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2023 Seoul International Buddhism Expo, the Festival of Buddhist Culture

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Writer Jogye Date14 Apr 2023 Read1,187 Comment0


2023 Seoul International Buddhism Expo (BEXPO2023), the festival of Korean Buddhism and traditional Korean culture, ended in great success. BEXPO2023 was held for four days from March 30 to April 2, 2023, at Seoul Trade Exhibition and Convention Centre (SETEC) where the traditional Buddhist cultural merchandise industry was promoted among other things. The opening ceremony of BEXPO2023 was attended by the leaders of the monastic Sangha, namely Most Ven. Jinwoo, President of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, Ven. Ilmyeon, a member of the Elder’s Council, Ven. Jugyeon, Chair of the Central Council, Ven. Dongwan, Chair of the Board of Directors of Dongguk University, Ven. Deokmun, Abbot of Hwaeom-sa Temple, Ven. Hosan, Director of General Affairs of the Jogye Order, Ven. Samjo, President of Buddhist Daily, Ven. Wondon, Chief Editor of Buddhist Daily, Ven. Wonmyeon, Abbot of Bongeun-sa Temple, and Ven. Bongak, Chair of the National Bhiksuni Association.

Several Indian monks also came to Korea to join the festive occasion, including Ven. Dhammapiya, the secretary general of the International Buddhist Confederation (IBC). Oh Se-hoon, Mayor of Seoul, and Park Gyoon, Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism congratulated the opening of the Expo by sending congratulatory messages. “I hope that Buddhism and the traditional culture of Korea will reaffirm their status on the world stage through the 2023 Seoul International Buddhism Expo as they are fast becoming global trends,” said Most Ven. Jinwoo, in his opening speech. “Enjoy the depth of Korea’s spiritual culture here at the Expo where you can have lively experiences of how the traditional Korean culture has grown and developed over the years.”

The theme of this year’s Expo was “Ten Years’ History, into the Future for Hundred Years More,” celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Seoul International Buddhism Expo and declaring the intent to show to the world Korean Buddhism and its traditional culture. BEXPO2023 featured 446 booths from 80 companies, attracting more than 70,000 visitors in four days, marking an all-time high in attendance, and was accompanied by a variety of online events on its homepage, YouTube, and Internet live commerce.

BEXPO2023 also held fascinating exhibitions and special shows. The 11th Buddha Art Fair featured not only the Buddhist arts using conventional media such as paintings and sculptures but also adopting cutting-edge IT technologies such as video media art. When AR application Hwabul was projected onto the painting portraying the Sitting Sakyamuni Buddha in Dharmachakra Mudra, Sakyamuni Buddha’s robe turned embroidered with fluttering plum flower petals. A group of ten artists collaborated on the art project named Uplifting Yeolam Valley Rock-face Buddha to highlight the importance of restoring the rock-face Buddha lying toppled in Yeolam Valley in Gyeongju. Photo exhibit titled Sangwol Gyeolsa Society’s Pilgrimage in India gave the visitors a chance to see the photos depicting the pilgrims’ journey tracing the footsteps of Sakyamuni Buddha, along with Sangwol Buddha, the statue that was carried by the pilgrims throughout the journey, and the sarira of Sakyamuni Buddha donated by India. In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Korea-India diplomatic relations, this year’s guest country of honor was India whose history of Buddhism was rendered in video media art and displayed in the special exhibits “India, the Guest Country of Honor” and “Eight Holy Sites in India and the Life of Sakyamuni Buddha.” Other special themed exhibitions included “Foreign Exchanges Exhibit” and “Industry Exhibit”, which introduced merchandise related to ritual practices, architecture, clothing, tea, cuisine, and crafts.

The winners of the Traditional Cultural Goods Awards, BAF Young Artist Awards, and Lifetime Achievement Awards were announced during the Buddhism Awards event to honor those who have made great contributions to the development of traditional Buddhist culture. Voice of the Youth by Yeongcheon Chamseon Moktak won the grand prize at the 9th Traditional Cultural Goods Awards, while Light by Kim Min Ji received the grand prize at the 6th BAF Young Artist Awards. Life Time Achievement Awards went to Yeongcheon Chamseon Moktak and Hwang Gyu Cheol.

During 2023 Seoul International Buddhism Expo, the Cultural Corps of Korean Buddhism awarded the Certificate of Korean Traditional Temples Pilgrimage to those who have toured all 33 temples listed by the Corps as the Avalokitesvara’s holy sites in Korea. The all-time record is broken as a total of 57 pilgrims including a Japanese Buddhist successfully finished the tour of all 33 temples this year and dedicated their merit to saving all beings. “I went on this pilgrimage with my classmates from the Buddhist college,” said one of the participants. “It was a journey to celebrate our faith, and also a happy chance to meet many new people.”

The top diplomats stationed in Seoul also came to the Expo to savor human solidarity through the medium of Buddhism, transcending differences in language, culture, and religion. Ambassadors from the Vatican, Lebanon, Cambodia, and Nepal and the heads of various UN organizations were busy enjoying themselves viewing the exhibits and taking photos of unique Buddhist artworks on display, including drawings and sculptures. They were curious about templestay programs with the slogan of “The Inner Journey: Finding Our True Selves in Nature,” and particularly happy about the chance to sample the temple cuisine. “If the host is gracious enough to invite us next year too, we will definitely recommend the Expo to our staff too,” said one of the ambassadors. “We spent a wonderful day. The Expo showed us that we can be united as one, going beyond religion and race.”

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