Bellagio’s Conservatory & Botanical Garden – Chinese New Year (2016)

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(Fig. 01)
Background: A few weeks ago, I made another of my annual pilgrimages with my friend Jim Herring to Bellagio’s Conservatory and Botanical Garden, titled “Chinese New Year, Year of the Monkey”. The Conservatory at the Bellagio Casino starts the 2016 season with the Chinese New Year exhibit featuring traditional designs of the celebration, even though the actual Chinese New Year doesn't begin until Feb. 8, 2016. Chinese New Year goes by a number of names, including New Year Festival, Lunar New Year and Spring Festival.

The Chinese calendar runs in a 12-yearly cycle, with each year in that cycle represented by a different animal. Monkey is the 9th animal in 12 zodiac signs. The general image of people in this zodiac sign is always being smart, clever and intelligent, especially in their career and wealth. They are lively, flexible, quick-witted and versatile. In addition, their gentleness and honesty bring them an everlasting love life. Although they were born with enviable skills, they still have several shortcomings, such as an impetuous temper and a tendency to look down upon others. They are enthusiastic, self-assured, sociable, and innovative. Their weaknesses are being jealous, suspicious, cunning, selfish, and arrogant.

(Fig. 02)
Visit Notes: At the Conservatory’s entrance, the central garden (Fig. 02) has six colorful Chinese children topiaries playing on each side of the moon gate bridge above a tranquil pond filled with Koi fish (Fig. 04). Above the children, there are more than a dozen custom Chinese lanterns hanging from a tree (Fig. 03).

(Fig. 03)

In the south garden on the left, there is a colorful garden with dancing waters and three Chinese pagodas (Fig. 05). I'm especially fond of the streams of water that leap from one part of the display to another.

The children in the center garden are each made up of 5,000 flower stems including red, purple and yellow carnations and green and yellow spider mums. The children’s colorful outfits were hand-made using flowers such as carnations and an assortment of chrysanthemums. It’s adorable that children appear in the Bellagio display, because the Chinese New Year actually began with a mystical creature called Nian that would devour villagers, especially children. The legend says Nian was afraid of the color red, which explains why celebrants hang red lanterns, use red firecrackers and wear red clothing during Chinese New Year festivities. Red represents virtue, truth and sincerity. (Con't below)

(Fig. 04)
(Fig. 05)
Notes Continued: In the West garden at the back, the display’s vibrant centerpiece (Fig. 01) features a garden representative of monkeys and their natural habitat. A family of 12 Rhesus Macaque monkeys are climbing in a 16' tall bonsai tree atop a 14-foot mountain, all working together using their intelligence and creativity to reach the 52 oversize peaches descending from the sky as the water cascades down a picturesque waterfall. Peaches, it turns out, are a symbol of wealth, abundance and a long, healthy life (Fig. 06). One of the best-known species of Old World monkeys, Rhesus monkeys are familiar brown primates with red faces and rears. They have close-cropped hair on their heads, which accentuates their very expressive faces. They can also be found in the small pond at the base of the mountain filled with still more Koi. (Fig. 07). People born during the Year of the Monkey (a symbol of intelligence, wittiness, and magnetic personality) are wise, intelligent, confident, charismatic, loyal, inventive, cheerful, clever and energetic.

The North Garden features a stunning 18-foot tall Chinese money tree made of 384 sparkling gold coins, weighing a total of 3,000 pounds. The base of the tree is surrounded by four-foot-tall Ingot fountains and I-Ching coins. Round coins with a square hole were first introduced in China around 350 B.C. Surging water from the fountains descends on the money tree to keep it strong and vibrant.

(Fig. 06)
(Fig. 07)
(Fig. 08)
Notes ContinuedIn the three ponds there are more than 50 varieties of beautifully colorful Koi (Fig. 09). The pictures in (Figs. 10 & 11) there are pictures of the customized Chinese lanterns hanging above the center garden. The close-up of one of the topiary Chinese girls in (Fig. 12) shows the exquisite detail of these Chinese figures. Except for the "monkeys" in the tree, many of the features found in the garden have been in previous New Year exhibits. Even so, it is still worth visiting.  This exhibit will be on display from Jan. 9 to March 12. Be sure to visit early in the day to encounter the fewest people possible and get the best pictures.

(Fig. 09)
(Fig. 10)
(Fig. 11)
(Fig. 12)