Saturday, May 30, 2015

Lotus Lantern Festival - Tibetan Mandalas

As part of the Lotus Lantern Festival in Seoul, Buddhism from different parts of the world were in attendance. Some Tibetan monks painstakingly collaborated on a mandala. I went back several times to check on their progress. 

Such incredible, temporary art, reminding me of the kolams painted in front of South Indian homes & businesses.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Seoul Lotus Lantern Festival - Pencil Lines and Brush Strokes

Although I find the night illuminated lanterns to be magical, I still enjoy looking at them during the daylight. Such viewing enables me to see the brilliant paint carefully applied on the delicate, but strong hanji paper. Pencil lines revealed the hand-drawn nature of the patterns. A slight bulge of the supportive framework is also noted.

All lined up as if parked at the Jogyesa Temple.

Lantern display at night in front of the Jogyesa Temple

Daytime view

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Blooms on the Grounds

Although the buildings at Changgyeonggung Palace are not that impressive (many were destroyed by the Japanese during unsuccessful invasions and later during colonial rule), this Seoul palace does have some pretty grounds. I find it to the be the prettiest in spring when the azaleas are in bloom. 

More azaleas on the path leading up to the glass house beyond Chundangji Pond

Spring abounds just beyond the Chundangji Pond.

Devoid of any buildings (Japanese demolished the royal carriages & livery stable area to make space for a zoo stable), the Gwolnaegaksa area now contains many tall bushes and trees. Fuchsia, pink and magenta were the colors of the day.

I love the twisted juniper tree, contrasting with the blooms and brick wall.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Happy Birthday, Buddha!

Quite the party getup, eh? These ladies (some were definitely older) donned their delicate whites and pinks to celebrate Buddha's birthday, as part of the Lotus Lantern Festival.
Buddha seems to be an especially good mood after being presented with a tasty snack. 

Inside the Jogyesa Temple

Friday, May 22, 2015

Jogyesa Temple - Lotus Lantern Festival

After the Lotus Lantern Festival Parade finished, we headed down to Jogyesa Temple. This was a similar itinerary to the last time I attended the festival. Once again, this downtown temple did not disappoint. Hanji paper sculptures illuminated the entryway to the Buddhist temple, welcoming all. 

Beautiful painted lanterns of varying sizes and shapes adorned the gate's ceiling. 

Lanterns of every color spread over the complex like a rainbow canopy. Having documented the array of lanterns quite well last time, I took far fewer photos. 
Tags from the mass-produced lanterns fluttered in the breeze. If you had 30,000 won (around $28), you could get your name on one as well.

Devotees and visitors alike took turns pouring water over a small golden statue of Buddha.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Human Figures floats at the Lotus Lantern Festival Parade 2015

In addition to the many animals featured in the Lotus Lantern floats, humans were another popular subject. Some were more realistic, and others had a more cartoon or animated look to them. In quite a few, the human figures interacted with animals. Some of these floats were quite large and/or intricate. All were very impressive and quite beautiful. And to think they were made out of paper...

See more from the Lotus Lantern parade on my Flickr.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Lotus Lantern Parade 2015: Illuminated Hanji Animal Floats

In addition to the myriad of smaller lanterns that participants carried on poles, the Lotus Lantern Parade in Seoul also featured some very impressive floats. Also made from the same hanji handmade paper as the lanterns, many of the floats were of animals. Most were pushed along by dedicated volunteers who grasped the long handles placed on the sides and/or front & back. A few were pulled by a scooter, but somehow an electric motor just seemed out of place.   

Many of the floats had Buddhist symbols prominently displayed. Others weren't quite as apparent to me. Irregardless, they were enjoyed by all.

As the daylight faded, the illumination became more apparent, and the true beauty emerged. 

Which is your favorite?
See more of my Lotus Lantern Festival parade photos on Flickr.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Seoul Lotus Lantern Festival Parade - Marching with the Lanterns

Two years ago, I found myself marching in Seoul's Lotus Lantern Parade. This annual parade is kickoff for the annual celebration of Buddha's birthday and is a very popular event for locals and foreigners alike, regardless of religious affiliation. Everybody loves a parade!

