The Kimchi-ite: Seoul’s Spectacular Lotus Lantern Festival

Every year, Buddha’s Birthday is marked in Korea by a sea of draped lanterns. The holiday itself is not until May 17 this year, but that has not stopped the festivities from starting early. Most streets surrounding Buddhist temples have a colorful array of lanterns strung from their lampposts. The temples themselves often feature an entire canopy created by a rainbow of lanterns. And as part of the festivities, a parade featured tens of thousands of lanterns in the shape of a lotus flower, an important symbol in Buddhism.

Seoul’s weather is now finally reaching that perfect equilibrium of sunshine and cool breezes, and the best place to see some of the city’s lanterns is at an outdoor exhibition on Cheonggye Stream.
The lanterns turn the already beautiful Cheonggye Stream into an absolutely dreamlike landscape. Skyscrapers dressed in flashing lights tower above as you walk along a tree-lined bubbling stream underneath a rainbow of paper lanterns. Couples and families walk around with nothing but smiles on their faces. There are no gimmicks here, no entrance fees and no celebrity appearances, just wonderful paper lanterns.

The wealth of colors of the paper lanterns play beautifully well off of the stream.

In the middle of the stream lie elaborate lanterns made of traditional Korean hanji paper that depict various aspects of Korean life, history and culture – including dragons, pagodas, wildlife, Buddhist ceremonies and traditional dances.

Located right in the heart of the city, Cheonggye Stream is one of the best places to visit in Seoul, with or without lanterns.

The lanterns depict various aspects of Korean and Buddhist culture.

Buddhism is an important aspect of Korea culture and is widely practiced throughout the peninsula.

Cheonggye Stream is an incredible place to just relax and hang out, with or without a festival.

Cheonggye Stream is one of the best places to visit in Seoul. Formerly a highway overpass, it was reconstructed into a stream in 2005 and has been wildly popular with locals and visitors ever since. It’s a truly unique place, similar in concept to the highline in New York, that cities across the world should take note of – a peaceful oasis in one of the world’s busiest cities that is also just around the corner from a 600-year-old palace, a neighborhood of traditional hanoks, the best book stores in Korea, an impressive arts center as well as the president’s residence.

Smaller lanterns depicting wildlife are scattered around the stream and represent more traditional lanterns.

While the Lotus Lantern Festival is definitely not to be missed, there is also another lantern festival on Cheonggye Stream of equal beauty, the Seoul Lantern Festival, which will be held in November this year.

To delve further into Korean culture, dig into the Kimchi-ite archives by clicking here.

Video of the Day – Thailand’s Yi Peng Festival via iPhone 4S

The Yi Peng festival is a special event in Northern Thailand that occurs on the 12th full moon of every year. Coinciding with Loi Krathong (a festival celebrated throughout Thailand) it is observed by lighting sky lanterns and letting them float into the sky, resulting in what appears to be large flocks of giant jellyfish floating through the air.

There have been many fantastic videos and pictures that capture this event, but today’s Video of the Day is especially stunning for one reason: it was completely shot on an iPhone 4S. Produced by Vimeo user Tada Archawong, it shows just how far a little color grading (with Magic Bullet Looks) and a great mobile camera can go.

So, adventurers; it may just be time to kiss your DSLR goodbye. If you’ve already said goodbye to traditional cameras in favor of mobile devices, we want to see what youv’e captured! Paste a link in the comments section below, or post pictures to our Flickr Pool – it could just be our next Photo/Video of the Day.

Taiwan: Taipei’s traditional Chinese Lantern Festival

In Taiwan, the annual traditional Chinese Lantern Festival kicked off in Taipei this past Friday to great fanfare. Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou launched this year’s festival, which features over three dozen enormous lanterns.

This year’s theme lantern is called “Baby.” It is almost 70 feet tall and is designed to serve as a symbol of fertility to encourage higher birth rates. Taiwanese technological sophistication is on display at this year’s Lantern Festival as well, with an interactive component designed to encourage direct participation.

Throughout, a rabbit theme predominates in 2011, an exciting year for Taiwan. The country turns 100 in 2011, and there are a number of official centennial celebrations planned throughout the year.

There are lantern festival variations across Taiwan. In Taipei’s Pingxi District, for example, participants write their names on lanterns and then release them into the sky for good luck and fortune, a practice that dates back to the Ching Dynasty.

Taipei’s Lantern Festival runs through February 20. Those eager to witness the kick-off of Taiwan’s Lantern Festival firsthand can always start making plans for 2012. Next year’s festival launches on February 6, 2012.

[Photo: Getty Images | Patrick Lin]


Photo of the Day (9/22/07)

Today’s photo of the day comes from Gadling reader weegolo who captured this colorful scene at the Lantern Festival in Singapore. I’m not sure which Lantern Festival it is, however. After doing some research, it seems like it’s the Mid-Autumn festival (which is also called the Lantern Festival), but this year’s event doesn’t start until September 25th. Maybe this installation was setup in preparation for the festival?

If you’d like to contribute a Photo of the Day shot for consideration, please visit our Gadling Flickr pool and upload your favorites.

Two Chinese New Year Performances

This weekend is still a big one for Chinese New Year since this is a 15-day holiday that ends with the Lantern Festival. It’s now going into its second week. In case you can’t get to a celebration this year, here are two performances that I’m sending to you. The first is of last year’s Chinese New Year festivities in Singapore. This one was in Chinatown. (Yes, Singapore does have a Chinatown.) Having been to a Chinese New Year festival in Taiwan, Singapore and Columbus, Ohio myself, I can say each have a similar look and sound, so turn up the volume and enjoy a real deal experience. At the end is a brief look at dining out after the show. Made me hungry. Thanks jinaye for the post.

Also, because the Lion Dance is not included in this particular video that presents snippets of various performances, here is a link to a Lion Dance performed by Ling Nam Siu Lum Kung Fu Academy last Chinese New Year and posted on You Tube by siulumkuen. Click on the more section for a detailed explanation about the performers and the Lion Dance.