Gardens of Light and
the mythical He Luo Yu
Let yourself be swept away by a fable in the purest Chinese tradition
Photos by James St Laurent
October 19, 2019
For the 27th consecutive year, the Chinese Garden is illuminated by the magic of traditional handmade Chinese silk lanterns that shine with a thousand lights as part of the annual Gardens of Light event at the Montreal Botanical Garden, until October 31, 2019.
Discover the cultural richness of the three gardens along an illuminated path. Every aspect of the circuit, from the design of the lanterns to the arrangement of the illuminated objects and the atmosphere created, is deeply rooted in a rich culture and in perfect symbiosis with nature. Gardens of Light is an authentic gateway to three fascinating and inspiring cultures.
The magical tale of He Luo Yu
In Chinese culture, water is the breath and living pulse of the Earth and represents intelligence, wisdom, softness and flexibility. Water also figures in countless tales and legends, in the form of fantastic figures and beasts like the powerful water dragon He Luo Yu, a mythical creature with one head and ten bodies, who escapes fishermen bent on its capture by turning into a bird.
Every single aspect of the circuit, from the design of the lanterns to the arrangement of the illuminated objects and the atmosphere created, is deeply rooted in a rich culture and in perfect symbiosis with nature.
The 900 lanterns peppered across the gardens are conceived and designed in Montreal and are then sent to China to be crafted by local artisans. Visitors can also enjoy the First Nations and Japanese gardens.
China: Ties to the Land exhibition
Be sure to stop off in the Chinese Garden pavilions to enjoy what is a first permanent exhibition, China: Ties to the Land. This beautiful, very human exhibition introduces you to three rural Chinese families and lets you see how they live at the pace of the land, which feeds them, connects them and makes huge demands on their ingenuity and resilience.
‘In Chinese culture, water is the breath and living pulse of the Earth and represents intelligence, wisdom, softness and flexibility.’
But these farmers are very attached to their land. It’s a part of their identity. By revealing their stories through previously unpublished photos and accounts, this exhibition is a journey of sorts that may spur you to reconsider your own relationship with the land.
The First Nations cycle of life
In the First Nations Garden, you can enjoy a moment of pure symbiosis with nature. Take some time to admire the Sacred Tree, the giant poplar lit up with different colours representing the Circle of Life, a symbol of the initiatory journey through the cycle of seasons and nature’s transformations.
Campfire tales and short films with Vélo Paradiso
After contemplating the Sacred Tree, you can linger awhile to return to the source and enjoy the comforting warmth of a fire, the great unifier of earth and sky. Saturday evenings, Indigenous storytellers share stories that are part of their wonderfully rich oral traditions.
‘In the First Nations Garden, you can enjoy a moment of pure symbiosis with nature. ‘
And discover avant-garde Indigenous filmmaking with Vélo Paradiso and Wapikoni Mobile. See 16 short films by Indigenous filmmakers from across Canada, on this year’s special theme, “Language, Ties and the Land.”
In the Japanese Garden
The pathway through the Japanese Garden winds to a beautiful conclusion inside the pavilion, where you can enjoy the experience of a kotatsu (heating table) or discover other intriguing aspects of life in Japan. There are also musicians playing Friday and Saturday evenings.
‘… mellow lighting reveals the colours and textures of plants, emphasizing the elegance of the pavilions and harmony of the site.’
In Japan, the cycle of the seasons is considered to be very important and people like to take time to admire the subtle or spectacular changes that occur in nature. In the Japanese Garden, as the autumn slowly settles in, mellow lighting reveals the colours and textures of plants, emphasizing the elegance of the pavilions and harmony of the site.
Buy your ticket ahead
Every year the Gardens of Light amazes a growing number of visitors with its three decorated gardens – so much so that starting this year, tickets are now sold for scheduled time slots. Admission to the illuminated path is controlled to ensure ticket times are respected, and there is no admission without reservation.
You can get your tickets at either the online box office or onsite, but you’ll have to choose a specific date and time. Come visit day, you’ll be expected at the Rose Garden Lion statue, which marks the start of the Gardens of Light pathway, at the time indicated on your ticket. Your ticket stays valid all day at the Jardin and at the Insectarium, so feel free to wander at your leisure.
The Gardens of Light exhibit is open to the public until October 31.
Montreal’s Space for Life
Gardens of Light 2019 puts the spotlight on Espace pour la Vie’s Cultural Gardens. “At Montreal’s Space for Life and the Botanical Gardens, we care about nature. Everything we do is about reconnecting with nature, so each garden here focuses on the relationship of this culture towards nature,” said Anne Charpentier, director of the Montreal Botanical Garden.
Space for Life explores nature and biodiversity through the lens of evolution. How have phenomena taking place over thousands of years resulted in the fascinating history of life on our planet? A complex, exciting story to investigate and discover!
Espace pour la vie is made up of four attractions on the same site: the Biodôme, Insectarium, Jardin botanique and Planétarium Rio Tinto Alcan. These four prestigious municipal institutions form Canada’s largest natural science museum complex. Together, they are launching a daring, creative urban movement, encouraging all of us to rethink the connection between humankind and nature and cultivate a new way of living.
James St Laurent‘s work is all about the idea of communicating through images that convey an emotive context and engage the viewer by presenting a visual paradox. Different subjects and genres require different approaches, but the result is still a compelling image that captures your attention. jamesstlaurent.com