During the nearly two-hour long parade, people of all ages marched, carrying lanterns of all shapes and varied sizes. Some were lit by candles, while others used a more modern (and safer) methods such as 9-volt batteries. 

This time I wanted to be a spectator and actually "see" more of the parade; a very different viewpoint and experience. Along with some friends, we staked out a coffee shop with an open second-story window; perfect for seeing the events below without any of the jostling, along with the benefits of drinks service, a soft chair, and access to the restroom. 

Most of the lanterns would have been made out of hanji paper (thin, but strong traditional Korean paper made from mulberry fibers). Some, such as the lotus lanterns above, would have dyed tissue paper covering the main hanji shell. The sheer artistry of the lanterns in such varied shapes and colors is quite amazing.

Stay tuned for more photos of the Lantern Festival!

Preparing for Buddha

It's all about timing. The other week, I timed it quite well, arriving early in the morning (great light, not many people) to find the azaleas in their glory as well as many lanterns strung in anticipation for Buddha's Birthday. The vibrant colors of the bushes, combined with the rainbow rows of lanterns, set against the pretty temple buildings and lush landscape was a feast for the eyes. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Temporal and Long-lasting Fixtures at Chunggyeonggung

Nestled under the shade of some tall trees around Chundangji Pond within the grounds at Chunggyeonggung Palace is a 7-story stone pagoda. It is actually Chinese in origin and was brought to Korea in 1470. Its neutral colors contrasted beautifully with the bold spring colors of the blossoming azaleas and emerging leaves of the willows. A harmony between temporal and ancient.
Gwancheondae  - Astronomical Observatory
On the opposite side of the palace grounds is another stone structure. Gwancheondae is an astronomical observatory built in 1688.

Life is never worthless - Dealing with the Death of a Child

After hearing a prayer request of a faculty member whose family will soon be delivering a child with an "always fatal" prognosis, I decided to repost a published article written by my sister and me. Despite receiving the devastating news early on in the pregnancy that their daughter Anastasia had a fatal condition, Michelle and her husband were blessed with the opportunity to deliver and hold their baby for one hour. Although frail, Anastasia was a powerful witness to God's love. The article also includes some advice on how to respond to families who are dealing with the loss of a child.

Perhaps it will be of comfort to others faced with this difficult situation.

Life is never worthless  - Published in Forward in Christ magazine, August 2006

Though she lived outside the womb for only an hour, God blessed us through Anastasia.
The 20-week ultrasound is an exciting event for couples expecting a child. It is the first opportunity to glance at fingers and toes, and maybe even to begin planning for “pink or blue.” As we went for our routine ultrasound this past October, this was the excitement that we were anticipating. We never envisioned how much this ultrasound would change our lives.

Our hearts sank when two doctors walked into the room. “There’s no good way to tell you this . . .,” one began. Our daughter had a serious developmental defect called anencephaly. He went on to explain that our baby’s skull had not completely formed. As a result, her brain would not fully develop. There is no treatment. It is always fatal.

These words had barely sunk in before we were asked what our decision would be. The conversations that followed suggested many reasons for aborting our child, but always ended with the words, “But it’s your choice.” A pretty-looking book was placed in our hands. This book, under the guise of giving comfort, was testimony upon testimony of mothers who had aborted their children. Only two short stories were included where life was chosen.

Hearing our daughter’s prognosis was devastating. Many expected us to abort. Yet we knew that her life was as precious and meaningful as everyone else’s. Abortion was not a choice. God had created her and had a deliberate purpose in mind. Jesus died to give her eternal life. So she was named Anastasia Grace. Anastasia, for the resurrection that comes through Christ. Grace, that we acknowledge we deserve no favor from God because of our sin.

Annie’s kicks were initially a sorrowful reminder of what was to come. However, they quickly became endearing—a little “Hello,” “Good morning,” or “Good night” for both of her parents and occasionally a kick for her brothers as well. Our hearts were breaking knowing that she was facing death, but we had the confidence that she was completely in the care of the boundless love of Christ.

