Korea’s lantern festivals that celebrate the birth of the Buddha are expected to be included on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The Cultural Heritage Administration (CHA) said that the evaluation body under the Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage decided to recommend the inscription of lantern festivals. The evaluation body said the nomination form submitted by South Korea shows how the inclusion can contribute to increasing awareness of the importance of the intangible cultural heritage.
The final decision will be made by the Committee during the 15th session at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris between December 14 and December 19. The evaluation body recommends either inscribing, referring or not inscribing nominated elements, and the recommendations are usually accepted. Forty two nominations have been submitted this year, and the body has decided to recommend inscribing 25 elements, referring 16 to submitting states and not inscribing one.
Lantern festivals take place on April 8 on the lunar calendar to celebrate the birth of the Buddha. A historical record of the Three Kingdoms of Korea show that they go back to 866 and 890.
Although they started as a religious event that promotes an equal and prosperous world with the light of truth, lantern festivals have become a popular Spring event. The lantern festival committee have hosted international conferences and organized traditional lantern making classes since 2012 when the festivals were designated as the 122nd national cultural heritage. Buddha’s Birthday see temples across the country and streets and squares of major cities lined with bamboo and paper lanterns and people with lanterns of various shapes such as elephants or stone towers parade through streets.