Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Jinju Lantern Festival

A few weeks ago, I went to the Jinju Lantern Festival and took lots of pictures of the main attraction: lanterns. Well, to be honest they weren't really lanterns, but more like lit-up paper sculptures. They were statues that glowed in the dark. Either way, it was quite the experience. Thanks to an earlier typhoon, the weather was a bit drizzly and there were fewer visitors (the festival is famous for being extremely crowded), but it was nice enough out to walk along the Nam River in Jinju and take in all the sights. You could pay a small toll to traverse makeshift bridges and see the largest and most beautiful sculptures on the river itself, including huge floats that represented landmarks around the world, such as the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Sphinx, and the Statue of Liberty.

I experienced the festival with Elani, a friend from Changwon, and John, another Fulbrighter who lives and teaches at the science high school in Jinju. Even though Jinju is only an hour's bus ride away from Changwon, this was in fact my first time visiting. Well, better late than never!

Here are the photos! Excuse the horrendous image quality, please; I've taken these off of Facebook. If you're interested in viewing or using an original, just let me know.
A lantern sculpture depicting 차례지내기, the tradition of honoring ancestors at Chuseok, an important Korean national holiday.
There were giant "lanterns" set up all around Jinju Fortress (진주성), the site of an important battle waged against Japanese invaders in the late 1500s. A lot of these lanterns depicted traditional Korean life or warfare, like this soldier on a horse.
As it got darker, the lanterns became more luminous and beautiful. Here is a beautiful tyrannosaurus rex, ready to chomp off Elani's head!
Besides the big lantern sculptures, there were "tunnels" of smaller lanterns -- these were more like the lanterns I am familiar with. Walking through this tunnel was fantastic. All of these lanterns were homemade.
This was a cool part of the festival: people can make their own lantern and set it on the river to float away, presumably with a wish or some sort of blessing. All of the lanterns ended up floating into the nearby bank, but it still looked pretty magical.
And then there was this dragon being ridden by Guanyin.
Here is a photo of the entire 남강 (Nam River) in Jinju at night, with tons of lanterns making the river brighter than the city itself. It was so lovely! ... But dang, this looks like one apocalyptic electricity bill...

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