One of the UK's earliest examples of English landscape gardens has been taken over by bright and bold Chinese lanterns as part of London's Lunar New Year celebrations. Chiswick House Gardens is hosting the UK debut of the Magical Lantern Festival, featuring more than 50 giant lantern installations, a 66-metre-long dragon and thousands of lights.

For its opening night on Wednesday (3 February), visitors were awed by the visual artistry in the normally staid neoclassical gardens, which were sculpted in 1729. One of the organisers who brought the festival from China to the UK, Lord Oxmantown Patrick Parsons, said there has historically been a cultural link between China and the stately homes in England.

"In the great houses in England and in Europe you will find masses of Chinoiserie, you will find masses of Chinese artefacts or wonderful furniture, so to have wonderful Chinese lanterns in English landscapes, I think is a perfect harmonisation and continuity of what you already see in the great houses from the 18th century, the 19th century. It's part of the international global culture," said Parsons.

A terracotta army of lanterns dominated one area of the stately lawns, the story of the Monkey King was depicted in a wooded area, and bright-white panda lanterns delighted visitors near the lake. In a nod to Chiswick House being a former home to wild and exotic animals, there were giraffes, kangaroos and antelope lanterns alongside more familiar British creatures such as squirrels and swans.

To celebrate Year of the Monkey, the Magical Lantern Festival is to run until 6 March. London's official Chinese New Year celebrations take place on Sunday 14 February in Trafalgar Square, and are expected to draw tens of thousands of people.