PLANNING for the annual Chinese New Year lantern festival is a challenging task for Fo Guang Shan (FGS) Dong Zen Temple in Jenjarom, Kuala Langat.
Since the festival was launched in 2004 by Dong Zen’s former abott Ven Hui Xian, it has become a signature event that attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year.
The colourful event has improved over the years under the helm of chief abbess Ven Jue Cheng, who took over in 2007.
“In my first year, we spent RM500,000 for the lantern festival, from purchasing the lanterns to paying the electricity bills, which was a huge burden for us.
“So I thought, why don’t we try making the lanterns ourselves?” she said.
They stripped the fabric off the old lanterns and studied the wiring and structure, and then found electricians and welders to work with them.
The team began from scratch by trying out two-dimensional lanterns and later graduated to three-dimensional ones.
An electrician rose to the challenge when Ven Jue Cheng requested for the lanterns to have movable parts for extra aesthetics.
“When I asked how much he spent, he told me he forked out RM20 to buy a pair of car windscreen wipers to make the hands for the lantern.
“That’s how we learned and improvised over the years,” she said.
For this year’s lantern show at Dong Zen, canines are taking centre stage as this is the Year of the Dog.
They are accompanied by many other lanterns in various designs that are guaranteed to charm visitors with their vibrant colours and delicate workmanship.
For the first time, there will be a musical fountain with the Four Great Bodhisattvas (compassion, wisdom, great vows and action) and elegant swans to inspire visitors to soar high to chase their dreams.
The event also pays homage to the Sichuan art of face changing with Chinese opera mask lanterns.
A lantern in the shape of a face-changing performer has been installed above the temple’s Historical Gallery.
“Our team has to calculate the most suitable height for this lantern from an engineering perspective and allow holes in the lantern for wind to pass through since it is so high up,” Ven Jue Cheng said.
Christine Teng, who is in the lantern-making team, said Ven Jue Cheng sets the overall art direction and leaves it to the team to employ their creativity to produce the items.
Made of velvet fabric bought from China, the lanterns are made to last.
“When I first started, I thought lighter colours would be more suitable for the solemn temple grounds, but of course, it turned out that intense colours work better for the lanterns.
“The colours really stand out when the lanterns are lit up at night,” Teng, 56, said.
As Dong Zen gets very crowded at night, the writer usually plans her trip to arrive in Jenjarom before nightfall, taking the opportunity to stroll in the gardens to admire the beautiful orchids while waiting for the lights to come on.
The lit-up lanterns glowing in the soft sunset are demure, a different kind of charm from when they shine brightly against the dark night sky.
The efforts put in by Dong Zen in organising the lantern festival and all the events surrounding it – art exhibition, cultural show, costume parade and photography contest, among others –make it all worthwhile to travel to Jenjarom, which is about 45 minutes from Petaling Jaya.
The FGS Dong Zen Temple CNY Lantern and Floral Festival is being organised from Feb 14 to March 4. Opening hours are from 10am to 10pm. Admission is free.
“We hope visitors will bask in happiness and peace here,” Ven Jue Cheng said.
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