Seoul has palaces like London has bridges: all over the northern part of central Seoul are Joseon dynasty palaces with names that to the foreigner are tongue-twistingly, tantalizing similar: Changgyeonggung, Gyeongbokgung and Changdeokgung. Even my taxi-driver took me first past Changdeokgung on the way to Changgyeonggung to make absolutely sure that I got to the palace I wanted to see. The trick is to break down the words into their constituent parts: 'gung' (like the Chinese 'gong') means 'palace'.
Changgyeonggung sits where the mountain slopes begin, with its grand entrance gate Honghwamun a long way up Changgyeonggung. The palace was built by King Sejong for his father who had abdicated in his favour in 1418, and work commenced straight away, with the name Suganggung. The name was changed to its present one when the palace was enlarged by King Seonjong some 75 years later, in 1484 when more accommodation was needed for the royal family. The whole complex was burnt to the ground during the Japanese invasion of 1592. It was not the last time that Japanese invaders were to wreak havoc on its neighbours' people and cultural heritage. Indeed, the Japanese have made a habit of invading and terrorizing its north Asian neighbours for many centuries, and this cavalier attitude towards Korea and China remains a source of anger and frustration in both countries to this day.
This was a great tour. I loved learning all about the royal family and how they lived. The history is amazing. The grounds are beautiful...especially in the spring. There are bathrooms along the route, and the guided tour lasts about 2 hours. The garden was my favorite part.
The paragraph below, accompanies the picture to the left.
The main hall is Myongjeongjeon, built in 1484. In the courtyard, 2 rows of stone markers indicate the positions for attending officials to stand according to a strict hierarchy. The phoenixes on the steps represent nobility and immortality. Like the other Palace buildings, it was burned down in 1592 then rebuilt in 1616.
It seems that almost every palace in seoul has a sad story behind it. To belittle the Korean spirit, this former summer palace was demoted to a zoo during the Japanese occupation. The palace was only restored to its former glory in the 1980's, long after the war.
Though not as grand as Gyeongbokgung, this place is still worth a look. Take a brief respite from the hustle and bustle of Seoul and go to lovely , quiet place.
For the same admission ticket, you get to go to Jongmyo via a footpath.
Bpacker's Seoul Page
13th century palace in the center of Seoul. Take a tour if you can (english tours run several times a day) there aren't enough signs to give you the full story. The highlight of the tour is the "secret garden". It's a large garden in the rear of the palace that only the emperor and his wife could visit.
On a 1 hour tour we learned so much about this palace and about Korean culture from the 13th century on.
After Kyungbokkung was burned down by the Japanese, the Korean monarchs took up residence in Changgyeonggung, where the remained until the 19th century. During this time, they retreated from the stress of their office in their private Secret Garden (Piwon). Now, you can retreat from the stress of big city Seoul in the same place, but without the guilt that comes with taxing your subjects into grinding poverty.
Over the past few years, the two most important palaces in Seoul have added Changing of the Guard ceremonies. My favorite is at Changyeonggung, because it comes with a 15th century band and is narrated in five languages. I believe it is only held on weekends, but it occurs every half hour.
Starting at 2.30pm every day of the week, outside at least two of the palaces that I'm aware of (Changdeokgung and Deoksugung), this ceremony tries to be as true to the old Chosun (Joseon) ceremony as possible, and lasts over one hour.
This is my favorite Palace in Seoul. It is not as grand or spacious as some of the others, but it has a great charm to it which the others don't. The charm comes from the abundant plant life which surrounds it. In fact, thre is a "Secret Garden" on the grounds which was a very beautiful spot to just sit and kill a few hours reading.
The Palace itself is so beautiful that many Korean brides go to the Palace to have their pictures taken. I swear I must have seen fifty brides roaming the grounds in their wedding dresses. School girls can also be found drawing and painting scenes from the amazing grounds.
Across the street and available by a path and bridge is the Jongmyo Royal Ancestral Shrine. Also quite interesting.
The palace was built and resided in by my favorite Korean King, King Sejong. He is responsible for the Korean script, Hangul, and even now the ease with which it is used is a direct result of his vision.
