies lining the road were lovely but became pure magic at night.

entry butterflies

The elephants (and lions and tigers) were quite popular with the kids.


This palace was beautiful and made entirely of porcelain china…..I overheard someone say that more than 1 million pieces of dinnerware were used. Remarkable.

china castle

But what Asian display would be complete without dragons? And a mighty dragon he was…..fierce and beautiful.

dragondragon head

The details throughout the exhibit were exquisite. I don’t think I have ever seen anything like it. When I first heard about the exhibit, I have to admit that I thought it would be a bit crass and tacky. But I stand corrected, this display was amazing and beautiful. Per my understanding, the exhibit has moved on to another city in a foreign land. I’m glad we got an opportunity to see and enjoy it while it was in the US.

long dragon


2 thoughts on “Norfolk Botanical Garden – Lantern Asia

  1. David Ingold May 25, 2016 / 11:52 pm

    Nifty! Regret that we did not get to see this. I vow that I WILL get to the Gardens, however, one day. Thank YOU for sharing your photos and adding the commentary.

    Liked by 1 person

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