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Destination: Lotus Lantern Parade / Buddha’s Birthday parade (downtown Seoul)

May 23, 2012 - Chris Backe

ONE nice thing about living in Seoul is the annualized rituals. The big ceremony at Jonggak in downtown Seoul to welcome the new year; the cherry blossoms in Yeouido, and the lantern parade for Buddha’s Birthday.

One fairly common display, beyond the lanterns, are the devout.

And then there’s the… oh, what’s the best way to say this… mainstream approach to the lantern festival. In this day and age nothing quite says mainstream like Angry Birds.

Here there be a lion – symbolic of the bodhisattvas.

It’s an interesting blend of devout and – there’s that word again – mainstream approaches to a modern lantern festival. To be sure, last year’s parade featured many of the same figures and lanterns seen this time around.

Good to see some young people and traditional Korean instruments together.

Not every lantern display was a Goliath size, of course – this one seemed to fit just fine in the back of a truck.

More than a few stores were working double shifts to get all the hanbok ready, I’m sure.

Mala (at least in the Tibetan tradition): big wooden beads bracelets – or at least, the lantern variety.

The dragon is back, bringing with it a couple dozen pairs of shoes to help it run.

One of the more elaborate floats.

While it’s easy to look up, there’s something to be said about the dozen of so below, pushing the cart up the streets.

You are the Buddha – the display rotated through plenty of faces. Not sure if the guy in the shiny suit just arrived on the planet, or if a flame-retardant suit was necessary for the job.

The university student approach to the parade – create your display, then attach it to an IV pole.

Peacocks, apparently, breathe smoke inside of fire.

The 지국천왕 (ji-guk-cheon-wang) – one of the four guardian devas, this one from the east.

With over two hours of people walking by, there’s a certain sense of boredom that begins to set in a little halfway through. I do wish that in future events the parade be a little tighter. It was fairly well managed as the floats reached the stage, although we didn’t stay for the after-show this time around.

Ratings (out of 5 taeguks - How do I rate destinations?):

Ease to arrive:

Foreigner-friendly:

Convenience facilities:

Worth the visit:

Agoda

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