PART 1. LANTERN DISPLAY and OTHER EVENTS
LANTERN DISPLAY: A GLIMPSE OF INNER PEACE
Buddhism was first introduced in South Korea when a Chinese monk was invited to the northern Kingdom of Koguryo, way back in 372 A.D. During that time, Shamanism was still the indigenous religion of South Korea. Since Buddhism showed no threat or internal conflict with Shamanism, it was accepted by the locals and they were able to blend the two religions, which makes the foundation of Buddhism in South Korea different from other Buddhist countries.
I've been staying in South Korea for three years now and it's no surprise to see several tens of thousands temples across the country. What surprises me is the fact that almost half of Korean population doesn't have a religion but they know how to respect each other despite having their own differences. Another thing that surprises me is how they celebrate Buddha's birthday in South Korea.
Here are some of the many lanterns that were displayed in the venue.
They commemorate Buddha's birthday through a traditional festival called Gwandeung or Lantern Festival. This custom was passed down by Shilla dynasty to Dalgubeol, Daegu which took place in 1967. Until today, Koreans celebrate the lantern festival where lanterns are lighted and hung for Buddha's birthday.
For this year, Buddha's birthday falls on the 22nd of May, 2018 which is a public holiday as it is a widely celebrated holiday in South Korea. The annual schedule for the Dalgubeol Lantern Festival in Dague was held from 16th - 19th of May, 2018. Even if my religion is Christianity, it is a great opportunity for me to witness and experience Buddhist culture for the first time. Right after my work, I rushed down to see the lantern displays in Kolon Open Air Music Hall (대구 코오롱 야외음악당) in Duryu Park.
These lanterns are your friendly guides and will lead you to the venue after swiping your card out of the station.
There were cultural performances which started at 18:00 and at the same time, there were choirs from Daegu North Gyeongsan Buddhist Federation who participated in this festival. I honestly don't remember how many choirs sung as there were too many of them. The sound of their voices were in a complete harmony and very relaxing to hear. I enjoyed all of their performances.
These photos are just few choirs from Daegu North Gyeongsan Buddhist Federation who performed during the festival.
After watching the choirs, I proceeded to the tents to explore the activities they offer for the visitors. Aside for the tent of information center where you can get the schedule of programs and activities, there were two alleys of tents: one is for the activities and the other is for food, drinks, herbs and other handmade things that were sold by the vendors.
Some of the street food that you can enjoy in the area such as sausages, corn dogs, chicken popcorn, barbeque and fruit juices or smoothies.
Each tent offers a variety of cultural activities and some of them were free such as henna tattoo, drawing for your pins, coloring for kids, lotus flower paper art making, customized post cards, etc. They also have an activity where you can paint a lotus flower on either a handkerchief for 2,000 KRW or a wooden plate for 8,000 KRW and in another tent they offer a DIY (do-it-yourself) beaded bracelet for only 1,000 KRW.
I had a free henna tattoo with a lotus flower design. You have an option to choose as to which part of your body you want it placed.
I also tried making a post card and to my surprise, I’m actually good with calligraphy.
My favorite part wass creating the hanging paper lotus flower. The person in charge gave me 28 pieces of paper cut in triangular shape. You have to fold the paper in different ways to create the final output and paste the paper altogether to make this beautiful product. I really had so much fun doing it for the first time and I’d highly recommend it to others..
Even if I was the only foreigner in the event, I didn't feel alone as I was preoccupied with the activities during the festival and it was a very peaceful event and the weather was also good. I had so much fun learning another culture of South Korea as I know that Buddhism is also an important part of Korean roots. This festival is a great way to immerse yourself with Korean customary and if you missed it, don't worry, there's an upcoming sky lantern festival or the merrymaking festival that will be held this Saturday - 19th of May, 2018. See you there!
PART 2. SKY LANTERN & LANTERN PERADE
Witnessing the Colorful Dalgubeol Lantern Festival
Hyeong-hyeong Saek-saek Dalgubeol Lantern Festival (형형색색달구벌관등놀이) is probably Korea’s best late spring festival. It is held in Daegu annually to commemorate Buddha’s Birthday.
For those who are wondering why it is called Dalgubeol (달구벌) Lantern Festival, Dalgubeol was the ancient name of Daegu. Hyeong-hyeong Saek-saek Dalgubeol Lantern Festival (형형색색달구벌관등놀이) literally means Merry-making at the Colorful Daegu Lantern Festival.
This year’s lantern festival was held from May 16th ~ 19th. The highlights of the Dalgubeol Lantern Festival are the releasing of the wish lanterns to the sky or Sowon Pungdeung Nalligi (소원 풍등 날리기) and the Daegu Lotus Lantern Parade or the Dalgubeol Yeondeung Haengnyeol (달구벌 연등 행렬). These two events attracted not only Korean spectators but non-Koreans as well. There were some people who even traveled from their home country just to witness the colorful events.
|In que for free tickets|
Though the program started around 6:00 PM, people started coming earlier in the morning, especially the ones who were not able to purchase the tickets online.
Even those who were able to purchase the tickets for the yellow and pink sections came ahead of time in order to choose the best spots when the gate opens.
Sowon Pungdeung Nalligi
|People started filling the baseball stadium|
After a few hours of waiting, the program started. There were performances and ceremonies on stage.
|Audience enjoying the performance|
Then when it started to get dark, the countdown started and the colorful lanterns started floating to the sky.
|Up to the sky, the lanterns go|
It was beyond beautiful! The moment was so mesmerizing. Many described that awe-inspiring moment as something like a scene from the movie, “Tangled.”
Dalgubeol Yeondeung Haengnyeol
After all the lanterns were released, a fireworks display, that signaled the beginning of the parade, broke out. Once again, the audience could be heard cheering excitedly as they watched the colorful fireworks display.
|The fireworks signaled the beginning of the parade|
Wanting to witness the parade, we hurriedly ran outside of the baseball stadium and headed to the street.
|The Lantern Parade|
I saw some of the lanterns during the day and they were beautiful. But they were even more beautiful in the evening when they were lighted.
|A Dragon Lantern|
My favorite lanterns were the turtle ship-inspired lantern and the dragons.
|The Turtle Ship Lantern|
Aside from the colorful lanterns, the traditional performances and the marching bands made the parade even more interesting. Not to mention the happy faces and colorful costumes of the ones who joined the parade.
|People carrying lighted lanterns|
|Lanterns depicting the popular attractions in Daegu|
The Lotus Lantern Parade
Indeed, the Hyeong-hyeong Saek-saek Dalgubeol Lantern Festival is a colorful festival. This year was my second time to witness it and I still enjoyed it a lot. I am looking forward to next year’s festival.
If you have not seen it yet, I highly recommend seeing this festival.