Saturday, 11 May 2013

The Very Colorful Lotus Lantern Parade!

One night in a year, on a cool spring evening, millions gather along the main street of Jongno to wait for hours the passing of the most colorful parade of lanterns ever!  Adults and kids alike pick a spot along the main street while sitting or standing in excitement awaiting their chance to enjoy the colors of the lanterns, costumes and the floats that are about to pass before them.

For me, it's just a quick ride from Hannam-dong on the Blue Bus 402, which stops near the Seoul Plaza and makes a U-turn as the main Gwanghwamun area is closed to vehicular traffic on the day of the Lotus Lantern Parade, which is part of the Yeon Deung Heo, the Lotus Lantern Festival of the Jogyesa Temple in Seoul. Everyone in Seoul must have thought of converging into the Jongno area, where the parade would end. 

The parade usually starts at the Dongdaemun area an hour or more before sundown and ends at the Jogyesa Temple when it's already dark and all the colors of their lanterns come alive in a spectacular feast of colors.

It's quite an experience watching the parade, but one has to be prepared to stand for hours because comfortable seating along the parade route is only rewarded to the early birds. So, for me, the long walk from the Seoul Plaza to the Jonggak Station area, and picking a spot along the road with my camera and steady legs which are prepared to stand frozen for hours would be a worthy sacrifice, not just to achieve nirvana, but also to share in the spectacle everyone else has come to enjoy. 

Every time I watch the parade, I always remind myself that the tiredness I get from standing there for hours could not be compared to the sacrifice the parade participants make considering that, while they're all attired in these colorful and full-length costumes, they also had to walk for kilometers from the staging site until they finish their route at the Jogyesa Temple, all these while carrying their lighted, colorful lanterns as they smile and wave to the crowd along the way.
(The guys inside this 'dragon' must be so fit to be able to 'dance' along the route for hours without any break! I wonder if they have alternates along the way.)
Lucky may be the participants selected to sit on the huge floats, but they also have to act the part of their float's motif waving and freezing a smile on their face for hours. 

And this year, on a Saturday, to celebrate Buddha's birthday, millions will be lining up the Jongno streets once more to delight   in the colors of the lanterns and the floats. And I will be there, too. But before I do, I should fill my tummy before I head there so as not be bothered by an empty stomach as I prep my legs to stand for hours and my eyes to feast on the the most colorful, the most enchanting display of lights, colors and creativity: the Lotus Lantern Parade in Seoul!

Here are the rest of the colorful photographs!

(I wonder how many weeks or months it took them to prepare this very intricate float, including the set-up of electricals. Great work!)

(She must maintain this pose for hours, I suppose.)

(This is my favorite photo of the night, which is not about the colorful lanterns, but of these monks and their shadows, walking, chanting and banging their drums amidst the whole frenzy of the parade, providing a different drama from all the blinding lights as if to send a message of prayer.)

(The roads leading to Jongno were closed to vehicular traffic. It was a weird feeling walking in the middle of the streets.)
(The Cheonggye-cheon is adorned and lighted with the lotus lanterns at night.)


  1. Hi! I discovered your blog lately and I've been back reading your posts from time to time. I'm a proud Pinoy too! One of my greatest dreams is to see South Korea. It may not happen now but your blog is educating and intensifying my dream to see the land of my favorite drama series :)

    Hope you are having a great weekend!

    1. Thank you for the the note, Diane! I'm always happy to hear from Pinoys. I am sure one day you will be able to set foot in the land of your favorite telenovelas, and maybe even see your favorite actors in person!

      Do have a fun summer, too!