Korea’s lantern lighting festival becomes UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity


YeonDeungHoe, a Korean traditional cultural festival where participants light lanterns to celebrate the Buddha’s birthday, has become a UNESCO the intangible cultural heritage of mankind.

At the 15th session of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Panel on Intellectual Property Protection, held online on 16 December at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France, YeonDeungHoe was confirmed as being listed as an intangible cultural heritage of mankind.

The festival is an annual event held to mark the birth of the Buddha who pursued a wise life to create a better world. People light the lantern while making their wishes during the event. ‘YeonDeung’ literally means ‘to light a lantern’, which can be interpreted as enlightenment of the heart and the world that desires wisdom, grace, happiness and peace.

The tradition dates back to 866, with the first historical records depicting the ancient Kingdom of Silla (57 BC-AD 935), which tells stories of how to hold the event at. Hwangnyongsa Temple of Gyeongju. Since then, it has been a representative Korean traditional culture with 1,200 years of sharing joys and sorrows with the Korean people through the united Silla, Goryeo and Joseon dynasties.

The festival has been transformed from GwandeungNori, where participants enjoy the magnificent view of the lit lanterns, to the current Lantern Parade, where people make a parade throughout Jongno Street and keep the lantern made by themselves. YeonDeungHoe has been transferred creatively to follow the trend of the time, while maintaining its tradition. It is a Korean cultural event that everyone can participate in voluntarily, and a festival that everyone can enjoy together and wish each other happiness.

The committee noted YeonDeungHoe’s inclusivity, which helps to overcome all social boundaries and ultimately express cultural diversity. The Committee also noted that the Festival of Lantern Lighting plays the role of sharing joy and in times of difficulty strengthens social cohesion. Most importantly, the committee celebrated YeonDeungHoe as a good example of how a single inscription can help raise public awareness of the importance of intangible cultural heritage in general.

To celebrate the construction of the festival as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, the YeonDeungHoe Preservation Committee will host the special exhibition and prepare for YeonDeungHoe in 2021. Festival participants hope that COVID-19 ends as early as possible so they can enjoy the festival quite.

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