The Yeon Deung Hoe (Lotus Lantern Festival) is an annual event that colors Korea with bright lanterns in celebration of the birth of Buddha. Started as a religious festival during the Silla Dynasty (57 BC – AD 935), this traditional festival has come to be enjoyed by thousands of people every year, regardless of background, nationality, or religion.
The slogan for 2017’s festival is “We Can Make a World without Discrimination,” created with the aim of promoting respect and kindness by inviting citizens to come together. Various programs and events are scheduled, from the lantern parade featuring lanterns shaped like Buddhist instruments to a talk concert hosted by monks at the Buddhism culture plaza.
International visitors coming to Korea in late April should definitely not miss this wonderful opportunity! The Lotus Lantern Festival is a huge event that only takes place near the end of April. Read on to find out more about the diverse hands-on activities and things to see at the festival!
The highlight of the lotus lantern festival is the lantern parade! Passing Heunginjimun Gate on its way along Jongno Avenue all the way to Jogyesa Temple, this large scale parade is a true sight to behold. Following the theme of this year’s 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. The inclusion of all forms of life shows the strong aspiration of Buddhists for salvation of all living creatures in a world without discrimination.
International visitors coming to watch the parade will also have the chance to learn the rhythmic movements of the parade with the help of over one hundred members of the Global Supporters group. In addition, this year’s parade is expected to be quite special, with the participation of various nations carrying lanterns representing their countries, including Thailand and Taiwan.
In remembrance of the birth of Buddha, exhibitions of traditional lanterns will be on display for a ten-day period in various parts of Seoul including Ujeong Park by Jogyesa Temple, Bongeunsa Temple and Cheongyecheon Stream. These exhibitions provide a wonderful opportunity to marvel at the unassuming charm of Korea’s traditional paper, hanji. In particular, Cheonggyecheon Stream’s exhibition will display quality lanterns with a theme of “yeomcheon,” meaning “to think of the sky.”
The Traditional Culture Zone will be prepared in front of Jogyesa Temple, featuring approximately 130 booths run by Buddhist organizations and temples from across the nation. These booths provide a chance for visitors to learn about and better understand Buddhist culture. International visitors in particular will enjoy the chance to try temple foods and hands-on crafts.
One of the most popular activities is the lotus lantern contest (pre-reservation available) as participants can create their own personal lanterns. There are also many other hands-on activities and things to see in the culture zone. Buddhism-related performances, temple cuisines and experiences are also prepared for both local and international participants to enjoy and learn about this local culture using all five senses.
From the streets of Insa-dong to the road before Jogyesa Temple and all around the area of Jongno, the Lotus Lantern Festival will end in a final parade with grand lanterns and the music of a street performing troupe. The performers, visitors, and lanterns will come together for a fun and exciting time full of dancing and laughter in the streets.
*This column was last updated in April 2017, and therefore information may differ from what is presented here. We advise you to check details from the official website before visiting.