While I was holding Annie in my womb, our wonderful family and friends were holding us, both through their support and prayers. We were humbled to be the subject of so many prayers and marveled at how awesome it was to see Christian love in action. God also allowed us to see that he was using Annie’s precious life as many people dear to us reported that they had shared her story, witnessing the truths of God’s Word to those around them.
Though she lived outside the womb for only an hour, God blessed us through Anastasia.
Anastasia continued to be a powerful witness on Feb. 3, the day of her birth—and death. Although specialists told us that she was incapable of having any senses, our little girl let every nurse know that she was aware of their efforts to track her. Every time they attempted to gauge her heartbeat, she kicked their instruments and gave them an earful. Every one of them also knew the meaning of her name and our first priority upon birth. As soon as her daddy cut her cord, she was whisked to the prepared basin to be baptized.
Though she lived outside the womb for only an hour, God blessed us through Anastasia by giving us a clearer vision to the importance of life, the power of prayer, and the victory of baptism. We are grateful God gave her to us, and we await the day when we will see her again at our Savior’s side.
Timothy and Michelle Klemp are members at Resurrection, Verona, Wisconsin.

A letter to Anastasia from her Aunt Melissa Enderle:
Dear Anastasia,
Although you were alive outside the womb for only an hour, you have touched the lives of many. Despite the recommendation by doctors to have a “selective termination of pregnancy,” your parents chose to give you a chance at life—no matter how short it would be. Through baptism, you became a child of God. An hour later, you joined your Savior in heaven.
At your funeral, there still were tears shed. For me and likely for many others, it was the first funeral of a child I had attended. Seeing your tiny coffin was a reminder of how precious life really is and how every birth really is a miracle. Some of the tears were shed out of sadness, as your presence would be missed. But they were also tears of joy, knowing that you are now safely in Jesus’ loving arms.
Your life has a purpose. In our human understanding and insight, we don’t know fully what that will be. From the time of that fateful ultrasound up until the present, your story and your family’s faith has been strengthened and shared with others, both in person and through the Internet. Blood samples were taken after your birth and will hopefully contribute to the medical understanding and prevention of anencephaly. Perhaps a stronger support system will be formed for expectant parents facing similar situations. As God said to the apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). Trust in God’s grace and wisdom will carry us through even these most difficult of times.
Your eyes, gray and unseeing on earth, now eagerly are on the lookout, anticipating the time when you and your family will be reunited in heaven.
Looking forward to seeing you again.
Your loving aunt,

Though she lived outside the womb for only an hour, God blessed us through Anastasia.

How you can respond to families who have lost a child
  • Don’t avoid them, even though knowing what to say is difficult. A simple “I’m so sorry. I will pray for you. What can I do to help?” is comforting. It is also okay to admit that you are unsure of what to say.
  • Offer comfort from God’s Word, but try to avoid phrases such as “It must have been God’s will” or “Your baby must have been sick anyway” or “At least you have (or will have) other children.” This minimizes loss, implying that the parents should immediately move on and forget their sad experience. Sorrow is natural when people lose a child—it is not a lack of faith.
  • Treat the loss as you would any other loss of a loved one. Send a comforting card or letter with Scripture; deliver meals; send flowers; or call to say, “How are you?”
  • Be available to talk, to listen, or to give a comforting hug. Those who lose a child are experiencing a wide variety of emotions—anger, hurt, sorrow, guilt. They may need someone to talk to who will listen in a non-judgmental way. But also be sensitive to the times when they don’t feel like talking.
Ann Jahns

Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Walk Around Chundangji Pond

My favorite area within Changgyeonggung Palace is the pond known as Chundangji. The smaller of the two ponds here is the original one, dating back to the Joseon Dynasty. The larger one seen in these photos was built on the site which was once covered with eleven rice paddies which were tended to by the king himself. This pond was built by the Japanese in 1909 for the public to enjoy boating. Although boats no longer float along its serene surface, Chundangji remains a popular place for visitors to walk on the paths around its shores, have a picnic, or feed the ducks/fish.