Decision of the Intergovernmental Committee: 15.COM 8.B.1

The Committee

  1. Takes note that the Republic of Korea has nominated Yeondeunghoe, lantern lighting festival in the Republic of Korea (no. 00882) for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

Yeondeunghoe, lantern lighting festival, takes place throughout the Republic of Korea. As the eighth day of the fourth lunar month (Buddha’s birthday) approaches, the entire country lights up with colourful lanterns. Originally a religious ritual to celebrate Shakyamuni’s birth, Yeondeunghoe has now become a national spring festival open to all. Streets are hung with colourful lotus lanterns and crowds holding handmade lanterns gather for a celebratory parade. The annual festival starts with bathing an image of the baby Buddha as a ritual celebrating Shakyamuni’s birth. This is followed by a public procession of lantern-bearing participants, after which participants gather for recreational events culminating in collective games. Members of the public can participate by carrying lanterns they have made to express good wishes for themselves, their families and neighbourhoods and the entire country. Lighting the lanterns also symbolises enlightening the minds of individuals, communities and all of society through Buddha’s wisdom. The related knowledge and skills are mainly transmitted through Buddhist temples and communities, and the Yeondeunghoe Safeguarding Association plays a notable role through the organisation of educational programmes. The festival is a time of joy during which social boundaries are temporarily erased. In times of social difficulties, it plays a particularly important role in integrating society and helping people overcome the troubles of the day.

  1. Considers that, from the information included in the file, the nomination satisfies the following criteria for inscription on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity:

R.1:   The element provides a chance to share various Buddhist cultures. Furthermore, it also includes people who are not Buddhists. This demonstrates the inclusive nature of the lantern parade. During Yeondeunghoe, individuals participate as equal members of society, regardless of their gender or age. The active participation of women and children is particularly notable. The festival generally provides an arena for sharing pleasure and happiness, but in times of social difficulties it also contributes to social cohesion. The knowledge and skills related to the element are transmitted informally across the generations through the annual practice as well as formally through educational programmes, exhibitions and lecture/training programmes.

R.2:   The inscription of the element would highlight how ‘ordinary’ annual events can be considered as intangible cultural heritage, how enhancing dialogue leads to more diverse collaborations and enhanced feelings of belonging and cultural identity, and how intercultural comparisons can lead to the celebration of creativity and dynamic traditions. Encouraging dialogue among the communities brought together through this element will encourage people to recognize the practice as an element of living heritage rather than as the specific practice of a particular religious group. The inclusiveness of the festival, which has transformed over time, has helped overcome boundaries of nationality, ethnicity, religion and disabilities. Indeed, the festival presents cultural diversity through the variety of its participants from various countries, including India, Japan, Mongolia, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

R.3:   The lantern lighting festival is deeply rooted in Korean society and its safeguarding has been promoted over the years by the communities concerned and the State Party. In this regard, special mention must be made of the role played by the Yeondeunghoe Safeguarding Association. In addition to systematically providing education, research and documentation, various other associations and research institutions have conducted promotional and conservation activities. As for the proposed safeguarding measures, the State Party has made a remarkable effort to include measures to prevent any unintended negative effects of the inscription of the element on the Representative List. This preventive set of safeguarding measures is divided into three topics, to address: the effects of the excessive popularity on the element, standardization and risks to the transmission of the element.

R.4:   The file includes a description of the active involvement of the communities concerned as well as of most of the different stakeholders in every single step of the planning and preparation of the nomination file. The bearers of the element and the different communities concerned were present throughout this process.

R.5:   Yeondeunghoe, lantern lighting festival was included in the State Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2012. The body responsible for maintaining the inventory is the Cultural Heritage Administration. The element was identified and defined with the active participation of the community, represented by the Yeondeunghoe Safeguarding Committee. The State Inventory is subject to regular monitoring: elements registered on the list are re-investigated every five years by the Cultural Heritage Administration.

  1. Decides to inscribe Yeondeunghoe, lantern lighting festival in the Republic of Korea on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity;

  2. Commends the State Party for a well-prepared file that can serve as a good example of how the inscription of an element on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity can contribute to ensuring the visibility and awareness of the significance of intangible cultural heritage in general;

  3. Further commends the State Party for proposing a set of safeguarding measures aimed at preventing any unintended results of the inscription of the element on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.