This palace should not be missed.
Changdeokgung palace is another very interesting palace. This palace was use as royal residence when gyeongbokgung palace was destroyed by fire during the japanese invasion in 1592. Changeokgung was incuded on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1997.
It was also called Donggung, or East Palace. During the colonial period, the Japanese once used Changgyeonggung Palace as an amusement park complete with a zoo, a botanical garden and recreational facilities during the colonial rule. Later the Korean government moved the zoo and recreational facilities to the newly built Seoul Grand Park and today only the botanical garden remains.
Because this palace is connected with Jongmyo Royal Shrine by a footbridge, visitors can enjoy both the palace and the shrine with just one ticket. Various traditional cultural events such as a reenactment of the civil service examination and a royal carriage parade are held every spring and fall.
Jongmyo Royal Shrine is a sacred place that enshrines the ancestral tablets of kings and queens of the Joseon Dynasty. The shrine is connected with Changgyeonggung Palace by a footbridge. Jongmyo Royal Shrine was listed as World Cultural Heritage in 1995 following Bulguksa Temple, Seokguram Grotto and the Tripitaka Koreana of Haeinsa Temple.
free for visitors with admission ticket for Changgyeonggung Palace
Changdeokgung Palace, renowned for exquisite gardens and courtyards, was listed as a World Cultural Heritage in 1997. Unlike at other royal palaces in the capital, visitors to this palace must be accompanied by a palace guide. It takes about an hour and 20 minutes to look around this tranquil palace with beautiful gardens dotted with pavilions, ponds, bridges and wonderfully decorated walls. The guide offers helpful explanations about each of the attractions. While Korean, English and Japanese guided tours are available from 09:00 to 04:00, you may need to check the timetable before you visit the palace. The admission fee is higher than that at other palaces.
First built by the fourth ruler King Sejong (1418-1450) for his retiring father King Taejong, this palace was often used as the residence of queens and concubines. This palace became a park with a zoo and botanical garden during the japanese colonial rule. The zoo was moved out and the palace regained its old grace in the 1980s after years of restoration work. This palace is unique in that its front gate and the throne hall face east while those in all other palaces face the south. More infos and pictures are in the travelogue.
Used as main palace by many Joseon kings and has been the best preserved among the five royal Joseon palaces. It is best known for its beautiful garden for the royal family, Huwon, or 'Biwon' ('Secret Garden') with it superb landscape with pavilions, ponds and wooded areas. (More pictures and info in my travelouge)
Changdeokgung (Palace) was constructed in 1405 as the detached palace of Gyeongbokgung (Palace), the Joseon Dynasty's main palace. Some buildings were added during the reign of King Sejong, which include Jiphyeonjeon, the Hall of Worthies, Seonjeongjeon, the Hall of Good Administration, and Jangseogak, the Court Book Depository. Unfortunately, the palace was burnt down during the Japanese Invasion in 1592. Restoration was begun in 1606 (the 39th year of King Seonjo) and completed in 1610 (the 2nd year of King Gwanghaegun).
Changdeokgung (Palace) has been rebuilt due to damages by several fires. The palace was partially destroyed in the course of the deposing of tyrant King Gwanghaegun by the successor King Injo in 1623. Injeongjeon, the Throne Hall, was burnt down in 1803 and rebuilt in the following year. Some buildings, including Huijeongdang and Daejojeon, the king's and queen's bedchambers, were burnt down in 1917.
Changdeokgung is not only a splendid palace preserving the architecture of the Joseon Dynasty but one that was used as the seat of royal regime for 258 years over the reigns of thirteen kings, witnessing many ups and downs of the dynasty. In this respect Changdeokgung is of greater historical value than Gyeongbokgung (Palace). Restoration work of ruined buildings is under way to recover the original state of the palace, which is scheduled to complete until the end of 2003.
Well tuned with nature, the rear garden of Changdeokgung features the showcase of traditional Korean garden landscaping. Twenty-eight buildings including exquisite pavilions and manors remain intact. Although individual is restricted to enter in a bid to better preserve its natural conditions, guided tours are allowed.