Sunday, November 22, 2015

Seoul Lantern Festival 2015

The Seoul Lantern Festival (서울빛초롱축제) began on November 7th, and closes tonight. It is held on the Cheonggyecheon, a "stream" running through downtown Seoul. I made it there last night, as my previous attempts at the foray were delayed by poor weather. I also attended this event in 2009 and 2012--click on the appropriate tag in the cloud to your right.

Since it was the last weekend, I knew it would be crowded, and it was. I don't really remember much of a line to go down to the "stream" area itself, but on this day, the line snaked around for 25 minutes. Credit to the organizers is due, however, as it was very sensible and smooth.

First, a few shots from street-level:

The first series of lanterns as you proceed from the ramp are all large-scale models of historical Korean buildings. These are lanterns--paper-covered, traditionally-built, although as a nod to safety they are lit by electricity.

The most charming lanterns, in my opinion, are the ones that depict everyday peasant life, such as children playing paengi, a spinning top game, or people sitting at a restaurant counter.

Of course, with thousands and thousands of visitors, it's not all paper lanterns the size of parade floats, There's also real people sitting at real food counters. for example, grilled squid, ddeokbokki, "egg bread", and chicken on a stick:

The Cheonggye stream was a signature project of Seoul Mayor, later Korean President, Lee Myung-bak, and although it was very controversial at the time, it is today a very popular recreation spot for Seoulites. I think it is well-done, and among the elements is a massive "room" under one of the bridges, where any number of events can be staged. During this festival, you can write out your message and wishes for the coming year. You can see the lanterns arranged behind me:

Many of the lanterns are best viewed from one side, but here's one which took viewers on each side of the stream into account: