Buddha’s Birthday: Lotus Lantern Festival

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The 8th day of the 4th lunar month is Buddha’s birthday and temples across the world light up to celebrate the occasion. Korea is no exception, hanging thousands of colourful lanterns across the country ready for the Lotus Lantern Festival.

We travelled south to Korea’s second largest city, Busan, to check out the Lotus Lantern Festival at Samgwangsa Temple (삼광사).

The 'Yeon Deung Hoe Festival,' it's said to feature thousands of different types of lanterns

Known by locals as the ‘Yeon Deung Hoe Festival,’ it’s said to feature thousands of different types of lanterns

Colourful lanterns line Samgwangsa Temple

In the days leading up to Buddha’s Birthday, Samgwangsa Temple is decorated with lanterns of all shapes, sizes and colours.

We arrived around 20:00pm and were blown away by the thousands of lotus shaped lanterns strung across the temple grounds as far as the eye could see.

A vibrant blanket of lanterns cover the temple grounds

A vibrant blanket of lanterns cover the temple grounds

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Without sounding too cheesy, it really was quite breathtaking (but we couldn’t help feeling a bit sorry for whoever has got to take them all down.)

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A sea of colour sweeping over the temple

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The festival is said to attract thousands of visitors from across the globe. Buddhism, along with Christianity, is one of the main two religions practiced in Korea.

Visitors praying and leaving gifts for the Buddha as a sign of respect

Visitors praying and leaving gifts for the Buddha as a sign of respect

It took us around two hours to stroll around the temple. We visited on a Friday evening; it was quite busy, but not uncomfortable. The festival would be much less crowded during the day, but the site definitely comes to life after dark.

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Samgwangsa Temple is one of many Buddhist temples in Korea

Samgwangsa Temple is one of many Buddhist temples in Korea

If you happen to be in Korea during Buddha’s birthday, don’t miss your chance to see this majestic sight.

Rating 8/10: We’d definitely recommend a trip to the Lotus Lantern Festival, the views were breathtaking. However, after walking around the temple and admiring the lanterns there wasn’t much else to do or see, so don’t expect this festival to keep you occupied for much longer than a couple of hours. If you can’t make it to Busan, there’s also a lantern festival and parade that takes place in Seoul.

When: Around April/May, keep an eye on Visit Korea for specific dates.

How to get there: Come out of Seomyeon subway station exit 11, take bus no.5 (around 20 minutes) or a taxi (about 5,000 won.) There’s a steep hill leading up to the temple and many steps throughout the grounds.

Where to stay: We think Seomyeon is the closest district to the temple by distance. Although taxis are cheap and there’s a good public transport system available in Korea, so wherever you choose to stay in Busan you’ll be able to find your way to the Lotus Lantern Festival with ease.

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