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Photos: A Dangsan Tree (당나무) on Daeboreum (대보름)

Dangsan Tree on Daeboreum Holiday in Gyeongju

Dangsan Tree on Daeboreum Holiday in Gyeongju

If you’ve checked your calendar recently, you might have noticed that last Monday night was a full moon.  In fact, it was the first full moon after Seollal (설날), or Lunar New Years , here in Korea, which marks it as the holiday of Daeboreum (대보름).   Daeboreum has been traditionally celebrated with a massive bonfire , music, and dancing, making it one of my favorite Korean holidays.  In fact, I’ve already posted twice on Daeboreum, with both photos and video of the Gyeongju’s Daeboruem bonfire a few years back, so I won’t say too much here about the holiday itself. read more »

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2011 Spring Events: Cherry Blossoms, Marathon, Liquor Festival, Martial Arts and More

Gyeongju Cherry Blossoms

Gyeongju Cherry Blossoms

It’s finally beginning to feel a bit like spring around Gyeongju, which means we’re just days away from that magical season when the cherry trees begin to bud and then blossom.  Entire streets in Gyeongju turn into marshmallow wonderlands and romantic couples stroll through flurries of pink petals.  I already posted last spring on some of the best places in town to check out the cherry blossoms, like at Kim Yu-shin’s tomb and the ruins of Banwolseong fortress, so I won’t repeat myself here.  Korea’s wizards of meteorology have gazed into their crystal balls and have predicted Gyeongju’s cherry flowers (벚꽃)  will begin blossoming between now and April 8th and that the peak season this year should be April 6th – 15th. read more »

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Winter News: Martial Arts Demos, AREX and More

Seonmudo Demo, Golgulsa Temple (photo by Andrew Peet)

Seonmudo Demo, Golgulsa Temple (photo by Andrew Peet)

If you’ve not seen the signs around town recently, Golgulsa Temple (골굴사) has started hosting daily demonstrations of Seonmudo (선무도), or “Zen Martial Arts.”   Golgulsa has been the center of a Seonmudo revival over the last few decades, so the demos are free and are scheduled for both 11 am and 3 pm every day except Monday.  I’ve visited Golgulsa many times over the years and have had the pleasure of seeing a few demos before (in fact I posted a video of one back in August).   But my brother-in-law was visiting last week, so we stopped by to check it out on our way back from King Munmu’s tomb at the coast. read more »

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Dongguk University Lantern Lighting: 2010 Highlights

Samulnori Dancers, Dongguk University Gyeongju

Samulnori Dancers, Dongguk University Gyeongju

I mentioned a few weeks ago Dongguk University held it’s lantern-lighting ceremony in honor of Buddha’s Birthday on April 29th.  As it turned out, the 29th was also declared a National Day or Mourning in honor of the 46 sailors who died in the sinking of the “Cheonan” on March 26th. Unfortunately this meant all celebrations had to be canceled or seriously toned down out of respect for the solemnity of the occasion.   The ceremony still went on, but without the usual festive barrage of balloons, lanterns and fireworks. read more »

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Special Events for Buddha’s Birthday (석가탄신일): Friday, May 21st

Coming up in about a week and a half is my absolute favorite holiday in Korea: Seokga Tanshinil (석가탄신일), or Buddha’s Birthday.   Every temple in Korea celebrates Buddha’s Birthday one way or another.  Most hang lanterns, have special ceremonies and serve a special group lunch or dinner for parishioners.  A few of the larger or more historically important temples will host special musical performances or hold a lantern parade in the evening, just after sun down.

This year, Seokga Tanshinil falls on Friday, May 21st.  In Gyeongju, there are 3 particularly special events that happen for Buddha’s Birthday that shouldn’t be missed.  If you’ve got a car, or you’re adventurous with public transit, you could easily hit all 3: read more »

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Dongguk Lantern Lighting Ceremony: Thursday, April 29th

Dongguk University Lantern Parade 2009

Dongguk University Lantern Parade 2009

We’re almost to the end of April which means we’re just a month away from my favorite Korean Holiday: Buddha’s Birthday, or Seokgatanssinil (석가탄신일). This year Buddha’s Birthday falls on Friday, May 21st and all of the temples around town are getting ready to hang their lanterns.  As a Buddhist school, Dongguk University is preparing for its annual lantern-lighting ceremony this Thursday evening, April 29th.  It’s open to the public, so if you’re local or passing through town this Thursday, you should definitely come down and check it out.  I went last year and it was pretty cool.  read more »

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Daeboreum (대보름) Full Moon Bonfire Festival

Daeboreum Full Moon Bonfire Festival, Gyeongju

Daeboreum Full Moon Bonfire Festival, Gyeongju

After living in Spain for two years, I’ve come to love any festival involving fire. Maybe it’s my inner pyromaniac, or the fact that burning things is generally illegal in my country. It seems the Spanish can’t have a festival without fireworks, bonfires, or setting something or other on fire… and the Spanish have a LOT of festivals

The Koreans on the other hand save up their pyromania over the year and let it out in one big blast on Daeboreum (대보름) or literally “The Great Full Moon” Festival. Going by the lunar calendar, Daeboreum is the first full moon of the New Year, 15 days after Seollal (설날) or “Lunar New Years.” There are a lot of traditions and customs associated with Daeboreum, like climbing mountains to see the moonrise, eating ogokbap (오곡밥) or healthy 5 grain rice, or cracking nuts with your teeth to guarantee good health in the New Year (probably a big hit with the dentists). read more »

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Buddha’s Birthday Lantern Parade

Ok, so even though it’s over 6 months away, I’ve got to say something about my favorite Korean holiday: Buddha’s Birthday (Seoktanil).   On the night of Buddha’s Birthday, most major temples hold a lantern parade.  I’ve had the pleasure of catching it at several Buddhist temples over the years and I have to say it’s one of the coolest things I’ve experienced here in Korea.

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