Friday, May 31, 2013

Posing with the Yellow Balloon

Couldn't resist capturing a quick snap of this cute girl with her yellow balloon posing in front of some lanterns at the Jogyesa Temple.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Lanterns Made by Little Hands

Located next to the Jogyesa Temple during the Lotus Lantern Festival was a tent displaying lanterns made by children. The variety of shapes, sizes, and techniques made it fun to look through and admire. Which is your favorite?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Friday, May 24, 2013

Dancers and SaJa Chum

As part of the festivities in honor of Buddha's Birthday, some traditional dancers and musicians performed on a street near the Jogyesa Temple. Dancing in this performance is the SaJa Chum, a lion. I had previously seen a performance of a white SaJa Chum lion, which traditionally connotes the driving out of evil spirits with power and might.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Rainbows All Around Me

After dropping off my lanterns and thanking the group for inviting me to march with them, I headed over to the Jogyesa Buddhist Temple. Walking through its gate with rainbow rows of lamps separated by those painted with scenes of dragons and koi fish, the scene failed to disappoint. Lanterns, some imprinted with comic-style Buddhist figures, were strung in precise rows above, nearly obscuring the night sky. Others created a niche around a large stone statue of a laughing Buddha, while a grouping of  lotus-shaped lanterns encircled the temple's stone pagoda. Paper tags dangled in the light breeze, breathing life in the rainbows. With such mesmerizing beauty, it was nearly impossible to capture a bad photo. 

See more photos of the Jogyesa Buddhist Temple on this festive occasion on my Flickr page.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Seoul Lotus Lantern Parade; Traditional with the Modern

Interspersed amongst the parade members wielding small lanterns and others banging drums were the large floats. Although traditional in theme, the sculpted hanji paper dragons, Buddhas, pagodas, haetae beasts, and elephants were also distinctively modern. Some of the exceptionally well-crafted pieces were animatronics; Dragons breathed out flames, rhinos appeared to walk, and an elephants moved their articulated trunks in and out. Truly magical. 
The next day, I saw some of the floats near the temple. Without illumination and the contrast of the night sky, they were still beautiful, but lacked the magic I had seen just hours before.  

See more floats from the Seoul 2013 Lotus Lantern Parade on my Flickr site

Friday, May 17, 2013

Marching in the Lotus Lantern Parade

I arrived at the Buddhist Cheer Rally not quite sure what the event would all entail, nor did I know what should/could do as a waguk who probably wouldn't understand a single word of what was said. I did know that it would be a colorful event and I was determined to capture it through my camera. I certainly didn't expect to be handed a metal pole containing two identical hanji paper lanterns and invited to march along in the Lotus Lantern Parade, starting from Dongguk University, through the busy streets including cultural Jongno Street, and ending up near Jogyesa Buddhist Temple.

With a lantern in one hand, bag around across the shoulder, and a camera in the other, I marched alongside Koreans who were carrying identical lamps. Each lamp had been outfitted with a tiny light powered by a D-volt battery - a nice modern touch to a tradition dating back over a thousand years. Behind our group was one of several rowdy bands playing folk-style music and twirling the streamer attached to their hat. 

With the parade going through major intersections of the metropolitan city of Seoul, traffic cops let a group of lanters through and then allowed some of the backed-up traffic cross. This gave me some precious moments to take some better photos, properly gripping the d-SLR camera with both hands in the now night sky. At some intersections, floats bearing large sculptural figurative lanterns also made out of hanji paper proceded to wiggle their way into the parade. The combination of traditional and modern, coupled with the neon lights of buildings and huge LG screen displays was quite spectacular. Crowds consisted of people of all ages and nationalities. They cheered the marchers on, many of them holding illuminated lamps of their own. As the parade neared the end, some of the lantern-bearers began to give their lamps to spectators. Some spectators, particularly expats, wiggled their way into the parade, adding their own flair.
Although I knew I missed seeing some of the spectacular floats (including one animatronic dragon that spewed flames) and scenes as seen from the sideline, I knew that marching in the parade was an exciting participatory experience that also gave me a photographic perspective not possible as a spectator. I definitely plan on returning to next year's parade, but perhaps as a spectator. Who knows? 

See more photos on my Flickr page.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Buddhist Cheer Rally

Yesterday afternoon I attended the Buddhist Cheer Rally at Dongguk University Stadium in Seoul. A prelude to the Lotus Lantern Parade (also in honor of the Buddha's birthday) that started a few hours later, the rally featured dancers and musicians young and old alike. While some of the costumes were slightly more traditional or conservative, the music was rather modern and all very upbeat. It was great seeing the adjumonies (older women) in the crowds, wearing their traditional hanbok dresses groovin' to the music. 
During the two-hour rally, the audience was served free water and gimbaps (sliced pieces of rice, tiny diced veggies and meat, rolled in seaweed - reminding me of sushi) and paper sun visors to keep off the afternoon sun. More photos to follow on Flickr!

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Flowing Skull

One of the more interesting and unusual sculptures at the 2013 Lotus Lantern Festival held by the Cheonggyecheon Stream in Seoul was this figure. Holding a skull that seemed to have representative water flowing into an open lotus, the figure was definitely intriguing. The sculpture reminded me of the Kali Puja festival I saw in Kolkata, India. Kali, a Hindu goddess who developed a taste for killing after she was asked to assist in slaying a menacing foe at a battle. She is depicted with a garland of heads of her victims, as well as carrying a recently decapitated head.  

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Seoul 2013 Lotus Lantern Festival

As a prelude to the birthday celebrations of Buddha, the Cheonggycheon stream in Seoul has once again been transformed into a lantern wonderland. Made from silk, traditional hanji paper, and other materials, the lanterns could better be described as glowing, delicate sculptures. In early November, a more contemporary Lantern festival took place in the same location. Wedding scenes, horsemen, gates of Seoul, children from around the world, and Korean cartoon characters were amongst some of the many lanterns in fall. On the way home from Bible Study, we took a quick walk through part of the displays. Although I only had my cell phone camera with me, these photos should give you a bit of an idea of what beautiful lanterns were displayed. At the Lotus Lantern Festival, we saw dragons emerging from a drum, lotuses and hands in the namaste pose, cranes, and mythical-looking Buddhist scenes.

For more information on the 2013 Lotus Lantern Festival, visit Korea's tourism site.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Spring at Seoul Foreign School

Here are the first of hopefully more photos of spring, as seen on campus at Seoul Foreign School. The azaleas are starting to bloom, so once they seem to hit their peak, I'll try to get some shots of them as well.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Spring Beauty in My Backyard

After a rather long winter with an unusually large snowfall (including a "snow day" at school), residents of Seoul began emerging from the warmth of their ondol-heated homes to enjoy early signs of spring. Forsythias and magnolias were some of the first flowering trees and bushes to herald the arrival of spring. The real show-stoppers though were the cherry blossoms. Festivals throughout the country were held in honor of these blooming beauties that transformed parkes, walkways, and hillsides into a delicate, fleeting, display of the lightest tints of pink. On some early evenings after school, I managed to capture some of the splendors of spring in Seoul. Yonsei University, located on the same hill as Seoul Foreign School where I work and live, provided plenty of photographic opportunities.