© Inho Shin
South Korea's representative Buddhist event and National Intangible Cultural Property No.12 "Yeondeunghoe (Yeon Lantern Festival)" will likely be added to UNESCO's list of intangible cultural heritage.
According to the Cultural Heritage Administration on November 17th, the evaluation body under the Intergovernmental Panel on the Protection of Intangible Heritage of the UNESCO Intangible Heritage Committee reviewed the "Yeon Lantern Festival" that the Korean government had applied for its designation on the list and decided to "recommend registration."
The evaluation body recommends the results of the examination to the Intangible Heritage Committee by dividing them into three categories: "Inscribe," "Reference," and "Not to include." If there is no change, the evaluation body's decision is likely to be accepted. The final listing will be decided by the 15th UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee on the Protection of Intangible Heritage in Paris, France, from December 14th to 19th, and the results will be released sometime between December 16th and 18th.
The Yeon Lantern Festival is a Buddhist event recorded in the "Samguksagi" to commemorate and celebrate Buddha's birth, which means that it was held about 1,200 years ago. It is composed of the Lantern Law, Lantern Rally, and Hoe-hyang, and it is meant to wish for a world free from discrimination and rich in the light of truth.
The Festival, which is held on the first day of April, began as a Buddhist event, but has developed into an important cultural event that anyone can participate in today. The general public, regardless of the age, or gender, widely participates in the preparation process and execution of the local government-led committee composed mainly of temples across the country. This feature is in line with the concept of intangible heritage in the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Intangible Cultural Heritage in that it is passed down from generation to generation, recreated in response to history and environment, and gives identity and continuity to the community.
If the Yeon Lantern Festival is finally listed, it will be the 21st intangible cultural heritage of Korea. Earlier, the Korean government listed the following as intangible cultural heritages: Jongmyo Jeryeak (a royal ancestral ritual in the Jongmyo shrine and its music), Pansori (an epic chant of Korea), Gangneung Danoje Festival (a communal festival that takes place on Dano or fifth day of the fifth lunar month in Gangneung), Ganggangsullae (a series of folk songs to be sung during the circle dance under the full moon), Namsadangnori (shows performed by troupes of male entertainers, or namsadangpae), Yeongsanjae (a Korean Buddhist ceremony re-enacting Siddhartha Gautama delivering the sermon), Jeju Chilmeoridang Yeondeunggut (a ritual held in the second lunar month at Chilmeoridang in Gun-rip to pray for calm seas, an abundant harvest and a plentiful sea catch), Cheoyongmu (Korean mask dance based on the legend of Cheoyeong, a son of the Dragon King of the Eastern Sea), Gagok (lyric song cycles accompanied by an orchestra), Daemokjang (traditional wooden architecture), Maesanyang (falconry), Taekkyon (a traditional Korean martial art), Jultagi (tightrope walking), Hansan mosi (weaving of fine ramie in Hansan region), Arirang (a representative lyrical folk song of Koreans), Gimjang (making and sharing kimchi), Nongak (community band music, dance and rituals), Juldarigi (tugging rituals and games), Jeju Haenyeo (women divers in Jeju Island) culture and Ssulmuseum (traditional Korean wrestling) culture.