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Buddhism puts everything on show

Expo showcases business, culture, and essence of religion

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Published : 2014-03-06 20:32
Updated : 2014-03-06 20:32

From temple food to stationery items imprinted with Buddha characters, everything about Korean Buddhism is on display at an exhibition in Seoul, offering a glimpse of how the religion is evolving to cater to modern-day Koreans.

“I hope that this exhibition provides an opportunity to reflect on (the historical and current state of) Buddhist culture and look toward what the future holds,” Ven. Jaseung, chief of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, said during the opening ceremony for Buddhism Expo 2014 on Thursday at the Seoul Trade Exhibition and Convention Center in Seoul.

Culture Minister Yoo Jin-ryong said Buddhism is playing an increasingly important role in Korea, as it reaches out to stressed-out people, moving to the center of everyday life from the deep mountains where most temples are located. 
Culture Minister Yoo Jin-ryong (eighth from left), Rep. Chung Mong-joon (ninth from left) and Ven. Jaseung (10th from left), chief of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, cut the ribbon to open the Buddhism Expo 2014 at Seoul Trade Exhibition and Convention Center in southern Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap)

“Buddhism, with over 1,700 years of history, has shaped the core of Korean culture. I hope that Buddhism goes beyond its boundaries and plays a pivotal role in advancing our culture,” he said in his congratulatory remarks.

The Jogye Order, the largest sect of Korean Buddhism, is pinning high hopes on this exhibition. Ven. Jaseung said earlier that he wants to develop it into one of its three major projects along with Templestay and the Lantern Festival. 

The Buddhism Expo has been held before, but this is the first time the order took the reins. This year, it boasted over 350 booths and 250 participants, including many Buddhism-related enterprises. Next year it will move to COEX, the city’s largest convention center to attract more participants and visitors.

At Thursday’s exhibition, Templestay, temple food and Buddhist arts were the highlights.

The Buddhism Expo 2014 takes place at the Seoul Trade Exhibition and Convention Center until March 9. (Sohn Ji-young/The Korea Herald)

Spectators gathered around an orderly display of “temple food,” which is eaten by monks, such as glutinous rice porridge, dumplings, vegetables, tofu, fermented dishes, rice cakes and other traditional desserts. All items are made with only natural ingredients and are entirely vegetarian in line with the Buddhist principle which prohibits harming life. Several Buddhist monks who specialize in cooking temple food shared information about the nutritional and health benefits of temple food with visitors. At other booths, opportunities to taste and cook diverse temple foods were available to all spectators.

A space that recreates the inside of a temple is erected at the Templestay booth. Started in 2002, Templestay is a program where participants stay at a Buddhist temple for a given period of time and experience Buddhist practices such as meditation, prayer and frugal living. Over 1.2 million people have participated, according to Jogye officials.

Inside the booth, monks offered their wisdom over a cup of tea ― a highlight of the Templestay experience, according to many of those who have participated in the past.

Diverse Buddhist art booths caught the attention of spectators. Children and families gathered around a crafts booth to make lotus flowers out of paper.

The Buddhism Expo 2014 runs until March 9 at Seoul Trade Exhibition and Convention Center located near exit No. 1 of Hangnyeoul Station on subway line No. 3. 

By Lee Sun-young, Sohn Ji-young
(milaya@heraldcorp.com) (jiyoung.sohn@heraldcorp.com)

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