Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Lotus Lantern Festival '15 - Seoul

Over this last weekend the annual Seoul Lotus Lantern Festival was held in honour of Buddha's birth. It's typically held the weekend before his birthday which is May 25th so this year it was celebrated between May 15th - 17th.

Seoul Lotus Lantern Festival continues the tradition of making and hanging lanterns as symbolic offerings of light, wisdom and compassion in the Buddhist traditions. About one-quarter of Koreans are Buddhists, and the Jogye Order is Korea’s largest Buddhist sect. As the festival hosts, they  start the annual celebration at Seoul Bongeunsa temple near the COEX Conference and Exhibition Center, with an exhibition of traditional lanterns made from Korea’s traditional paper Hanji.

Since it's inception in 2009 there have been some amazing displays of lanterns made by both Korean and International artists along the famous Cheonggyecheon Stream in downtown Seoul, Jogyesa Temple, Bongeunsa Temple, and the Dongguk University areas. During the festival hundreds of lanterns each with a unique design and story were lit along the waterway, at the temples and along the streets.

As I've been around the streets and alleyways of Seoul over the last few weeks I've seen the lavish preparations being put in place by the various temples, the Seoul Metropolitan Government and other organisers for this massive event. Lanterns  lined the city streets and were lit up at night giving this city of around 25.6 million people, a fun and festive atmosphere in anticipation of the up coming lantern festival.

The centre of the activities over the weekend were at the Seoul Jogyesa temple, the main temple of Korea’s largest Buddhist sect. During the Seoul Lotus Lantern Festival, the tightly packed compound felt intimate due to the thousands of colorful lanterns which were strung from roof eaves and trees and it felt like they'd created a false ceiling. 

The focal point of the Seoul Lotus Lantern Festival was the Lotus Lantern Parade. It was  very popular with the city’s Korean residents and the parade was also a favorite event for the city’s expat community and tourists as well. At dusk the street revelers gathered for what is said to be Seoul’s largest annual street procession. 
'From Dongguk University Station to Dongdaemun and Jogyesa temple, Seoul’s night sky becomes lit not by office towers, but by thousands of lanterns made in the shapes of dragons, pagodas, phoenixes, and, of course, lotuses. At about 9:30 pm, everything culminates with the Daedong Celebration. Meaning “being together,” the final event of singing and dancing at the Jonggak intersection usually reaches its finale at about 11 pm, when revelers are showered by pink lotus petals.' - Discovering Korea website

The event was colourful, fun filled, and a great cultural  experience. It lasted for 3 days in the middle of this  huge, bustling city and all of the lanterns were made from Hanji paper !!!! 
During the day the lanterns looked amazing but at night they came to life.


Here's a short video taken a few years ago by Evan & Rachel. Unfortunately I ran out of memory on my camera and couldn't take video but I hope the few photos I've been able to post give you an idea of this amazing event.


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