Zigong’s Lantern Festival Hops on AI and AR Trends

The 30th Zigong International Dinosaur Lantern Festival showcases new technology and fuses AI with age-old tales

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5:26 PM HKT, Mon March 4, 2024 1 mins read

Last week, more than 450,000 tourists visited this year’s Zigong International Dinosaur Lantern Festival in the southeastern corner of Sichuan province. Though the festival has ancient roots, it has kept up with the times, and this year the undoubted highlight for AI enthusiasts was a lantern in the form of a nian, a mythical Chinese monster.


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The nian lantern. Image via Weibo.


Tourists can converse with the nian through a mini-program on their phones. Ask it a question and the 12-meter-tall creature will respond with nods, roars, or even breathing “smoke” made of water vapor. The nian also has a sense of humor. When one tourist asked the creature to bainian (拜年, meaning to say a New Year greeting), it did not obey. Playing with the double meaning of the Chinese word bai, the nian replied, “I’m not going to bainian. I’ll baideng [拜灯, pray for the lanterns] instead. May the lanterns be brighter!”


Old traditions also took on new forms. Instead of the usual fireworks, this year’s lantern festival opened with a light show composed of 2024 drones. On February 2nd, the mythical dragon and majestic phoenix soared through the night. Cartoon characters also greeted visitors from the sky. The drones shimmered, made fizzing sounds and swooshed to mimic the sights and sounds of fireworks. Over Chinese New Year, the drones even collectively created screen-like visuals to advertise the spectacle. These advancements all work towards the festival’s environmental goals.


In other displays, Chinese tradition was recast through contemporary technology: for the first time Terracotta Warriors donned Vision Pro headsets, and the Flying Horse of Gansu wore mechanized armor made of recycled tires. A 40-meter memorial wall also features the entire history of China written in ancient Chinese writing systems like the oracle bones script.


The Flying Horse of Gansu in mechanized armor. Image via Wangyi.

The Flying Horse of Gansu in mechanized armor. Image via Wangyi.


Like previous editions, the festival has been met with praise from visitors. In fact, Zigong’s lantern festival is now a global brand, the Zigong Lantern Group having just presented the Luminosa Festival in Miami. The Zigong International Dinosaur Lantern Festival continues until the end of March back in Sichuan.


Banner image via 163.

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