Last year, we spent Buddha’s Birthday at Haedong Yonggungsa, a seaside temple in Busan. (Click here to check out the post!) It was an unforgettable experience, with the smell of incense combining with the scents of sea, and the sight of the brightly-colored lanterns hanging against the rocky coastline. This year, we spent Buddha’s Birthday in the midst of the bustling city, at Jogyesa Temple in Insadong.
Jogyesa Temple is the center of Zen Buddhism in Korea, so it’s pretty much the center of Buddha’s Birthday celebrations in Seoul.
The lanterns hadn’t been turned on yet when we arrived, but the temple was absolutely brimming with people, and the sounds of monks chanting could be heard over loudspeakers across the temple grounds. The ceremony was also being filmed for live television, so there were speakers, cranes, and television screens set up around the main hall.
Since we couldn’t get anywhere near the main hall, we wandered around the temple grounds instead, enjoying listening to the monks’ solemn chants and seeing the multitudes of lanterns.
Most of the visitors at Haedong Yonggungsa were wearing hiking clothes or jeans and t-shirts, but at Jogyesa, many people had made an effort. There were lots of women in brightly-colored hanbok, and many of the men were wearing suits.
This flower-covered fountain housed a miniature Buddha figurine, which people could line up to pour water over.
As the sky darkened, the lanterns finally came on, and the temple grounds became super magical-looking.
This celebration takes weeks of preparation, but it’s so totally worth it!
There were so many wonderful handmade lanterns hanging around the temple grounds, ranging from small and simple ones to the huge and complex.
This massive lantern of a dragon draped over a drum with a monk playing it was by far my favorite. The circular spiral inside the drum actually rotated!
If you ever plan on taking a trip to Korea, you have got to come over for Buddha’s Birthday; it is by far Korea at its most bright and beautiful!