LunarFest 2019: The Galleria of Imperial Inspirations

Photo by Huan-Chi Hsu.

To mark the Chinese New Year, LunarFest will be holding several special events in various locations across Vancouver. The celebrations will include an exhibition showcasing Giuseppe Castiglione’s impact on Chinese art.

“LunarFest is a legacy event from the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. That was the first year we collaborated with the Cultural Olympiad to showcase the Asian cultures in Vancouver and we have continued with the Lunar New Year celebrations year after year,” explains Charlie Wu, Managing Director and co-curator of LunarFest 2019.

Amongst an array of installations, activities, theatre and musical performances sits The Galleria of Imperial Inspirations exhibition featuring reproductions of Giuseppe Castiglione’s paintings. These works will feature alongside contemporary responses to his paintings that have been created by eight local and international fashion designers.

“Giuseppe Castiglione was an Italian missionary who went to China. He actually served three emperors during the Qing dynasty [1644 to 1912], the last dynasty before the current government,” says Wu. “Many people do not know that some of the famous paintings that they see by Castiglione were done by an Italian, not a Chinese painter.”

Wu hopes that the fusion of Italian and Chinese artistic techniques demonstrated in Castiglione’s work will resonate with multicultural audiences in Metro Vancouver by appealing to those who have also moved to live and work in new surroundings.

“[Because I am] a first generation Canadian from Taiwan, Giuseppe Castiglione gives me a bit of inspiration that you can do what you do best and do it in a different culture and still have your impact,” says Wu.

Collaboration and education

The curators have worked closely with National Palace Museum in Taiwan who own the original paintings that have formed the basis of the exhibition. The museum provided a research team to support with the interpretation of the historical nuances and complexities of the work.

“We will elaborate on some of the things that people might not be aware of when they see the paintings,” explains Wu. “There are hidden meanings in these paintings that people might not be aware of and we want to be able to tell people these stories.”

The show will also include an immersive virtual reality presentation in collaboration with Telus that is designed to take the viewer into a Castiglione painting to learn about life inside the Imperial Palace.

“This exhibition really gives people a different way of celebrating the new year by bringing in history and heritage to enlighten you on how an Italian painter has had such a profound impact on Chinese painting,” says Wu.

Inclusive celebrations

Male couture by Taiwanese designer Ai-Ting Ko inspired by One Hundred Horses by Giuseppe Castiglione.| Photo by Huan-Chi Hsu.

Wu notes that in the five years of holding events at Oakridge, there have been a wide variety of visitors from a wide range of cultural backgrounds.

“This year, we have taken on the vision of inclusion, imagination, celebration and passion,” says Wu. “One of the most important things is inclusion, so we want to make sure people who don’t necessarily celebrate [Lunar] New Year traditions in their cultures also find a way to celebrate with us.”

One method of connecting with new audiences will be to showcase the creation of both emerging and established local and international fashion designers as part of the exhibition.

“The exhibition is called The Galleria of Imperial Inspirations because we are talking about Castiglione’s influence and what he has inspired. Like the fashion designers of today,” says Wu. “Chosen works were provided to the designers and they responded to their favourite pieces and went on to create fashion items from it.”

Wu hopes that the fusion of history and heritage with contemporary design and technology will leave visitors fulfilled and able to start the new lunar year with a new perspective.

“The reason the year of the pig is so important is because of piggy banks,” says Wu. “We have created the theme of ‘saving the moment’ as when people pay into their piggy banks. They always have a dream or something they want to accomplish. This is what life is like: creating something you want to save and cherish, just like Emperor Qianlong’s memory of his late empress. He got Castiglione to do a painting to remember his wife and remember the moment and for that moment to continue on.”


For more information about the exhibition, please visit