Korea: Buddha’s Birthday Tour Seoul Part 1

Posted by on May 19, 2016 in Korea, Travel Photo Thursday | 21 comments

May 14th this year saw me celebrating my birthday with Buddha. Welcome to week 278 (5/19/2016)  of Travel Photo Thursday. To be honest, I hadn’t realized that his birthday was actually May 14th. I thought it was the week before. There is just so much going on right before and after this huge annual event that it can be difficult to keep track of the actual date.  Every temple in Seoul, and throughout Korea celebrates the day. I joined the Royal Asiatic Society for Buddha’s Birthday Tour. Over the course of the afternoon and evening we attended celebrations in five of the city’s Buddhist temples. Enjoy Part 1 of Buddha’s Birthday Tour, and my visit to Mita-Sa and Bomun-Sa  Please come back next week for Part 2.

Our first stop was the neighborhood Bomun-Dong, which is very close to where I work. Here, we spent time at Mita-Sa, and Bomun-Sa (sa is the Korean word for temple).

Mita-Sa (sometimes written Mit’a-Sa)

A rather tiny temple, dating back to the 4th Koryo king (950), with a rather colorful history. This includes a king marrying his own sister in an effort to keep undesirable influences from becoming part of the royal family! Today, forty nuns call this small peaceful  temple home.

Temple entrance…

Mit'a Sa, Bomun - Dong Seoul

Mit'a Sa, Bomun - Dong Seoul

Birthday offerings….


Mit'a Sa, Bomun - Dong Seoul


I love these wee lanterns hanging in the pine tree.


Mit'a Sa, Bomun - Dong Seoul

Mit'a Sa, Bomun - Dong Seoul


Leading up to the temple…


Mit'a Sa, Bomun - Dong Seoul


Isn’t this a gorgeous temple door knocker!?


Mit'a Sa, Bomun - Dong Seoul


Inside the temple…


Mit'a Sa, Bomun - Dong Seoul


Mit'a Sa, Bomun - Dong Seoul


This gorgeous lotus painting graces one of the outside walls of the temple.


Mit'a Sa, Bomun - Dong Seoul


In spite of it being a busy day, Mita-Sa exuded a tranquil and peaceful atmosphere.


Steps away was the larger and busier Bomun-Sa, which came into existence in 1116 during the reign of the 16th King of Koryo, King Yejong. Ranging from four to eighty four years old, approximately 130 nuns call this temple home. The age for entering the temple to become a nun is under 15 years of age. Parents will often partake of the services of a fortune teller to determine if there daughter should become a nun or not.


Sakyamuni Buddha was painted at the end of the Joseon Dynasty. Scroll down to read a bit more about this intangible cultural asset.








The main temple at Bomun-sa.





This ends our photo essay (part 1) of Buddha’s Birthday Tour. Please come back next week for part 2. I hope you enjoyed browsing the photos as much as I enjoyed taking them.

Have you ever been to a Buddha birthday celebration? Let us know in the comments.

Mita-Sa and Bomun-Sa are easy to get to via Seoul’s subway system. Take Line 6 to Bomun Station and come out through Exit 1. Most temples are open daily from sunrise to sunset, and visitors are welcome.


Please welcome our co-hosts this week: Jan from Budget Travel Talk Ruth from Tanama Tales  Rachel from Rachel’s Ruminations


You can browse the Travel Photo Thursday archives here.


If you like this post, please share using the share buttons at the top or bottom. Much appreciated!

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  1. There is something so soothing about this post! The colors, patterns, objects add to it. A good tour of Buddha’s birthday!

  2. I love the bright colors! So cheerful! Looking forward to next week’s installment of your Buddha’s birthday tour!

  3. Oh my, the colors you’ve captured in this Buddha birthday celebration post are so vibrant that I had to keep scrolling up and down to enjoy them over and over again. Belated happy birthday wishes to you and Buddha!

    • Hi Jackie. I’m glad you enjoyed the photos. I always love the colors associated with Buddha. It is a breath of fresh air in a country of all too often gray buildings. #TPThursday

  4. I’ve been to Asia, but not Korea, I really want to go!!

  5. The offerings can make one’s mouth water! I’m always amazed how much love and dedication goes into Buddhist offerings. You see it also at many small house temples…

    • Hi Juergen! I agree. Worshipers are definitely dedicated to producing beautiful offerings, and it usually does not matter how large or small the temple. #TPThursday

  6. I didn’t realize there were Buddha birthday celebrations. Both these temples look like interesting and colourful places to visit. I love the lanterns in the pine tree at Mita-Sa. Looking forward to part 2 of your birthday celebrations.

    • Hi Donna! Thank you! Yes, next to Chuseok, and Lunar New Year, Buddha’s birthday is the biggest celebration here in Korea. #TPThursday

  7. What fab shots! So colourful!

  8. I see Koreans enjoy tons of color. And, that is great because I think it goes according to the celebration. Some of those offering are impressive.

  9. Hey Nancie, the juxtaposition (in my mind) of the idea of the king marrying his own sister and the 40 nuns who now call this temple home made me burst out laughing. Quite a colorful history, for sure!

    • Hi Marcia. Your description made me laugh. You hit the nail on the head! 🙂

  10. I do love the door knocker Nancie and the colours behind it really set it off. The Lotus painting has a superb dreamy quality. I love the welcoming atmosphere of Buddhist Temples. I hope you and Buddha had a great birthday!

    • Hi Jan! Yes, the birthday was wonderful. I think we both had a good time 🙂 The temples are welcoming on this special day. We even got free ice cream at one temple! 🙂

  11. What an honour to celebrate your birthday on the same day as Buddha. I love the Buddhist temples in Asia. They are all so different and unique. I think it was Buddha Day in Bangkok when were there in February. The entire city enjoyed a public holiday. 🙂

    • Hi Kathy! I love how every country in Asia celebrates his birthday on a different day. Thailand seems to have a Buddha related celebration every other week!

  12. Wow! Love your photos with all of the details of the lanterns and the ceremony. It must have been great to be able to celebrate your birthday with Buddha!

  13. That looks like a colourful experience such a Buddha Birthday’s Tour. Are all words shorter than English? Like temple (6 letters) = sa (2 letters)?

  14. So many vibrant colors and I love the piles of flowers and fruits on the altars to celebrate the occasion of Buddhas’s (and yours!) birthday. Looks like some of them are even shrink-wrapped. And the temples are beautiful. It’s hard to grasp how old some of the are.

  15. I love the brightly colored lanterns and how festive the temples are. In Malaysia, the date of Buddha’s birthday floats around as it’s tied to the lunar calendar. I remember that one year, we had a combined Buddha’s Birthday/Cinco de Mayo celebration on May 5th.


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