Samgwang-sa, Busan`s biggest temple

Samgwang-sa (삼광사) is known as Busan`s biggest temple and probably the best place in Busan to enjoy the celebration of Buddha’s birthday.

Prince Siddharta Gautama, later on better known as Buddha, was born around 563 BCE in Lumbini which is now Nepal. His birthday is celebrated on the 8th day of the fourth month (according to the lunar calendar) and for 2015 the celebration is scheduled on Monday May 25. It is one of Korea’s most important holidays, which means an extra day off for many Koreans.

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To me, Buddha’s birthday means ‘lanterns’, an abundance of lotus shaped lanterns !

Wherever you go in Korea you can see plenty of colorful lanterns decorating streets, bridges, shops and of course temples. Weeks in advance many volunteers prepare Buddha’s birthday by hanging colorful lanterns and creating all kind of pretty shaped light decorations.

The lanterns at the temple are sponsored by Koreans commemorating their beloved family members, who passed away. Their names are written at the long cards hanging at the bottom of the lanterns.

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So far I never had the chance to celebrate Buddha’s birthday in Korea.
In the past, when I visited Korea in springtime I often enjoyed the beautiful decorated temples Jogyesa and Bongeunsa in Seoul and I always wanted to attend the Lotus Lantern parade in Seoul. That was actually our plan for 2015  but unfortunately we had to cancel  it.

But since we are living close to Busan we took the opportunity to visit Samgwang-sa
temple in Seomyeon area.

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Two weeks ago we left in the early afternoon. After a short ride on the subway we got out at exit 11 of Seomyeon. Here we crossed the street and continued our trip on bus 81.
Ten minutes later we got of from the bus and we followed the signs directing us to the temple, which was only a 15 minutes away from the busstop.

The many lanterns decorating the side of the streets lead us to the temple located at the foot of Mt. Baekyangsan.  A short steep road brings you up to the temple. From a distance we saw already the massive buildings fully decorated with thousands of lanterns.

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Compared to other temples, this temple is relatively new. The Cheontae Buddhist order started to build it only in 1983. You can only find concrete buildings here. Since we came here quite early we had time enough to explore the temple complex. The layers of lanterns made it difficult for us to catch a glimpse of the architecture. However, we spotted a nice, 3 and a half meters tall bronze bell on the right, next to the main hall.

Some minutes after 7 pm the lights were switched on. Thousands of Lotus lanterns, and a wide range of paper shaped creations started to display their beautiful bright colors.

Especially the dragons above the entrance of the courtyard were quite impressive. They even moved their heads like if they were challenging each other while making roaring sounds !
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We tried to find a higher position to take a picture from the roof and so we ended up in to the Jikwan-jeon shrine hall, located on the left side of the courtyard. This hall  is quite impressive ! It looks almost like a stadium where many people can gather to attend Buddhist seminars or just to praying, but especially because of the thousands of small Buddha statues decorating a complete wall. Beside that it is also impressive to see how people come here to spend hours to pray and they even sleep here overnight !

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The many bright colors of lanterns create a such peaceful and tranquil atmosphere that we actually didn’t want to leave this beautiful place. Unfortunately it was time for us to go.

In front of the courtyard we hopped on a small local bus that brought us back to the busy life of the Lotte Departement store at Seomyeon station.

If you are living in or around Busan and you want to experience the Buddha’s birthday celebration then this temple is an absolutely must. Give it a try on Buddha’s birthday and probably you  would even get served free temple food !

For more pictures of  Samgwangsa look at : FLICKR.COM/K-MOOD

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