Buddha’s Birthday 2019
So I have been a little preachy in these last few posts, so I thought that I would get back to basics and just talk about one of the best times of the year here in South Korea and one that few travels really know about. I am talking about Buddha’s Birthday.
I was shocked that when I started posting my images, that there were a lot of people that were living in Korea that had limited knowledge about the event. With so many temples around Korea, I was a little put back by the messages that I received. I think many people just thought that the lanterns and elaborate decorations were limited to Jogyesa Temple in Seoul. Fortunately, they are not and many of the temples outside of Seoul have far better events and celebrations.
This year is a particularly sad year for this temple as one man’s impatience and road rage lead to 1 death, another person in critical condition and 11 people injured. It is very sad new as this day is supposed to be that of celebration and happiness.
Tongdosa is always a place of quiet thought and long walks. Due to its size, tourists are generally spread out and never get too crowded with the exception of the main temple complex and in front of the museum.
In recent years, they have increased the number of lanterns along the path to the temple as well as added themed lanterns in the stream and path in front of the temple. This makes it slightly different from other temples as many focus more on the amount of personal lanterns as each of them contain a donation.
Beomosa is always a great place to spend the evening. This year my wife and I spent the evening wandering around the grounds. Sadly, it was a little too cool in the night for my wife and I was a little too focussed on my work to notice. However, once I paused long enough to notice the world around me, we went straight back to the car and warmed up.
Beomosa is a temple that I go to pretty much every year. It is calm as peaceful before the big day and you can really get a sense of calm when you are there.
The temple is also slowly being surrounded by nice cafes, so if you do go, you will find a place to sit within walking distance from the temple. However, I tend to usually go down to Route Coffee, my old haunt from when I taught at the university just down the road from there.
This year I was pleasantly surprised with my time at Bulguksa. Upon entering the grounds and my hazy creative brain as well, I was great by none other than a group of some of Busan’s finest photographers.
These guys are members of the Busan Lightstalkers group who happened to be returning from an epic camping trip and decided to stop in at the temple on their way home. They caught me mid-creative fog which was mildly hilarious as I am sure that there is now photographic evidence of their odd state that I go into.
At any rate, the temple was amazing. Not the millions of lanterns that Samgwangsa has, but just a wonderful assortment of lanterns and decorations in a UNESCO recognized temple.
The evening ended with a lantern parade around the temple. By this time my batter had died in my camera and sadly I did not think to bring a backup. Typically, I have 2 fresh batteries in my bag and like an idiot I had left them either in the charger or next to it.
Thankfully, I had my phone and I snapped a few long exposures using Flixel’s Blendeo app. This made for a nice effect with the flow of the lanterns in the parade.
I have been wanting to go to Haedong Yeonggunsa for a while now. I really wanted to get a drone shot of the temple from the water. I felt that this would be the perfect time to do so. The lanterns add so much to the colour and contrast in the image.
Sadly, this visit was cut short due to the fact that the temple closed up early as they do, before the big day. Haedong Yeonggunsa also has a particular advantage when it comes to actually closing as it is one of only a few temples that has bridge leading to a single door.
Most temples as you can see are quite open meaning that they usually have a larger main gate for vehicle traffic and whatnot but that usually doesn’t stop too many people from wandering in. Here, the bridge leads to a single entry point which was locked by the time I finished shooting outside.
The also gave a huge warning by turning off all the lights momentarily. The photographers around me were none too happy about that. For me, it just happens and you have to deal with it. After all, the event is for Buddha and his worshippers, not for photographers and tourists.
I hope that you enjoyed these images. This is really my favourite time of the year in Korea and one that I fondly remember from when I first got started into photography. If you have and questions about the locations or editing process either drop me a line here or send me an email.
Also if you are coming to Korea and would like me to show you some of these places, let me know. If you get in contact, I can make arrangements and take you around as I am slowly starting to do more photo tour here in Korea.