Thursday, October 13, 2011

Jinju Lantern Festival

It was a beautiful sunny day and the vistas out the window of the train were great. We rode along the tracks passing mountains filled with trees beginning to change in to their Fall wardrobes and valleys full of fields and tiny villages. The train stopped in a little town with a small flower festival to let people on and off. We were headed to a festival that day, but not to walk among the flowers. We were going to the Lantern Festival in Jinju. 

Lots of people come to the festival only at night to see the lanterns glowing but there are lots of things to do and see before the sun sets. After disembarking the train and hailing a taxi to the general festival area, the first thing we did was take a stroll around the fortress. The fortress is located on a little hill just above the river. It feels like a giant walled park with its old trees, temples, grand gathering places, ancient gravestones, and seemingly endless paths. Even without the festival, the fortress would be a great place for a day trip.

Most of the lanterns at the festival aren't what you think of when you first hear "lantern." When I say lanterns, I don't mean big circles made from rice paper. I'm talking sculpture-esque pieces of art. The men below are all taller than me and will glow at night. It's like walking in a cartoon when the sun sets!

From the fortress, you can get a great view of the festival and the floating lanterns on the river.

We saw a few performances at the fortress, all during the day. One was a drumming show performed by some teenagers. There were kids playing on sets of two, sets of three, and traditional hand held Korean drums. We heard the sounds of their drums while walking along a path and followed it to watch them perform. The beat would rise and fall in a dramatic and engaging rhythm and every kid had a smile on their face. It was a great show.

We also saw some dances performed with people wearing masks. We couldn't understand the story they were telling but their masks and movements were entertaining none the less. They were a bit silly looking and their dances were funny but it was cool to see another aspect of Korean culture. 

We found an area where you can help make a lantern by adding your wish to the frame of the animal of your birth year. Thankfully, a kind Korean man translated for me and told me I was the year of the horse. I wrote my wishes on the slip of fabric and glued it on to the big blue horse. He's in a weird position, though... I've never seen a horse do that!

During the day, the lanterns are pretty, but at night, when they are glowing with color, they are truly spectacular!  

It was like a dreamland! Everything was so beautiful and colorful. There was music playing as you walked through the tunnels of lanterns. There was a bamboo grove filled with woodland creature, ladybug, and dragonfly lanterns. There were big floating lanterns on the river, glowing magnificently and casting their colorful reflections on the water. I loved watching the small paper lanterns slowly float down the river in the colorful water.

I can honestly say, the Jinju Lantern Festival was the best non-music festival I've ever been to. It was such a magical experience!

 Have you ever been to a lantern festival?? If so, where was it?


  1. Lovely, lovely photos! Wouldn't have thought twice about going to a lantern festival before reading this!

  2. Thank you, Will! Or rather, muchas gracias amigo!