Yeondeunghoe is an annual Buddhist cultural event held in South Korea from April to May. It first appeared in the Unified Silla period during the reign of King Gyeongmun in 866 AD, and has been passed down for nearly 1,200 years as a traditional Korean culture. It is designated as National Intangible Cultural Heritage No. 122 and is also listed as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Originally a Buddhist event, it has now become a festival where people of all religions, genders, and nationalities come together to enjoy.
“The Symbolism of Yeondeunghoe”
Here is what Yeondeunghoe symbolizes and the intention behind lighting the lanterns:
“What Yeondeunghoe Symbolizes”
Yeondeunghoe is an event where people light lanterns to celebrate and pray for the birth of Buddha, who pursued a wise life to create a better world for all. The term ‘Yeondeung (燃燈)’ means ‘to light a lamp,’ and through the light of wisdom that brightens the darkened mind [ignorance] caused by greed and attachment, it is hoped that the world and hearts will become illuminated and happy.
“The Intention Behind Lighting the Lanterns”
During the time of Buddha in India, a poor woman offered a small lantern filled with vows and sincerity at the place where Buddha’s relics were placed. It is said that even though the night grew darker and the wind blew, only this woman’s lantern did not go out. This is the story of ‘The Lantern of the Poor Illuminating the Darkness.’. Like this woman’s lantern offering, Yeondeunghoe lights the lanterns with sincerity and vows, hoping to brightly illuminate everyone’s hearts and the world. It can be said that it embodies the spirit of Yeondeunghoe that never goes out, even in the most difficult circumstances.
“Gwanghwamun Yeondeunghoe: Traditional Lantern Exhibition”
In the Gwanghwamun area, you can also find the Traditional Lantern Exhibition, which is part of the Yeondeunghoe event.
The exhibition runs from May 11th to May 28th, 2023, in Gwanghwamun Square, where various lanterns are displayed.
While passing through Gwanghwamun Square, I happened to come across the installed lanterns and was able to capture them in photos. Even though it wasn’t late at night, I could still enjoy the diverse array of lights emitted by the lanterns.
“Seoul Gwanghwamun: Gwanghwamun Yeondeunghoe (Traditional Lantern Exhibition)”
- Location: Gwanghwamun Square, Seoul
- Duration: May 11th, 2023 – May 28th, 2023