Celebrating Buddha’s Birthday at Busan’s Samgwang Temple

Busan, Nomad Within, Peter DeMarco, Samgwangsa, South Korea, asia, lanterns, night, temple

Nothing lights up Busan like the sea of lotus lanterns at Samgwang Temple on Buddha’s Birthday.

Om mani padme hum or “Praise to the jewel of the lotus,”plays on the speakers outside a temple in Busan. The 2,500-year-old chant is one of the most important mantras in Buddhism. All around, a thousand multicolored lotus lanterns sway in the breeze. The sun melts below the mountains above. As if on cue from the smiling big-bellied man himself, the lights inside the lanterns turn on. The bright colors pop against the deep blue of the night sky. If this is what nirvana looks like, then I can’t wait to get there.

Every year around Buddha’s birthday, Samkwang Temple or Samgwangsa (meaning three rays of light from Buddha) transforms itself into one of the most stunning sights in the country. Tourists rarely visit the temple, passing it up for Busan’s two most famous temples: Beomosa and Youngungsa. Strangely enough, neither guidebooks nor the country’s official Visit Korea website even mention the temple, yet it made CNN’s Top 50 Most Beautiful Places in Korea list. Now I don’t think Buddha endorses top 50 lists. But I can tell you this – Samgkwangsa celebrates his birthday like none other.

When to go: Buddha’s birthday or ‘Bucheonim osin nal’ is a national holiday in Korea. The date of the celebration changes every year according to the Lunisolar Calendar. It usually takes place in May.

Getting there: The easiest way to get to Samgwangsa is to take the subway to Seomyeon station. Then go out exit 11 and take a taxi (about 5,000 won) to the temple. There is also a small bus you can take from across the street of the Lotte Department Store in Seomyeon as well.

[This article was originally published by Busan Haps.]

  • Aperture: ƒ/29
  • Taken: May 5, 2011
  • Focal length: 44mm
  • ISO: 125
  • Shutter speed: 30s
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Author: Pete DeMarco

Pete DeMarco is an award-winning travel photographer. His passion for helping people transform their photography shows through in the expert advice he shares. His work has been featured in National Geographic Traveler, CNN, and as a staff writer for Digital Photography School.

2 thoughts on “Celebrating Buddha’s Birthday at Busan’s Samgwang Temple”

  1. Wow! That’s a sea of lanterns! That puts Jogyesa to shame in Seoul. We will have to try to get down there to see all those beautiful lanterns. Thanks for sharing Pete!

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