UPDATED 14 Nov 2010 – the festival has been extended until November 21st.
CORRECTED x2 9 Nov 2010 – thanks to Andrew in the comments for additional information.
CORRECTED 8 Nov 2010 – thanks to Sara Sonsaengnim in the comments for additional information.
The Lady in Red and I were dragging a bit Saturday night. After seeing some friends and a Tom and Tom’s Caramel Macchiato, I found myself only half-willing to throw myself into the downtown crowd. This is, after all, the Seoul Lantern Festival (서울 등 축제) – the festival where 27,000 lanterns from 24 countries light up downtown Seoul and Cheonggyecheon. You may notice the 세계 in the above picture (se-gye, or world) reinforcing that ‘world’ mindset for the locals, even as the English name made no such mention.
Our first difficulty – getting to Cheonggyecheon. In retrospect, going on the festival’s first Saturday right as day turned into night was probably a bad idea. Everybody’s mother, brother, auntie, and quite a few foreigners came out – fighting through the crowds to enjoy the lanterns.
Presenting the Gate of Hope of 2010 right by the space needle that makes Cheonggyecheon a downtown landmark.
The first section of lanterns was entitled 서울의 빛 – the Lights of Seoul:
Perhaps a reminder of the ideal Seoul: natural-looking with trees growing and fish leaping. No skyscrapers or excessive yellow dust seen here, of course.
Next up: 지구촌의 빛 – Lights of the Global Village:
I do love the look on this guy. I was shooting from street level (not down by the lanterns, which was far too crowded), and thus had no chance to look at the tags giving the names or creators of these lanterns. If they’re similar to the ones from last year’s festival (they were only in Korean, if memory serves), they might not have been much help.
This Japanese lantern looks familiar from last year… I like this year’s picture better though.
Some beautiful Japanese scenes – it’s almost a shame that the lanterns were two-dimensional.
This one looks similar to another lantern from last year – what, did they store them somewhere in-between exhibitions? From last year’s post comments, this is a reference to the Peking / Beijing Theatre.
That smiling face and a green alien jade-colored Maori tiki just seem to go together so well.
It almost seems like a copy of Korea’s earlier lantern, but hey, who am I to judge?
Correction: from the comments, Sara Songsaengnim indicates these are some of Shanghai’s famous landmarks: “From L-R, the buildings are: The Oriental Pearl TV Tower, The JinMao Tower, and the tea house at the Yu Yuan (Yu Garden) market which has a koi pond surrounding it.” Thanks, Sara!
Some icons of the Western world.
Next up: 한국의 빛, or Lights of Korea:
A rather small, squarish lantern was the only one of note – apparently, this was the section for local governments and corporations to place their lanterns.
It seems a bit early for Christmas time, but it’s all good.
Next up: 추억의 빛 – Lights of Memory:
A number of classic Korean scenes, only really seen in pretty postcards and annual lantern shows.My feet were seriously killing me at this point, and I found myself desiring to head home. Nothing against the huge crowds preventing me from getting closer to the lanterns, but an hour-plus of struggling to shoot around the crowd and very tired feet took me out of the game. There’s one more section to explore – 미래의 빛 – Lights of the Future – which I might try to see. The festival runs through the 14th, so you have a full week from this posting.
As the Lady in Red and I headed home, one scene crossed my mind. It was of a mother trying to hurriedly lead her two kids through the crowd. While that was simply one example, it was almost as though the Koreans were doing the rounds – pushing and shoving their way around to see one lantern, then moving on to the next. No stopping to think. No reflecting. Although I wasn’t exactly close to the identification tags at stream level, I didn’t observe anyone really lingering around the tags or any given lantern. That seemed a bit disappointing, considering the effort to make it all come together. Hopefully some people enjoyed the event as being more than just a thing to race through.
Directions to Cheonggyecheon / Lantern Festival: Take line 1 or 2 of the Seoul subway system to the City Hall station. Take exit 4 to street level and walk about 400 meters. Look for the swirled needle pointing skyward and turn right. Keep walking straight, and head down to stream level (about 7 meters below street level) for the best views. Go at night, but be prepared for huge crowds. Free admission.