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Lotus Lantern Festival (Yeondeung-hoe), the Most Memorable Event of the Year
“Hope to the World, Happiness in the Mind”
Yeondeung-hoe or the Lotus Lantern Festival, which is held annually during the Vesak Celebration (Buddha’s Birthday) has been designated the Important Intangible Cultural Property No. 122 of Korea in 2012. This year, the festival was held on May 11 to 12, with the participants experiencing various traditional Korean and Buddhist cultural events with Buddhists from around the globe.
Tens of thousands of foreign visitors lined Jongro Street in Seoul to participate in the festival. The Lotus Lantern Parade held on May 11 was translated in three languages (English, Chinese and Japanese) to aid the international guests join in the fun. There were various electronic devices employed this year, such as a large LED video screen with English subtitles, which assisted the participants to understand the Korean cultural heritage.
Traditional Cultural Events at the Jogye-sa Temple
The traditional cultural events held on May 12 began in the early morning to 7 p.m. in the evening. The contents ranged from the Templestay Program to traditional Korean foods along with various other experiential cultural events, including the exhibition of traditional art and folk performances.
Over 70 national and international volunteers from 20 countries, including U.S., Germany, France and Vietnam, were recruited for the first time in this year’s festival. The International Volunteers were designated the Yeondeunghoe Supporters and were organized by the Lotus Lantern Festival Preservation Committee and Korean Youth Buddhism Association (KYBA). The volunteers received the eight-segment training in preparation for the festival. The orientation began with the background education on Korean Buddhism and Yeondeunghoe, which was followed by a concert and participation in the Templestay Program. The volunteers participated in Balugongyang (Traditional Formal Monastic Meals), lotus lantern crafting and various other Buddhist cultural events as well.
An American exchange student, Nicole Ang (19) stated, “Although I am a Christian, I decided to participate, as I was studying Korean culture and thought it’d be nice to learn more about Buddhism.” She then added, “I was really impressed with Korean Buddhism, hosting this wonderful Yeondeunghoe Festival. It allowed all who wished to join in the discovery of happiness and peace.”
Another exchange student, Andrew Sivilay (21) from the U.S. commented, “The Most Impressive thing during the festival was getting to see all the lanterns that people made. It was also really nice getting to experience all the different booths in the festival, such as the International Buddhist Area, where people got to see Buddhism from many different countries and had the chance to taste the monastic meals, as well as tea tasting and meditation experience.” He also added, “I also enjoyed all the performances during the festival, it was great seeing all the dances and different cultural acts from many countries. Everything about the festival as a whole was really wonderful, and I highly enjoyed the dancing at the end of both days. It was nice getting to see all the smiles and everyone dancing together and having a good time”.
The History of the Lotus Lantern Festival in Korea
"Oceans of lanterns expanded throughout, illuminate the whole world"
During the Vesak, the tradition of hanging the lanterns (which signifies the wisdom and great pervading light) has continued through the generations. In the modern times, the lotus lantern crafting tradition has gone beyond the Buddhist community and found its place in the hearts of the Korean peoples as a traditional cultural heritage.