Friday, May 21, 2010

Buddhist Street Festival

As you know, last Saturday I attended the festivities for the Lotus Lantern Festival in Jongno, Seoul. I arrived with JH and first we headed into Insadong street and Tapgol park.
Actually, before I even got into Insadong I was stopped first by Arirang TV. This is an English TV and radio station here in Korea. They asked me to do an interview and I complied. However, I found myself giving answers they didn't really like. For example, they asked me whether or not China's actions of testing pregnant women for AIDS was humane. I told them that whatever China wants to do is non of my business. The interviewer frowned. I remembered later on that Arirang tends to just edit what you say anyways.

Moving on...

The area was packed of course with visitors, however the park seemed pretty light on foot traffic.
When it is this time of year here in Korea, Buddha's birthday, you see around Seoul and town stringed lanterns. Actually, I am a little confused because in my area (Suji) I haven't seen any stringed lanterns. This makes me wonder if my area is anti-Buddhist or something. Hmmm

The lanterns represent:
The lantern has the meaning of brightening and praying for the world. You can experience the making of a eight-sided lantern and pray for your wishes. Lotus lantern making will be held right next to the Buddhist Street Festival that will offer many, many more cultural experiences.
 We moved on out of the park and back into Insadong street on our way to the festivities in front of the Jogyesa Temple.
One thing I noticed was how the commercial shops were starting to creep in more and more into the traditional street of Insadong. (Above a well-known cosmetic shop.) Below are some crafts made by a street-cart vendor.
Above, those are lanterns that are lit by electric bulbs. I really had the feeling of buying them but moved on.
On the large street in front of the Jogyesa Temple were set up tents for one to experience different types of Buddhism or create Buddhist crafts.

One of the favorites among international visitors is the hands-on experience program where visitors can participate in making lotus-shaped lanterns or paint a Buddhist picture.
I thoroughly enjoyed this, despite what some may think of as a commercial-Buddhist happening. I think it is important for Korea to share their culture in this way because it allowed people to get involved and learn something. There was plenty of English on the signs and English speaking helpers.
We found one area where you could make a lotus flower or lotus flower lantern.
I decided upon the flower, because to make the lantern you needed 21 petals and I didn't want JH to wait around for me.
It was a lot of fun to make, while more people came up and tried it out.
We then walked around the tents, first checking out a tight-rope performance.
Here were Tibetan monks making a sand mandala.
Many sand mandala contain a specific outer locality which is clearly identified as a charnel ground. The colors for the painting are usually made with naturally colored sand, crushed gypsum (white), yellow ochre, red sandstone, charcoal, and a mixture of charcoal and gypsum (blue). Mixing red and black can make brown, red and white make pink. Other coloring agents include corn meal, flower pollen, or powdered roots and bark.
 Nepalese Organic Coffee anyone?
I was thoroughly impressed with the representation of different Buddhist nations at this festival. It really made you understand how this religion has spread and shaped different cultures around the Asian world.
Then I found myself trying on the Korean traditional costume the hanbok. Although, it was just a simple one that was easy to put on.

I wanted JH to wear one but he had none of it citing that he was Korean and didn't need to.
Around the center of the festival was a ceremony taking place, with a choir singing. (see video from previous post)

 We then headed into the Jogyesa Temple where there was a grand lantern display and concert of dancing children.
It was fun watching the kids dance, but we were really hungry so we headed back into Insadong street for a bite to eat.
The place where we found lunch had a water fountain nearby that a group of children liked to play with.
We went home after lunch and so didn't catch the nighttime festivities of the lantern parade. However, I hope to see it next year. I believe there are still some festivities to happen this weekend so there is still time if you want to catch it. I would highly recommend coming out next year and taking part in the crafts and celebrations.

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