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Seoul Celebrates Buddha's Birthday

Buddha Birthday, a hazy day in Seoul
Buddha Birthday, a hazy day in Seoul
Michael Rosenfield

It’s a hazy Seoul day on Buddha’s Birthday (May 28). Nonetheless, millions of people spent the day outside enjoying it. In Yeouido Park, Koreans take pleasure having picnic lunches under colorful tents near the water. Jet fountains spray streams of water into the air, creating what seems to be, beautifully choreographed dances. In the pools, sculpted out of shale and sandstone, children splash each other in water fights. Squirt guns resembling Ghost Buster's "ghost killing machines" are used by one team fighting against another –employing Taekwondo kicks. Adults enjoy refreshing drinks and seem to be content resting in tents, while the children splash. Music plays softly in the background from a number of different nearby life events.

Buddha's Birthday Splash
Michael Rosenfield

"I saw hundreds of people celebrating in tents along the river and the streets in Gangnam were so crowded I could barely move", said Worman, an English teacher in Seoul.

A few yards away from the water, people crowd a bicycle rental booth. It’s fun to ride along the river. Cyclists meander in lazy arcs around crowds of people enjoying the scenery. On the river, boats drift by crowded with guests dancing and waving on its decks.

Earlier, the traditional lantern festival and parade took place in the center of town. Throughout the city, chairs were carefully placed along sidewalks so spectators would be able to relax and enjoy the upcoming parade.

Namsan Tower

The Namsan Tower is the highest point in Seoul and probably the most recognizable structure in South Korea. On holidays, many Koreans journey up Namsan Mountain to take part in numerous events. The top of the mountain is set off by the Namsan Tower, which is the highest point of Seoul, and overlooks the entire city. This holiday weekend thousands of visitors spent time enjoying scenic views, fine dining, and social events on the mountain and in the tower. Strange looking trees made of plastic and metal locks dot the area. Upon close examination, these “trees” are made of lover’s pledges of undying love.

The Buddha

Siddhartha Gautama is considered to be the supreme Buddha as he was the first awaken being. Wise men believe the founders of the great religions were all enlightened /awakened beings but that their messages had become misinterpreted and perverted so that the exact opposite of their teachings persist. The Buddha had spent years of his life trying to rectify what seems in life to be suffering followed by death. He wanted to discover the essence that underlies all being. If it were not for the kindness of village girl who had given him a bowl of rice pudding, he may have starved to death practicing extreme asceticism. When the Buddha found “The Middle Way” he reached a state of equanimity, meditating under the Bodhi tree. After his awakening, he spent rest of his life teaching others the path of enlightenment.

His memory and teachings are revered in Seoul and celebrated on this day, Buddha's Birthday.


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