Lanterns and festivities for the enlightened one
Like the strings of colorful lights that signal Christmas is near, the start of the Lotus Lantern Festival today marks the advent of Buddha’s Birthday, on the eighth day of the fourth month of the lunar calendar, which falls on May 21 this year. The celebration continues until Sunday.
But don’t think that because your traditions don’t include the man under the pipal tree you can’t just enjoy the show.
“The Lotus Lantern Festival is a festival for everyone, regardless of religion or anything,” said Venerable Jaseung, president of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. “With the lanterns symbolizing wisdom and compassion strung high above the streets of downtown Seoul, we enter a world that transcends skin color and religion, and the festival delivers a message of peace and equality.”
The modern version of the festival was launched in 1996. It had more religious overtones at first, but has since grown into a party for Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike. Since 2000, it’s taken on a more international tone, drawing a significant number of foreign visitors out to experience a colorful Korean tradition.
A slew of events are scheduled for this year’s festival.
On Saturday, from 7 to 9 p.m., the Insa-dong area and the street in front of Jogye Temple will bustle with exciting stage performances and a colorful parade of performers. To reach the festival, head to Jonggak Station on line No. 1 or Anguk Station on line No. 3.
The next day, from noon to 7 p.m., the street in front of Jogye Temple will be transformed, with booths at which visitors can make their own lotus lanterns, experience Buddhist art, try temple food, see a variety of traditional performances and learn more about Buddhist cultures around the world. Meanwhile, monks and performers from Buddhist countries including Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Mongolia and Taiwan will show off their own unique traditions.
On May 21, Buddha’s Birthday, Jogye Temple and temples around the country will hold a special service at 10 a.m. To reach Jogye Temple, go to Jonggak Station, line No. 1, exit 2, or Anguk Station, line No. 3, exit 6. For more information on the festival, call (02) 722-2206 or visit www.llf.or.kr.
By Park Sun-young [email@example.com]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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