Very Korean Experience

Lotus Lantern Festival Seoul 2015 (Part I)

Para leer en Español haz click aqui

I’ve been waiting for this festival to happen for more than a year! And it’s finally here! The story is that last year I had planned to go see the Lantern Parade, but got stuck at the airport for too long and missed it. I could still visit the festival on Sunday, when they put about 100 tents with diverse activities (lantern making, costume experience, etc.) but I missed one of the highlights. In any case, it’s here! And the best part is that this year, I even get to participate in the Eoulim Madang (Buddha’s Rally) since I did a templestay at one of the Seoul temples and got an invitation to join them on this day~ cool~

Myogaksa is a cool temple in the middle of the city of Seoul, based on the Mt. Naksan. It is kind of hidden in a small street uphill of the Jongno neighborhood, so what surprised me the most when I entered the first time, was how big the temple actually is. As you enter, there is a main room on your right, where several activities and meetings are carried out, and a kitchen on your right. If you keep walking forward, you well exit into a small patio where there is a praying room and a big stone buddha. if you go upstairs, you will see another building located that holds the Administration, guest rooms, bathrooms, and changing rooms.

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Stone Buddha and Prayer Temple
The temple once inside
The temple once inside
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Prayer room

This morning I arrived to Myogaksa temple at 9 AM in order to practice dances and put on a costume. I went with a French girl I met on couchsurfing that was really interested in participating in such events, and my friend Susan, who I hadn’t seen for months. It took more than an hour to wear the dresses and put on the make up, but I think it was totally worth it! We all looked like princesses 🙂

Mimi costume
I actually liked the white part the most, with a small ribbon of flowers under the chest, but the pink part was also ute ^=^
makeup
Tons of make up plus a purple lotus flower on one cheek 🙂

Then it was time to “work”! We learnt 2 simple dances and practiced over and over until we were well synchronized. After the practice, we had vegetarian bibimbap. Bibimbap is a very Korean dish, consisting on a big bowl of rice, topped with difference vegetables and mushrooms. Ocasionally, there will be meat on it, but since we were at the temple, we ate vegetarian.

Vegetarian bibimbap
Vegetarian bibimbap

After eating and taking a break to know each other better, we went on to Dongguk University, where the Buddha’s Rally (Eoulim Madang) was going to take place. Dongguk University is one of the most famous universities in Seoul, and it is affiliated to buddhism. From 15:00 to 17:00 we were dancing, singing (or lipdubbing) and laughing all together regardless of our age or nationality. It was refreshing and fun, moments of joy with people I had just met on that day.

With my friends Carole from France and Susan from the US.
With my friends Carole from France and Susan from the US.

Next was the Lantern parade. At this point I was already quite tired and preferred to see it from the outside, so I said thank you and bye to the temple volunteers and joined the masses along Jongno street to look at the thousands of lanterns passing in front of my eyes, perfectly aligned in a magical way. To put an end to a day full of events, there was a post-celebration with more singing and dancing, but I decided to skip this one and take some rest. Tomorrow, more!

Kids waiting to get into the Parade
Kids waiting to get into the Parade

Versión en Español:

¡He estado esperando por este festival casi por más de un año! El festival de los farolillos es una celebración budista en la cual toda Corea se llena de farolillos de colores, que se iluminan por la noche. Los templos están más bonitos que nunca, ya la gente celebra en las calles con bailes, actuaciones, y un desfile de farolillos. Lo mejor de todo, es que este año me apunté a formar parte de las celebraciones con el templo Myogaksa, donde hice un templestay en Diciembre (una estancia 2D1N en su templo).

Myogaksa es un templo muy chulo, en medio de la ciudad y en la base de la montaña Naksan. Está un poco escondida entre unas callejuelas cuesta arriba en el vecindario de Jongno, así que lo que más me sorprendió cuando fui por primera vez fue lo grande que es, a pesar de tener una fachada tan pequeña. Al entrar en el templo, a la derecha tendrás la sala principal donde se llevan a cabo diversos eventos, y a la izquierda su cocina/comedor. Si atraviesas la sala principal, llegas a un patio donde hay una sala de oraciones grande y un gran buda de piedra. Subiendo un par de escaleras desde el patio llegas a otro edificio donde está la administración, las habitaciones y los servicios.

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El patio con el buda de piedra
The temple once inside
El patio decorado con farolillos
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Sala de oraciones

En fin, el sábado por la mañana llegué al templo Myogaksa a las 9 porque teníamos que vestirnos y practicar unos bailes. Fui con una chica francesa que vino de vacaciones y estaba muy interesada en la cultura coreana, y con Susan, mi amiga de California que no había visto ¡desde hace meses! Nos vistieron y maquillaron por una hora más o menos, pero valió la pena, porque después parecíamos princesitas 🙂

Mimi costume
Mimi disfrazada ^^ La parte blanca es interior, aunque es lo que más me gustó 🙂
makeup
Maquillada y con una flor de loto lila en la mejilla 🙂

Después de vestirnos, aprendimos 2 bailes sencillitos y practicamos muchas veces hasta que nos sincronizamos bien todos con todos. Como premio, nos dieron de comer bibimbap, que es un plato muy coreano. El bibimbap consiste en un bol grande de arroz con varios tipos de verduras y setas encima. A veces lleva carne, pero como en los templos budistas se come vegetariano, solo nos pusieron el huevo frito.

Vegetarian bibimbap
Bibimbap vegetariano

Después de comer y hacernos más fotos, nos fuimos a la Universidad Dongguk, que es conocida por ser una de las mejores de Seúl, y ser budista. Ahí se celebra el Eoulim Madang, que es una fiesta en la que varios grupos estudiantiles y de los templos bailan y cantan, y luego hay una ceremonia budista. Estuvimos ahí de 3 a 5 y fue una experiencia única, refrescante, y divertida, donde gente de todas las edades y varias razas se convirtieron en uno solo.

With my friends Carole from France and Susan from the US.
Foto con Carole de Francia y Susan de EEUU

A continuación era el desfile de farolillos. Tras varias horas bailando y debajo del sol, nosotras tres decidimos que nos marchábamos, y que íbamos a ver el desfile desde fuera (sino, acabábamos a las 10 de la noche!) En el desfile, varios grupos caminan por la calle de Jongno con farolillos encendidos, formando un ambiente muy relajante y bonito. Tras el desfile, el día se cierra con una celebración post-desfile en el que hay más baile y cantos. A esto si que no fuimos y regresé a casa a descansar porque el domingo, ¡aún hay más!

Kids waiting to get into the Parade
Un grupo infantil preparado para unirse al desfile

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3 thoughts on “Lotus Lantern Festival Seoul 2015 (Part I)

  1. I am staying in gangam and wish to join this event to experience the korean culture. Where to look for more information?

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    1. Hi Malcolm!
      unfortunately this event happens once a year and it was last weekend. However, you can still go see lanterns at the main temples such as jogyesa near anguk station (line 3 orange ) or near gangnam there is bogeunsa, samseong station (line 2 green)

      if you want to experience temple life or templestay overnight, check their official site: http://eng.templestay.com

      i hope thay helps! 🙂

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