Changgyeonggung Palace, Seoul
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.
This is one of the most popular ancient palaces in Seoul with many buildings and a large landscaped compound. It is linked to the Jongmyo (Royal Shrine), another popular attraction by a bridge across a road.
Changdeokgung Palace. There are quite a few palaces around but I think this one is the most interesting to visit. Don't miss the Secret Garden (Biwon)and Nakseonjae!
The kings stayed here longer than at the main palace Gyeongbokgung.
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)
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.
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.
Of All the Palaces in Seoul, this has A "Secret" Garden (Biwon) and it the Only Palace Designated as A World Heritage Area by Unesco. Changdeok Palace literally means “Palace of Prospering Virtue”. According to the tour Guide, Changdeok Palace was built in 1405 as a secondary palace for the Korean Chosun Dynasty King with Kyeongbok Palace serving as the primary palace for the Korean royalty. Built by King Taejong, Changdok is the best preserved of all of Seoul's palaces. It has its own unique architectural beauty and is divided into four main components: Central Palace, Biwon (known as the secret garden), Naksonjae, and Sonwonjon HallDuring the Hideyoshi invasion of Korea in 1592, Kyeongbok Palace was destroyed and after the war it was not rebuilt and Changdeok Palace became the primary residence of the royal family and also, Korea’s last emperor Sunjong passed away on these grounds in 1926.
Opens : 09:00 ~ 18:00 (march to October); 09:00 to 17:00 (November to February)
English Language Tour is from January ~ December (3 times a day)
11:30 am, 13:30 pm, 15:30 pm
Division 6 or under and 65 or more 7~18 years 19~64 years
foreigner free 1,500 3,000 won
special free 5,000 5,000 won
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.
Changgyeonggung was rebuilt in 1616, but these were again destroyed by fire in 1830: only Myeongjeongjeon was undamaged by the flames. The whole complex was rebuilt by 1834, to the original design. During Japanese imperial rule, the palace suffered the indignity of being demoted to being a garden, Changgyeongwon as home of a zoological garden, a botanical garden and a museum known as the Changsugak. It took until 1983 for the Korean government to turn to restoring the palace to its former glory, including the rebuilding of some structures torn down by the Japanese, and once more the stately complex was renamed Changgyeonggung. Whether the priority is to erase all traces of Japanese influence or to restore pride and loyalty towards Korean culture, the restorations are superb and this huge palace and grounds is a very attractive place, filled with families at the weekend and the elderly during the week.
The courtyard and halls of Changgyeonggung are imposing, yet have a homely feel, especially in the warm rays of a lowering sun, that is missing in many of the vast Chinese and Korean palaces. Unusually, this complex of structures feels more like a royal home, and the scale of the buildings is not overpowering like at Beijing's Imperial City or at Changde, or even nearby at Gyeongbokgung. Perhaps as this palace was not the seat of power, it didn't need to overawe and intimidate visitors.
The Honghwamun is probably the most imposing structure and it is just the entrance, a particularly attractive double-eaved gateway, similar to the gateway at the nearby Changdeokgung palace. It seems barely noticed by the visitors streaming in, yet it is one of the most interesting and complex buildings at Changgyeonggung. Its 3 kan by 2 kan structure makes it much more graceful than Chinese ceremonial gateways, yet it conveys an impression of strength and splendour. It is a pity that the main road is so close by: it really deserves some open space in front to allow the visitors to appreciate the scale and grace of it all.
Behind the gateway is a stone bridge, the Okcheon-gyo, spanning an artificial brook: this is a clear indication of the strength of Chinese imperial architecture at the time (and note that the big expansion of 1483 by King Seonjong was at the same time Beijing's Imperial Palace was being constructed in its current form). The bridge, like every good Chinese bridge, is even guarded by mythical creatures, recognizable to any Chinese visitor. (Currently the bridge and this first courtyard is closed for renovation)
The courtyard between the Myeongjeongmun (Myeongjeon gate) and the Myeongjeongjeon (Myeongjeong hall....you should be getting the hang of it by now!) is paved with huge flagstones, warm in the sun, reassuringly solid in the ice and snow, with a central avenue lined with stone markers. These stones indicated where the different ranks of courtiers needed to line up during ceremonies and events at the palace. On a single, high stone platform is the Myeongjeongjeon dating from the 1616 recent reconstruction. Myeongjeongmun is almost (almost) unique in that it faces east, so creating an entire complex that faces towards the rising sun. I can think of only one other official royal building in Asia that faces east: the rest all face south. This was the core of the complex, with the 'public areas' in front, and the family quarters behind. As a secondary palace, there are few additional buildings on either side: there was no need for the offices and quarters of vast armies of bureaucrats and courtiers here. Where, in bigger palaces, there would be granaries, ministries, housing for battalions of clerks, messengers, visiting dignitaries and flunkeys of every kind, here at Changgyeonggung there are quiet gardens and parkland. The cluster of structures behind the Throne Hall were sufficient for the small imperial family and its retinue of personal staff.
To the south, behind the Myeongjeongjeon was the Munjeongjeon where the king would actually work and meet with his officials. He is also believed to have lived here, in small bare sleeping quarters. This building, like several others here, has no walls, but latticed continue almost to the floor. Several buildings in this complex show the rather spartan living accommodation that remains an admirable Korean trait to this day. The 1483 'original' was destroyed during the Japanese occupation, and was rebuilt in 1986.
And just behind this hall was Sanmungdong, one of the few buildings here not built during the 1484 extensions. It was constructed in 1724 specifically to commemorate scholars and academics, a tangible demonstration of the regard in which the educated were (and still are) held in Korea.
Behind the central core complex lies the Haminjeong, a small but extremely beautiful open pavilion where the king met with and congratulated those who did particularly well in the civil service examinations that were crucial for access to the top civil and military positions in Korea. This system, modeled on the Chinese imperial examination system, was astoundingly complicated and required many years of frantic studying and memorizing of endless facts and minutiae: this is a more pernicious trait that continues in Korea to this day.
Just to the north of the pavilion a number of domestic buildings lie around a dusty courtyard, but one which has tremendous tranquility: you can really imagine queens and princes strolling around here!
The Hwangyongjeon, Kyongchunjeon (with its charming open verandah), and the particularly attractive Tongmyeongjeon flanked by a small pool to the west, are all classically elegant buildings used as residential areas for the family, but eavh has little stories and little histories to tell: of being a banqueting hall, of being the place where a king or prince lay in state, where the queens lived. The Tongmyeongjeon is also notable for having no ridge, having a look more in keeping with traditional northern Chinese houses. All these buildings have underfloor heating ducts, and several chimneys from the stoves can be seen on the slope behind the buildings to the north.
Just to the east are two buildings used by the more recent of the Joseon dynasty, the Yongchunheon and the Chippokeon: they are joined together. The northern end of these buildings can be entered and by using the provided slippers, you can wander around the small bare rooms.
The southern part of the whole complex is laid out as parkland, contrasting with the woodland to the north of the buildings. Near one path is the 17th Century Kwancheondae or royal observatory.
One admission fee allows entry to both the Jongmyo royal shrines and Changgyeonggung, and the two are connected by a bridge over the main road.
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.
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.
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.