Jogyesa Temple – Lotus Lantern Weekend Part ii


After checking out the Lantern Festival Parade on Saturday night, on Sunday May 8th, 2016 we ventured back over to Insadong to check out Jogyesa (a Temple near the large palace in Seoul called Gyeongbokgung).  I must have been completely turned around, because all this time I thought that Insadong and Namdaemun were far East of Dongdaemun.  Turns out they’re West, and had we actually followed the parade we would have found ourselves at Jogyesa.  “To enter the temple Jogyesa have to go through first Iljum or the one pillar gate. The Iljumun is an entry that represents is the division that separates the mortal world the world of Buddha.”

In Insadong it’s pretty popular to rent and wear a Hanbok, the traditional Korean dresses and suits as seen in the images above.  Korean couples love to get dressed up and wander around the old, traditional towns, as well as the Palaces and the Temples.  All this was amplified by the hoopla of Buddha’s Birthday Weekend which has been celebrated as a festival since the Unified Silla era over 1,300 years ago.  Yep – he gets the whole weekend, the festival, the parade, and all the beautiful lantern displays at nearly every temple the month leading up to his birthday and for for many, the weeks beyond (at Jogyesa they’ll be around until May 22nd).  I guess it’s like leaving your Christmas lights up on your front porch all year long, just a lot less honky-tonk and a lot more beautiful!

Lanterns displayed en masse around the smiling, laughing, baby Buddha were a sight to behold.  The temple was established in 1395 (Joseon Dynasty), and being that the neighbourhood surrounding various historical sites is actually the financial district and City Hall, it’s an amazing juxtaposition of old and new that I’ve come to love in Korea, particularly in Seoul.

Visit Korea describes Jogyesa here:

“Jogyesa Temple is the center of Zen Buddhism in Korea, and is famous for being located in the city. From the busy streets of Jongno, follow the road towards Anguk Subway Station, and you will see Jogyesa Temple. The first thing you will notice at the temple are the lovely trees. These locust trees and baeksong trees in front of the Daeungjeon, the main temple building, are about 500 years old. One locust tree is about 26-meter high, and in the summer, provides a large amount of shade to enhance the mood of the temple. The baeksong tree is designated as a Natural Monument.”

…maybe it’s just me, but 500 year-old trees who have survived various wars and still hold their ground sure beat the rocks, upon rocks, upon rocks of the pre-historic era of the National Museum.20160508_173733


We hadn’t initially intended to go to another Lantern Festival, it just kind of happened.  The idea was to go to the Hanok villages, but we couldn’t resist checking out Jogyesa since it was such a short distance from the subway.  I wondered why there were so many colourful and exciting lanterns, and a large section of white ones.  I don’t remember ever having seen so many rows of pure, white lanterns at any other temple.  After doing some research while editing photos, I found out that White Lanterns are made for people who have died.  On a small tag beneath the lantern, a name is written along with a wish the writer hopes to carry in their heart.

On Buddha’s Birthday, there is also the tradition of bathing the Buddha.  This ritual highlights a universal message that “it’s easy to wash away physical dirt but it’s much more difficult to cleanse one’s ‘inner dirt’ of greed, anger and ignorance.”  Pour water over small Buddha statue 3 times.  While pouring the water, say:

  • -1st wash: “May I eliminate all evil thoughts.”
  • -2nd wash: “May I cultivate good deeds.”
  • -3rd wash: “May I help save all living beings.” 

– Bathing Buddha

As the sun began to set, the big lanterns and floats from Saturday night’s parade lined up to head out into Insadong for a final show, and what I would later find out was the journey down Cheonggyecheon Stream I had been so excited to see (Google told me that that was a different lantern festival in Seoul in November).  Jogyesa redeemed my expectations of the Lotus Lantern Festival in Seoul.  If you only have one day to check out lanterns, make sure to go on the Sunday and follow the parade from the Temple to the Stream.  For me, I guess I could always revisit the Temple over the next few days and make a wish to see it all next year.

11 Comments Add yours

  1. Kerri says:

    Great read. It was very interesting to learn about the white lanterns and how they were for those who were deceased. Great colours, great culture and I am sure it was fabulous to be part of.

  2. thetravelpockets says:

    I had no idea about the white lantern and it’s meaning. I also love events that bring out traditional clothing. Can tourists also rent and wear the Hanbok? Or is it something that is only appropriate for the natives?

  3. Out of all the lanterns, the white ones look so pretty. I’d also probably just end up there without intending to go since it’s in a busy area.

  4. Very interesting to read about this festival and the temple because it shares some similarities with festivals in Thailand but at the same time, quite different.

    Loved learning about it through you.

  5. Jo says:

    This looks amazing. I love the vibrant colors int he pictures. I am not really a “temple person” but Jogyesa does look quite interesting. Were there many monks there?

    1. I didn’t actually happen upon any monks while I was there, but at the Jade Buddha Temple in Shanghai I happened upon some monks singing and playing music. It was unbelievable!

  6. Vyjay Rao says:

    I am fascinated by Buddhism and Zen Buddhism and fount this post very interesting. There is a lot of similarities between Hinduism and Buddhism as Buddha before becoming The Buddha, was a Hindu prince. the ritual of bathing with water thrice is a ritual that is an integral part of Hindu worship.

  7. Live Learn Venture says:

    This looks like an awesome event — I love all the colors — but I especially enjoy the white lanterns. I like visiting Insadong when I’m in Seoul 🙂 There always seems to be something fun going on!!

  8. casstravels says:

    The lanterns are gorgeous! I love all of the colours – and I had no idea the meaning behind the white ones. I’ve never been anywhere like this – I’d love to experience it one day 🙂

  9. Danielle Des says:

    Loved that you added an educational component to this post, I really enjoyed learning about the tradition of washing the buddhas. The white lanterns are my favorite — they remind me of purity.

  10. PaigeBrown says:

    This is SERIOUSLY incredible! I would love to be in Asia for Buddha’s birthday celebrations, and this particularly looks gorgeous. I’m usually more drawn to big and bright, but those white lanterns are so beautiful and really caught my eye. I had never heard of washing the Buddha statues – I love learning more about the hundreds of different ways this religion celebrates varying across cultures. Thank you so much for sharing your experience at this stunning temple!

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