Destination: Lotus Lantern Festival (2010) – part 1

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As in years past, the 연등회 (Yeon Deung Hoe, or Lotus Lantern Festival) is an excellent, if overly touristy, chance to learn more about one of the world’s oldest religions. A folk festival that has origins in the Goryeo period continued as the Lantern Celebration in the Joseon Dynasty (광등노리), and continues as a social festival to this day. The religion and reverence, however, seems to get lost amidst the hubbub of making paper lotus flowers, candles, and a hundred other things.

The event started in the afternoon, with dozens of tents offering arts, crafts, and information.

As in years past, the 연등회 (Yeon Deung Hoe, or Lotus Lantern Festival) is an excellent, if overly touristy, chance to learn more about one of the world’s oldest religions. A folk festival that has origins in the Goryeo period continued as the Lantern Celebration in the Joseon Dynasty (광등노리), and continues as a social festival to this day. The religion and reverence, however, seems to get lost amidst the hubbub of making paper lotus flowers, candles, and a hundred other things.

The event started in the afternoon, with dozens of tents offering arts, crafts, and information.

Say, perhaps, you want to make a paper lotus lantern…

…or a screen ink print…

…or make a wish to tie onto any of the strings, or dozens of other arts and crafts projects. I never knew Buddha was so artistically inclined.

No idea why a lion was posing with a ‘Good Hands Africa’ at a Buddha’s Birthday festival. What the Kimchi?

A bit more traditional – a large-scale jump rope where people just ‘jumped in’.

One highlight of the afternoon – an excellent drumming performance. Not sure I could identify the different types of drums, but the sound was tight and attracted a large crowd.

Shortly after the drumming came a Korean costume / mask performance. Since the performance was narrated in Korean, I have little idea about the meaning of the different characters:



The half-hour show had a wide variety of characters – cutting it down to three pictures for the sake of keeping your attention was hard 🙂

Spreading sand – one grain at a time. Even for these masters of patience it takes house to create a mandala.

An art project for the grown-ups with a steady hand – paint a Buddha, just follow the lines.

We finally ended up at the temple – running into FeetMan Seoul (AKA the Metropolitican) while there. The scene was chaotic – hundreds of people running around trying to get lanterns and everything set up for the parade coming up soon.

While the festival attracted a large foreigner crowd, the whole thing seems a bit… fluffy. Much like Christmas in the US, the reason for the season has been lost – it’s a family outing, not a reverential time. Even those trying to be reverential at the temple had a tough time navigating the colorful lanterns (still packaged five to a plastic bag) and the photographers going for the money shot.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s follow-up – the well-known Lotus Lantern Parade. After taking a couple hundred pictures it takes some time to pick out the best ones!

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