Wednesday, October 19, 2011

A Whole Lot of Lanterns: Jinju Lantern Festival

In 1592 the Japanese were invading Korea, as the Japanese tended to do in that period of time.  One of the most epic battles occurred in Jinju, the site of the today's Jinju Lantern Festival.  There's a large fortress on the banks of the Nam river, the river that cuts through the middle of the city.  The Japanese were determined to take the fortress but the Koreans didn't approve of that idea.  The Koreans were outnumbered but had recently acquired a couple hundred arquebuses.  Oh, what's an arquebus?  It might sound like an oriental attack bird but it's actually a muzzle-loaded rifle that was known to pierce steel-plated armor at close range.  So with their new guns the Koreans were able to hold off the Japanese who were trying to scale the walls of the fortress.  I forgot to mention the Koreans also had cannons that shot giant arrows.
Attack our fortress?  Ok, we'll shoot this giant arrow at your face.

The defending Koreans also filled the river with lanterns to prevent the Japanese from wading across the river to the fortress.  All of these defenses proved effective and the Koreans were able to hold off the Japanese and saved their fortress.  However, the next year the Japanese came back, probably pissed off now, and successfully took the fortress after ten bloody days of battle.  The survivors sent lanterns down the river to remember the dead and as a symbol of hope for peace in Korea.  The tradition of sending lanterns down the river continues today.

The tradition has lost any humbleness that once existed and is now a spectacle.  I read that there were over 50,000 lanterns at this year's festival.  They came in all shapes and sizes.  From a small Spongebob to a giant fire breathing dragon that actually breathed real life fire.  We were not the only ones that wanted to view the array of lanterns.  We had to fight the largest crowds I've seen anywhere in Korea along with several power outages.  However, we actually had one brief peaceful moment when we made our own lantern with our respective wishes attached and sent it on its way down a lantern filled river.  

Enjoy some pictures:
Some large lanterns out there.

Pretty Bird

I think this is from some cartoon or something.
From some other cartoon.

Whatcha ya got there Santa?


Reenacting Japan vs. Korea.

Caroline's idea of a chair.


Some lanterns were not as classy as others:

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