Even drizzling rain couldn’t deter the festivities of people celebrating the Buddha’s birth.
At the lantern parade, the highlight of the annual Lotus Lantern Festival which ran on Saturday and Sunday, over 100,000 lanterns created a magnificent wave of light that flowed through the heart of Seoul like an earthbound Milky Way.
People holding lanterns they made walked three-kilometer in the rain from Dongdaemun gate via Jongno to the Jogye Temple, led by a traditional royal military band and four grand lanterns in the shape of the Buddhist gods to celebrate the coming of the sage that falls on the eighth days of the fourth month of the Lunar calendar each year. That is May 22 on the solar calendar this year.
The festival, aiming to create a “discrimination-free, abundant world through lighting the world with truth,” is not only the biggest of its kind in the world but also one of the “world’s best 10 fantastic festivals for 2018” designated by Travel Magazine.
Originating in the Silla Kingdom more than 1,200 years ago, the festival is designated as Korea’s National Intangible Cultural Property No. 122 and the Cultural Heritage Administration submitted it to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list earlier this year.
Some 300,000 people are estimated to have turned up for the festival this year, including 30,000 foreign residents and visitors, according to festival organizer the Celebration Committee for Buddha’s Birthday.
In the wake of the historic inter-Korean Summit in April that hoisted hope for peace on the peninsula, the theme for this year’s festival was “wishing for peace.”
“We have replicated a total of 19 North Korean lanterns based on pictures included in the book on North Korea’s arts and crafts. This was a first for this festival. Those lanterns led the parade and gained much media attention,” said Hong Min-seok, a spokesman for the committee. “Compared with South Korean lanterns, the North’s lanterns tend to have preserved original elements of olden times.”
The Saturday’s festival culminated in the Hoehyang Hanmadang, or post-parade celebration. At the Jonggak Intersection in central Seoul, all participants danced under a rain of paper flower petals and held hands to do a traditional Korean circle dance, “Ganggangsullae,” until almost midnight.
“It is easy to think that Buddhism is connected to being slow and outdated. But we have created Buddhist music that sounds like an electro dance music to involve younger generations more. The post-parade celebration brings all participants together as one, transcending nationality, gender, ethnicity and religion,” Hong said.
On the following day, traditional cultural events took place at Jogye Temple. More than 100 booths provided visitors a chance to experience making lotus flowers, traditional lanterns and ceramics, and drawing Buddhist patterns and folk paintings. Also, a meditation program and traditional performances were on offer and temple food was served.
The participation of foreigners and non-religious people has been steadily increasing, according to Hong. “Each year it gains more attention from around the world. Throwing a big feast downtown is a hard thing and is also something that others can easily emulate because those people made their lanterns on their own and took them to the streets voluntarily. It’s a barrier-free festival that is open to anyone,” Hong said.
The two-day festival ended Sunday, but the celebration for Buddha’s birthday will continue through May. An exhibition of traditional lanterns made with “hanji” (Korean traditional paper) will be on display at Jogye and Bongeun temples, and Cheonggye Stream until May 23. Temples nationwide will light lanterns to symbolically transmit the wisdom and compassion of the Buddha as well as performing ceremonies.
Source: THE KOREA TIMES