Lotus Lantern Parade and Festival

One of Korea’s top festivals, the Lotus Lantern Festival is a precursor to the Buddha’s Birthday holiday, and a week before the much deserved 3 day weekend. Most of the activities took place in Jongno last weekend, around the Insadong and Jogyesa Temple areas. My girlfriend and I dedicated our Sunday afternoon to the festivities. Starting at the Buddhist Street Festival, we moved on to Gwangjang Market for a quick bite before ending the day watching the Lotus Lantern Parade.

The Buddhist Street Festival was held on the road from Jogyesa Temple all the way to the intersection of Bosingak and the Jongno Tower. Booths lined both sides of the street for the entire stretch. They provided the opportunity to learn more about Korean and other Buddhist cultures, participate in all kinds of arts and crafts like lantern and candle making, eat traditional food and play folk games. We also enjoyed traditional folk dancing and music performances. And the temple itself was decked out in a canopy of colorful lanterns providing an awesome backdrop for scenic photos.

It was nice to see the street festival packed with so many foreigners, all taking the time on a sunny Sunday afternoon to experience a meaningful festival as well as learn more about the traditional culture of their adopted home. The festival planners seemed to go out of their way to make it a foreigner friendly event. I stopped at an information booth to snag a few informative brochures and was asked to fill out a survey. It requested feedback on the event and suggestions for what steps could be taken to increase the foreigner friendly experience in the future.

The parade started at Dongdaemun and progressed through the Jonggak intersection before concluding at Jogyesa. I was surprised to see that the city had blocked off ample space up and down both sides of the street along the path of the parade, and provided two rows of plastic chairs for citizens to sit and enjoy the show in comfort.

After a frustrating dining experience at Gwangjang Market (which you can read about shortly) we grabbed a seat and awaited the parade. With about 45 minutes still until it kicked off, thank God (or maybe thank Buddha is more appropriate) we were entertained with some drama. As you can see in the video below, this dude was pretty fired up over not being able to drive his sedan through the barrier, and escape the alley side street in to the clearly designated off limits parade path. Most surprising was his disrespect for uniformed law enforcement, and their lack of reaction other than telling him to bug off. Enjoy.

The parade was impressive. It consisted mostly of Buddhists groups carrying celebratory lanterns as well as larger lit up lanterns in various shapes and sizes, some of them even breathing fire. Lasting anywhere from 2 – 2.5 hours, I can’t even come close to estimating the amount of people that participated by marching the parade route from Dongdaemun to Jogyesa.

We didn’t actually stick around the for the entire parade. It was a Sunday evening after all. But it was worth the time we put in, and the Lotus Lantern Festival as a whole is one of those events I could see myself returning to year after year.

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~ by ripcitytoseoul on May 19, 2010.

One Response to “Lotus Lantern Parade and Festival”

  1. […] not to let this experience ruin our day, we moved on to enjoying the Lotus Lantern Parade. And when we were finished watching Buddhists and fire breathing dragons, we cut back through the […]

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