Traditionally, May is a month with a couple of holidays, like Children’s Day and Parents Day, but probably the most famous one is Buddha’s birthday. This special occasion takes place on the 8th day of the 4th month of the lunar calendar. For 2016, Buddha`s birthday is scheduled on Saturday, May 14.
To honor Buddha`s birthday many Buddhist related events are organized nationwide.
The most spectacular event to attend is the ‘Lotus lantern festival‘ or ‘Yeon Deung Hwe‘, which is held usually one week ahead of Buddha`s official birthday. People from all over the world gather in Seoul and other Korean cities, like Busan, to attend the fantastic Lotus lantern parade.
In order to organise this giant events every Buddhist community prepares lanterns.
The beautiful lanterns that you can see during the parade are really amazing pieces of art.
I was always interested and curious how to make such a beautiful lantern. In the Buddhist shops around Insadong I often had the desire to buy these beautiful coloured hanji papers so I could make my own lotus flower. But until last week I had no idea how to make them.
So I was quite happy to have the chance to attend a ‘Lotus lantern making event’ offered by the Hongbeop temple in Busan. This temple, located in Geumjong, Dugu-dong Busan, offers free events for foreigners on a monthly base. They usually take place at the 3rd Sunday of the month. Last week, about 10 foreigners and 10 Koreans showed up at a sunny afternoon. The lantern making event took place in a room above the main hall of the temple.
Hanji paper in different colors, glue, brushes etc were all displayed and ready to use on different tables. An expert in making lotus lanterns was invited for this event and she gave us a brief introduction. She explained the meaning of the Lotus flower which refers to the purity of the mind. Lotus flowers are commonly seen in Korean Buddhist art and literature.
We started with the octagonal shaped lantern. This was quite easy.
First we wrote our personal wish on the outside of the paper before spreading the glue evenly at the inside. One by one we attached the sheets of paper to the metal frame. It took us less than 15 minutes to complete the first lantern. While we were busy working on our lanterns the abbot of the Hongbeop temple came in to check our work and to greet us.
We continued with the second lantern, a lotus flower. This one was definitely not so easy as the first one. For this lotus lantern we started to add a layer of 4 leaves on a small paper cup. For the 2nd and 3rd layer we had to use 5 pieces for each layer. The last layer, the green bottom leaves of the lotus, was made out of 6 pieces. I tried to work precisely and I amazed myself by working so concentrated and ‘zen’ on my lantern. With some extra hints from the expert the result turned out to be pretty good.
The time past so fast and at 4 pm we had to clean up our tables before we had a small talk over some tea and traditional rice cakes and fruit. At 5 pm it was time to wrap up the 210th monthly event of the Hongbeop temple but not before we made a group picture.
It was another nice afternoon and I finally learned how to make a lotus lantern. Besides that I had a great time with some people that I just met for the first time.
If you ever have the chance to attend an event at Hongbeop temple … just do it !
There are plenty of reasons to go there and you won’t regret. A free shuttle bus picks you up at the Nopo subway station and brings you to the temple.
The temple people are happy to welcome foreigners and make your stay comfortable !
Thanks to Hongbeopsa for giving us this great oppurtunity !