Short story competition: The case of the missing polar bear lantern


2016 was the year of the monkey in the Chinese zodiac – but it wasn’t a monkey lantern that went missing from the Auckland Lantern Festival.
A scene of ice-related lanterns including two polar bears

The missing baby polar bear

Instead, a baby polar bear lantern mysteriously disappeared from the “China on Ice” display in the Auckland Domain, leaving their mother polar bear lantern behind.

As soon as the baby polar bear’s disappearance was noticed, the Asia New Zealand Foundation issued a public appeal for its return, no questions asked. The lantern was later found outside the Orewa Police Station, north of Auckland city, in the middle of the night. You can read more here.

But where did the baby polar bear go before it was found? Did it visit Kelly Tarlton’s Aquarium or the Auckland Zoo? Did it explore some local Chinese restaurants? Or perhaps it even made a quick dash out of Auckland…

The Asia New Zealand Foundation Te Whītau Tūhono is running a short story competition for New Zealand school students, to coincide with the Lunar New Year and the Auckland Lantern Festival; the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games; and the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympic Games.

Students from around Aotearoa are invited to submit stories that imagine what sort of adventure the baby polar bear might have been on.

As well as describing what the polar bear has been up to, please include at least one of the following in your story:

  • Noodles and/or dumplings
  • Whānau
  • A winter Olympics or winter Paralympics sport
  • The moon
  • An animal from the Chinese zodiac

 The rules:

The entry must be your own.

  • You can make your story as short as you like, but it must not be longer than 800 words.
  • When you submit your entry, please include your name, age, a parent or teacher’s name and contact details (including a phone number) and your school name or if you are home-schooled.
  • All entries must be emailed to [email protected]. You can also post them to Short Story Competition, Asia New Zealand Foundation, PO Box 10 144, Wellington.
  • Entries open on 1 February 2022 and close on 28 February 2022.
  • Read the full terms and conditions

Categories and prizes:

The Foundation will award prizes in each of the following categories:

  • Year levels 5-6
  • Year levels 7-8
  • Year levels 9-13

Prizes in each category are:

  • First prize: Asia goodie bag plus a $100 book store voucher, and publication of your story on the Asia New Zealand Foundation website
  • Second prize: Asia goodie bag plus a $50 book store voucher
  • Third prize: Asia goodie bag

Some facts about the Lantern Festival:

  • The Lantern Festival has been part of Chinese New Year celebrations since the Han Dynasty (206 BC to 221 AD). It’s usually held on the 15th day of the first month of the lunar calendar and marks the end of New Year festivities.
  • The Asia New Zealand Foundation established the Auckland Lantern Festival in partnership with Auckland City Council in 2000, and the Foundation continues to be involved as a founding partner. Auckland Lantern Festival 2022 is scheduled to take place at Auckland Showgrounds from Thursday 10 February to Sunday 13 February.
  • Many of the lanterns shown in the festival — including the baby polar bear — were made in a city called Zigong, in Sichuan province in the southwest of China.
  • There are 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. 2022 is the Year of the Tiger. People born in the lunar years for 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998 and 2010 were born in the Year of the Tiger.
  • The polar bear is not one of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac. The “China on Ice” lantern display shown at the Auckland Lantern Festival was created to symbolise China’s work in Antarctica and the Arctic. China acceded to the Antarctic Treaty in 1983 and achieved voting status two years later. It operates two year-round stations and two summer research stations in Antarctica. Since 2004 China has also had a research station in the Arctic.