lanterns

Samgwangsa on Buddha’s Birthday

Every year it comes. On the eighth day of the fourth month of the Chinese lunar calendar, Korea celebrates Buddha’s Birthday. Among all of the holidays and festivals in South Korea, Buddha’s Birthday may be my favorite!

In Korean, they call it 석가탄신일 – seokga tansinil – or 부처님 오신 날 – bucheonim osin nal. In a literal sense, that means something like “the day when Buddha came.” A few weeks before the holiday itself, Buddhist temples all over the country begin preparing. They hang lanterns all over the temple and the grounds nearby. Sometimes the displays are modest, like at the small hermitages up in the remote mountains. Other times, the displays are large, lavish, and immensely colorful. There is one temple, however, which is simply breathtaking in it’s lantern display: 삼광사 – Samgwangsa.


Lotus Lantern Festival 2015

My absolute favorite festival in Seoul has to be the Lotus Lantern Festival. It is held every year on April 8th of the Lunar calendar for Buddha's Birthday. It is as though the city bursts into color with culture and beauty for these few weeks! I do love the delicately decorated lanterns displayed all over the city. The highlight of the festivities for me is the lotus lantern parade. The lanterns are exorbitantly adorned with lights that brighten up any mopey face! The beat and rhythm of the dancers during the parade add more fun and color to the proceedings.

Buddhist Colors

Buddha’s Birthday at 반야사

 

The nearest Buddhist temple to our place is just across the road. In fact I pass it every time I go to work. It’s small and hidden up a small hill behind ample tree cover. In fact you’d miss it completely if it were for the multicoloured lanterns which line the street from early April, lanterns which are of course in anticipation of today, Buddha’s Birthday.


Yangsan Sabryang Culture Festival – 양산삽량문화축제

You never go long without going to a festival in Korea, but it seems like during the Spring and Fall there are festivals going on every single weekend! This weekend was no exception, but this time it was in our own backyard! This weekend was the Yangsan festival, and although we had not originally planned on going, I’m so glad we did!


Samgwangsa Temple in Busan


Jung Gwang Sa Decorated for the New Year

As I drove past my favorite temple in  Mugeo-dong, Ulsan last week and I noticed that it was decorated with many lanterns and banners. I would suspect that this would be for the upcoming new year. I looked around for the director, whom I met during this year’s Buddha’s Birthday festivities, but he was not in. At any rate, this temple is always such a beautiful place to visit and just walk around. Sadly, last night it was a little on the cold side. At any rate, I got a few shots and ran back to my warm car and headed home.


Buddha, please forgive me for the late birthday wishes.


Haedong Yonggungsa Temple


For 91 Days Travel Books

Haedong Yonggungsa (해동용궁사) is unique among Busan’s Buddhist temples in that it lies not in the mountains, but on the seafront. It was founded in 1376, during the Goryeo Dynasty, and completely destroyed during the Japanese invasions. The current construction dates from the 1970s, but the temple has remained a major center of worship. In fact, I can’t imagine it being any more popular.


Seoul Lantern Festival - coming soon

Author's note: a version of this article is published in the November 2010 issue of the Groove.

In case you needed an excuse to head to Cheonggyecheon, here's an excellent one. The 2nd annual Seoul Lantern Festival (서울 세계등축제) will host dozens of gorgeous lanterns lighting up Cheonggyecheon. Go for the opening ceremony on the 5th if you want, or head down anytime to appreciate the lights. Though the lanterns will be up day and night, head there in the evening to catch them looking their best.


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