The Lotus Lantern Festival, held annually in honor of Buddha’s birthday, which falls on May 6 this year, will be held from April 25 to May 11, 2014.
According to Buddhist beliefs, lanterns symbolize wisdom in that they bring light to the world. “Yeondeung,” which means lantern lighting, is an important ritual in Buddhism that pays respect to Buddha. The lantern lighting began in Korea during the Goryeo (918-1392) and Joseon (1392-1910) Dynasties and has been preserved through rituals such as the lotus lantern service and the lotus lantern parade.
The modern day Lotus Lantern Festival is designed to bring local and international visitors together through an array of festive programs. This year’s event offers visitors the chance to make their own lantern, taste Buddhist temple dishes, produce rubbings of various Buddhist designs, and much more.
The festival’s start is announced with a lighting ceremony (Jeomdeungsik) where a large sized lantern is lit in Gwanghwamun Square on April 16. The festival will kick off on April 25, with a traditional lantern exhibition at Cheonggyecheon Stream, Jogyesa Temple and Bongeunsa Temple. On April 26, a spectacular lantern parade will take place, featuring more than 100,000 massive, illuminated lanterns in the shape of lotus flowers, stupas, elephants, dragons, and more. The spectacle created by these lights bobbing and swaying down the entire length of Jongno Street is not to be missed!
Yeongdeunghoe (Lotus Lantern Festival; 연등회) is the traditional name for this event. In the past, Yeondeunghoe was a more of a religious and national event, not like a festival.
Yeondeungnori (연등놀이) is a traditional Korean folk game involving lighting lanterns on April 1 of the lunar calendar.
[Date] April 25 – May 11
[Venue] Cheonggyecheon Stream / Joggyesa Temple / Bongeunsa Temple
[Location] Gwanghwamun Station (Seoul Subway Line 5), Exit 5. Walk for 50m (1 min) / Anguk Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 6. Walk for 300m (2 min) / Samseong Station (Seoul Subway Line 2), Exit 6. Walk for 750m (12 min)
The Exhibition of Traditional Lanterns is as historical as it is breathtaking and is set to take place throughout the festival period from April 25 to May 11 at Cheonggycheon Stream, Jogyesa Temple, and Bongeunsa Temple. Crafted from materials such as silk and hanji (traditional Korean paper), traditional Buddhist lanterns take the form of fruits, animals, and other interesting shapes. The shapes and sophisticated patterns of each lantern symbolize different meanings, such as hopes for good health, longevity, or a bountiful harvest.
[Date] April 26, 16:30 - 18:00
[Venue] Sports Arena of Dongguk Univ.
[Location] Dongguk Univ. Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 6. Walk for 500m. (8 min)
“Eoullim Madang,” which will take place on April 26 at 4:30 p.m., is full of songs and rhythmic beats aimed to spread the excitement of the festival. During this time, Buddhist organizations and devotees gather to begin celebrating the birth of Buddha.
[Date] April 26, 19:00 - 21:30
[Venue] Dongdaemun Gate (Heunginjimun Gate) → Jogyesa Temple
[Location] Dongdaemun Station (Seoul Subway Line 1 & 4), Jongno 3-ga Station (Seoul Subway Line 1 & 3 & 5), Jongno 5-ga Station (Seoul Subway Line 1)
The lantern parade, the highlight of the festival, starts at Dongdaemun Gate, runs through Jongno and ends at Jogyesa Temple. It lasts for about two hours and thirty minutes. Crowds carrying tens of thousands of specially made, brightly lit lanterns in the shape of dragons, pagodas, white elephants, and lotus flowers parade down the street to the tune of Korean classical music. If you’re quick enough to grab seats in front of Tapgol Park you’ll be able to enjoy the parade more comfortably.
[Date] April 26, 21:30 - 23:00
[Venue] Jonggak Intersection
[Location] Jonggak Station (Seoul Subway Line 1)
The post-parade celebration, “Hoehyang Hanmadang,” is held at the Jonggak Intersection. Events kick off with a dynamic performance and end with the time-honored ganggangsullae dance (a traditional circle dance), in which everyone holds hands to dance and sing among falling flower petals. The burning of written seowon (wishes and resolutions) is also scheduled to take place during this time.
[Date] April 27, 12:00 - 19:00
[Venue] The main street in front of Jogyesa Temple
[Location] Anguk Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 6. Walk for 300m. (2 min)
The Traditional Cultural Events are held along the main street in front of Jogyesa Temple. The event offers opportunities to experience Buddhist culture along with traditional Korean culture. During the festival, more than 100 booths are set up by Buddhist Monks and Nuns to demonstrate tea and bowing ceremonies. Festival goers can also paint pictures of Buddha, sit in Zen meditation, taste different temple foods, or create a manuscript of Buddhist scriptures using powdered gold. The “Let’s Make Lotus Flower Lanterns” program, where you can make wish lanterns of various shapes and sizes, and the traditional lantern making program for international visitors, give each individual at the festival a chance to join the parade in a special way.
[Date] April 27, 19:00-21:00
[Venue] Insa-dong → Street in front of Jogyesa Temple
[Location] Jonggak Station (Seoul Subway Line 1), Exit 3. Walk for 500m (8 min) / Anguk Station (Seoul Subway Line 3), Exit 6. Walk for 300m (2 min)
Yeondeungnori starts in Insa-dong and parades to the main street in front of Jogyesa Temple, where lantern carriers and performance groups join together for one huge celebration. After the parade is over, performers, onlookers, and tourists gather in front of Jogyesa Temple to enjoy the performances together.
|April 16 (Thu), 2014||Lighting Ceremony||19:00||Gwanghwamun Square|
|April 25 (Fri) – May 11 (Sun), 2014||Exhibition of Traditional Lanterns||Cheonggyecheon Stream / Jogyesa Temple / Bongeunsa Temple|
|April 26 (Sat), 2014||Eoulim Madang (Buddhist Cheer Rally)||16:30-18:00||Sports Arena of Dongguk
|Lantern Parade||19:00-21:30||Dongguk University → Dongdaemun Gate (Heunginjimun Gate) → Jogyesa Temple|
|Hoehyang Hanmadang (Post-Parade Celebration)||21:30-23:00||Jonggak Intersection|
|April 27 (Sun), 2014||Traditional Cultural Events||12:00-19:00||The main street in front of Jogyesa Temple|
|Stage Performances||12:00~18:00||The stage in front of Jogyesa Temple|
|19:00~21:00||Insa-dong → Gongpyeong Intersection (the street in front of Jogyesa Temple)|
|May 6 (Tue), 2014||Buddha’s Birthday Dharma Service||10:00||Temples across the nation, including Jogyesa Temple|
• One-day course: April 26 (Sat)
• Two-day course: April 26-27 (Sat-Sun)
April 26 (Sat)
14:00: Arrive at Bongeunsa Temple, tour the traditional lantern exhibition
17:00: Dinner in Insa-dong
19:00: Lotus Lantern Parade in Jongno (Jongmyo and Tapgol Park)
21:30: Hoehyang Hanmadang (post-parade celebration) at Jonggak Intersection (Event ends at 23:00)
April 27 (Sun)
14:00: Buddhist cultural experiences and performances on the street in front of Jogyesa Temple
17:00: Dinner in Insa-dong
19:00: Yeondeungnori Parade and performances from Insa-dong to Jogyesa Temple (Event ends at 21:00)
* Photo credit: Buddha’s Birthday Celebration Committee (봉축위원회)
* Last updated on March 10, 2014