Jeungshimsa @ Mudeungsan, Buddha's birthday 2000

     In early Spring of 2000, Rob stopped into a PC room to write some e-mail. The young man working there, pleasantly surprised to have a foreign customer, struck up a conversation with Rob. Within a few minutes they discovered that they shared a lot of common interests--guitar, computers, movies, etc. His name was Lee Seung-ji, and in the weeks and months to come he and Rob would become very close friends.

     On 11 May 2000, Cheris and Rob met up with Seung-ji and his lovely girlfriend Choi Hyeon-ah for a visit to the temple called Jeungshimsa, at the mountain known as Mudeungsan, right behind Chosun University in Kwangju. We were there to check out the festivities for Buddha's birthday, which falls on the 7th day of the 4th month of the lunar calendar, so we're told.

Amusing note: this was Rob's and Cheris's second time to watch the celebration of Buddha's birthday in Korea (having seen it in 1999 at Songnisan), but it was actually the first time for Seung-ji and Hyeon-ah, despite their having had the opportunity to do so every year for their whole lives.

We started the evening with dinner at a restaurant along a creek leading up to the temple.
Here's Cheris hanging around in the flowers behind the temple.
An overview of the setting-up of the hundreds of paper lanterns used in observance of Buddha's birthday.
Rob Lifford, lantern inspector, with big dumb grin.
A cool old statue and pagoda next to the temple.
Up close, this statue had a really interesting weatherbeaten texture.
A mini-altar, drowned in candle wax, built into a high rock face adjacent to the temple.
Shortly before sunset, we noticed an unbeliveably cute little girl frolicking around the grounds dressed in hanbok, traditional Korean clothing. She was not a shy kid, and came bounding over when we gestured to her to come take a picture with us.
And then Rob took another.
Just before sunset, Seung-ji and Hyeon-ah struck this pose in front of the big temporary "birthday pagoda."
And then the lantern-lighting began. Everyone in attendance helps out with this mammoth task, and it gets done with surprising speed.

When the candles are all lit and the sun has set, this is sort of how it looks. It's totally breathtaking in person, and the atmosphere is joyful and friendly.

Tired out, we headed home via city bus, where Seung-ji snapped this picture of Rob. Check out Cheris's cool reflection on the left.

the Kwangju Chronicles