By DW Grant
The Bellagio is celebrating the New Year as the Year of the Horse in its Conservatory & Botanical Gardens, turning its garden it’s a festive sanctuary, boasting cultural meaning, while honoring the stallion that symbolized happiness and luck.
The Bellagio is known for adapting his garden to cultural events, and this time it has turned the usually colorful atrium into a tranquil temple, guided by the ancient practice of Feng Shui. They’ve done this well, producing a space of harmony, balance, and positive life energy, right smack in the middle of Vegas glitz and glam.
The moment a visitor walks in they are greeted by the sights, smells, and sounds of Chinese culture, and tranquility. Each garden within the Chinese New Year display incorporates water, ensuring a positive flow of energy; and the three friends of winter – pine, bamboo and plum, symbolizing perseverance, integrity and modesty, respectively. Clusters of red silk lanterns and red firecrackers, believed to ward off evil as they represent happiness and prosperity, hang dramatically from the Conservatory’s ceiling.
The first and most obvious image to greet a visitor is a bold centerpiece featuring seven life-size horses on a lush three-tier mountain while a majestic gold stallion rears at the mountaintop; the total number of eight represents good fortune. Cascading waterfalls drift down the mountain into a tranquil pond filled with more than 150 Koi fish while two giant red lanterns illuminate the sky overhead.At the Conservatory’s entrance, a curious looking 18-foot-tall custom-made Chinese money tree symbolizes good fortune and nobility. The lucky tree flourishes with 384 oversized gold-leafed coins on its branches as mounds of I-Ching coins, a traditional Chinese symbol for money, surround its base. At the garden’s corners, four ding pots, ancestral vessels that protect against bad fortune, burn incense from their peaks for good luck.
You have to love not only the sights and the sounds but the smell of intoxicating incense mixing with the fresh scent of live flowers and plants. A zig-zag bridge extends from both sides of the Chinese-style pavilion in the North Garden, providing a difficult route for negative energy and bad spirits. “Lucky” children, each embellished with 1,800 multicolored live flowers including carnations, spider mums and Fuji mums, bring life to the display as they play near the peaceful pavilion. In the South Garden, three floral children frolic throughout the luminous Bromeliads.While the visitor is walking and enjoying the sights, ears are being lulled into a peaceful mood by the Las Vegas-based Beijing Trio who perform traditional folk and pop music with authentic Chinese instruments. The musicians arrive to the stage through an ancient moon gate, serving as an inviting entrance into the Lunar New Year celebrations. Somehow the trio touches a soul with its traditional instrumental ballads. Legend has it that Buddha asked all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve came. The seventh animal in the Asian zodiac is the headstrong horse. Those born in the Year of the Horse tend to be energetic, good with money and very fond of travel.On view through March 1, the Chinese New Year exhibit within Bellagio’s Conservatory & Botanical Gardens is complimentary to the public and open seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Musicians begin playing at 5pm.