In late April every year, the Lotus Lantern Festival (or in Korean,연등회 – Yeon Deung Hoe) is held in Seoul to celebrate the Buddha’s birthday (which falls on the 8th of the fourth month of the lunar calendar). In 2017, this Festival will be held from 28 to 30 April. This Festival has a long history of over 1,200 years, beginning as a religious festival in the Silla Dynasty (57 BC – AD 935), and is designated as Korea’s National Intangible Cultural Property. Nowadays, it has become a festival to be enjoyed by people from all walks of life, whether they are Buddhists or not.
Every year the Festival has a theme/slogan, and for the 2017 Festival, it is “We Can Make a World without Discrimination” with the aim of promoting respect and kindness among the people. During the Festival, a number of events and activities are held. Let’s talk about some of the interesting events and activities in this post.
Lotus Lantern Parade (29 April 2017)
The most well-known event is the Lotus Lantern Parade from the Heunginjimum Gate (i.e., the Dongdaemun Gate), going along the Jongno Street up to the Jogyesa Temple. In the parade which is held at night, you can see over 100,000 lanterns in different shapes and colours, including those with shapes of Buddhist instruments, lighting up the streets which the parade passes by. In line with the theme for the 2017 Festival, the parade will include lanterns in the shape of the four Dharma instruments of Buddhism which represent guidance of all creatures living above ground, underground, in the sky, and in the waters, reflecting the Buddhist’s aspiration for salvation of all living creatures in the world without discrimination. The 2017 Festival will also be participated by overseas representatives like Thailand and Taiwan. You can get a glimpse of the parade for 2016 by watching this video.
Traditional Lantern Exhibition (28 April to 7 May 2017)
This exhibition is held in remembrance of birth of the Buddha, and is held in three different places, namely, Cheonggyecheon Stream, Jogyesa Temple and Bongeunsa Temple. In this exhibition, you can see traditional lanterns made from Korean traditional paper, hanji. If you go the exhibition at Cheonggyecheon at night, you can see the lighted lanterns displayed above the water, which create a beautiful scene. You can get a snapshot of this exhibition by watching this video.
Cultural Experiential Activities (30 April 2017)
If you want to learn more about the Buddhist culture, you may go to the Jogyesa Temple where booths are set up by Buddhist organizations and temples. In these booths, you can learn more about the Buddhist culture, and try temple cuisines and Korean handicrafts like making lotus lanterns.
For further details of the Lotus Lantern Festival, you can visit the official website. If you go to Seoul in late April, please don’t miss the Lotus Lantern Festival and do participate in some of its events and activities.
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“Traditional Charm & Excitement Meet at the Lotus Lantern Festival“, Korea Tourism Organization, 2017-04-20