South Korea in the Perspective of a Filipino Expatriate

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Korea Dedicates 2014 Lotus Lantern Festival to Buddha's Birthday and Sewol Ferry Tragedy Survivors

The Lotus Lantern Festival is one of the biggest Festivals here in South Korea. This is Korea's way of throwing a big party for Buddha's birthday. Korea celebrates the life and example of Buddha when he was still alive by displaying lanterns. If you think these beautiful and colorful lanterns are just for aesthetic purposes, you are wrong. It is called Lotus Lantern Festival because lotus lantern symbolizes Buddha's life and mission which somehow equate to wishes for good health, long life and an overflowing abundance.

One of the symbolic lanterns in the parade honoring the birthday of Buddha


For this year, the lotus lantern parade was held on the night of April 26, 2014. The program started at around 7 pm and the parade lasted for about 2.5 hours. It was more than two hours of enticing view of glowing lanterns all over Dongdaemun History and Culture Park down Jongno Street up to the Joygesa Temple. The sight of over thousands of people and monks walking the street carrying that cute glowing object is somehow an interesting sight. They are also chanting a song, probably some Buddhist hymns which I could not understand.

Monks chanting and carrying lotus lantern during the parade


I have seen a lot of types of lantern during the parade carried by Monks and followers of Buddha from all walks of life. I couldn't really identify some of them and what it symbolizes in connection to the life of Buddha but I can classify them. There are some symbolic lanterns like this one:

A big human lantern showcased during the parade

The human lanterns made of paper and silk are too enormous. They put the big lanterns on what seems to look like an altar and four people will together carry the altar during the parade.

A symbol of the followers of Buddha holding a lotus lantern and a book of his teachings

Some lanterns also depict fictional creatures which could be symbolic in Buddhism.


A monk sitting in a lotus over a lion-like creature
But not everything about the parade refers to deep symbolic figures for Buddhism. There are some lanterns which I think were there just to entertain people and not to bother the audience about the meaning like this one. Who would say everything must be serious? I find it too cute.

A human-like lotus lantern
There are also some fictional creatures like this what seems to be a peacock lantern in its entertaining blue light. I was far away from the figure so I was not able to take a closer shot.

Peacock like lantern with dancing blue lights
Of all the lanterns presented in the parade,this is I think the most awesome one. Oh, she's not a lantern, but she's the only glowing human presented along with other lanterns. I guess she's a Gumiho.

A Gumiho

After the parade, all roads lead to Joygesa temple where we will met by more lotus lanterns and lanterns of all forms and sizes. I know it's meaningful but we just settled to understand that it's a great photo opportunity.

At the gate of Joygesa Temple

When we entered the temple, we felt we just arrived in a different dimension of the world. The surroundings were full of lanterns and colorful lights coming from different sources. We just toured around the area while the rest of the followers of Buddha worshiped inside the temple.

Around the vicinity of Joygesa temple
I think the most interesting part is this corner in the temple where it displayed lanterns with lights changing colors for every minute.

Lotus Lanterns changing colors

We did not forget too that the place is very sacred for Buddhists because it's their worship place. In fact, right at the middle of the temple stands a very big tree. People bow down, kiss or even pray at the foot of the tree.

Followers of Buddha whisper their wishes by touching the tree and pray

However, this year's festival is not just all about Buddha. Due to the recent incident, part of the festival is an offer of prayer and sympathy to the affected people of the Sewol  Ferry Tragedy. People tied a yellow ribbon as a symbol of hope for the safe of returns for those who survived the tragedy.

The yellow ribbons symbolize the hope for more survivors from Sewol Ferry Tragedy

This year's festival was celebrated in a subtle way because of the heart breaking incident that happened a few weeks ago but this didn't stop thousands of people to enjoy the colorful lanterns in light for the birthday of the most celebrated religious figure in Korea, Buddha.

15 comments:

  1. Thank you for bringing us into your world and your adventure. I'd love to see this in person. I'm thankful to see it at all.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is a cool parade/festival.. It is really different then anything else i have ever seen.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Your country is beautiful. It reminds me of Japan :)
    I will go there one of these days.

    ReplyDelete
  4. What an absolutely amazing thing to get to witness! You are so very lucky! My heart goes out to the families of the Sewol Ferry Tragedy. It is beautiful the way people show their support. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful country!

    ReplyDelete
  5. oh such a great photos! Thank you for sharing it, I wish I will also visit Korea once

    ReplyDelete
  6. The lanterns are beautiful! What a great celebration and reminder of the Buddist teachings. The Ferry tragedy was so terrible, I suspect a lot of things will be overshadowed by it in the coming year.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wow, it's beautiful! It would be so much fun to attend this.

    ReplyDelete
  8. What an awesome looking event. Those floats and lanterns are beautiful.

    Michelle F.

    ReplyDelete
  9. such a beautiful event..... great pics

    ReplyDelete
  10. Oh wow! It's great to see festivities from other cultures. This is really beautiful!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Such a gorgeous event!!!! This is really beautiful

    ReplyDelete
  12. It's always a dream to visit Korea. I know you have a rich culture. I hope the tragedy will not happen again, we'll pray for their souls.

    ReplyDelete
  13. They really have colorful and huge lanterns for this festival.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Buddhism, being a major religion in the world, has a variety of regional, national, and even local traditions and art styles associated with it. The people, who are unaware of this fact, may question themselves or the followers of Buddhism, about the true meaning of Buddha, the religion, and the art that comes from the religion itself.
    buddha history in hindi

    ReplyDelete