Perhaps one of the main palaces in all of Seoul, it is set in a massive compound under the watchful eyes of a rocky mountain. It reminded me alot of The Forbidden City in China, with the many walkways and gardens and dozens of buildings. If you visit on the weekend, it'll be crowded but there will be actors dressed as imperial guards which is a pretty cool addition to the atmosphere!!
The Chinese influence in Korea could be found anywhere, from architecture to language. When visiting the Korean palace, we spotted another example.
If you look closely, 9 mystical animals are perched on the roof of the palace. These 9 animals could also be seen on the roofs of the palace in the Forbidden City (The imperial palace of China, at Beijing). These animals are guardians which protect the palace, and also the royalty who reside within.
Changing the Guard
One of the most fascinating free shows is the Changing of the Gate Guard at Gyeongbokgong, specifically at the Gwanghwamun entrance gate. This is not an official government activity, but instead is an initiative of the Foundation for the Preservation of Cultural Properties, an organisation that does a lot to add more context to tourism in Korea. An explanatory free leaflet can be picked up at the ticket office for Gyeongbokgung explains what is going on in great detail, showing who does what and why.
Three times daily (except Tuesdays....presumably the day to break in and assassinate the monarch) between March and December, the Changing the Guard ceremony is a colourful spectacle, involving much pomp and ceremony. At 1000, the Gwanghwamun is ceremonially opened, and is followed by a parade of palace and court officials. At 1300, the gate guards are changed and then at 1500 they hold the Cheokgan ceremony, closing Gwanghwamun again. (Gyeongbokgong is still open afterwards though, unlike in the old days)
The Commander of the Guards at Gwanghwamun was responsible for security at all the main city gates and at the royal palaces. This person was a very senior military commander, chosen for his loyalty and known as the Sumunjang, and the ceremonial aspects of the ceremonies for changing the guard symbolises the devotion to the monarch. The ceremony was first held in 1469, during the rule of King Yejong. Before then, the activities of securing the gates was a simpler affair, carried out by local soldiers of the Joseon dynasty's central army known as the Owi (or Five Commands).
The whole affair is awash with colour, the guards all dressed in different coloured uniforms, each representing different ranks or functions. Drums are beaten, bows made, marching in formation with banners flowing in the wind, and much stepping and stamping. This ceremony always attracts many Koreans, anxious to witness one of the city's oldest traditions. However, it doesn't get crowded.
This is the central, most important hall at Gyeongbukgung, and for many centuries, in the whole of Korea. Here the Korean king would hold ceremonies and meet with foreign envoys: it was the official seat of power. First built, like much of the complex, in 1395 by King To-jon, first ruler of the Joseon dynasty, it was destroyed by Japanese invaders in 1592. It was rebuilt in the original form in 1867. It is, in my humble opinion, simply one of Asia’s most beautiful buildings, and one of the top ten in the world. Another ‘top’ building, the Gyeonghoeru, is just one hundred metres away! Two for the price of one!
Geunjeongjeon does not have the elaborate intricacy of the great palaces of Beijing or Bangkok or the ancient temples of Angkor Wat or Luang Prabang, but its simple form, its modest stone platform and its flowing roof have a unique elegance and beauty. It exemplifies the quiet but strong Korean character more than any other single building.
Geunjeongjeon is approached from the south gate, Gwanghwamun, through the guarded front door at Heungmyemun and into the inner courtyard at the Geunjeongmun, a process of steadily building up the anticipation for the Geunjeongjeon itself.
In the early morning or the later afternoon, the low sun increases the dramatic effect of the approach.
Unlike the three main halls of Beijing’s imperial city, Geunjeongjeon loses much of its impressive nature when seen from the sides or the rear, probably because the architects never intended for it to be seen much from these angles!
In 1592, the palace was burnt to the ground and Changdukgung, nearby, became the seat of power in the country. It was to remain in ruins until 1868 when it was restored to its former glory and King Gojong moved in. But the legacy of unhappiness at Gyeongbukgung was not yet over, for in 1895, Queen Min was savagely murdered by Japanese assassins in her bedroom along with her maids. The distraught Gojong left for the relative safety of the Russian legation and then to the nearby Deoksugung. Concepts of distance and safety were different in those days, as Deoksugung is only twenty minutes walk from Gyeongbukgong.
Gyeongbukgung, for all its splendour, has a sad air about it: so much promise and so much beauty, yet a constant reminder of occupation, invasion and internal power struggles. The complex has been partially restored, including the removal of an ugly building constructed by the Japanese simply to hide the palace from the citizens of Seoul.
Individual elements and areas of this huge and interesting complex are reviewed separately, and with the National Folk Museum lying within its grounds, it would be easy to spend half a day wandering through Korea’s regal history. For those who like a feel for the historical context of important sites, I would recommend going to the Folk Museum first, as this superb museum provides a well-structured background to what you will see in the palaces and monuments of the city. If you do this, make sure to walk round the outside of Gyeongbukgung to enter the palace by its front gate. (If you enter from the ‘north gate’ you will come across all the beautiful buildings from the back!)
Gyeongbokgung is big and it feels wide open, with the view all around of the loose, shattered cliffs and fir-covered mountains. Rarely can a royal palace have such a green background, as there is almost none of Seoul lying to the north of this palace.
Despite the low buildings, Gyeongbokgung dominates the city of Seoul. It struck me that it would be wonderful to somehow create a traffic-free green boulevard right through central Seoul to the gateway of Gyeongbokgung. Just five kilometres of grass lines with cypress, juniper, yew and cherry trees, 50 metres wide. Perhaps impossible to create, but surely it would create the most awesome sight in Asia. (Sorry…just dreaming here!)
The palace heralded the start of the Joseon dynasty, and was built by its first king To-jon. The former General Yi had set off in 1392 to fight Chinese Ming forces in the Liaotung peninsula when he had a change of heart and decided to seize power in Koryo. On his success he declared his new kingdom Chosun, and started to build a new capital at Seoul. Gyeongbokgung and the city walls were built simultaneously. But life was not so happy for the king: his large family immediately started fighting for power among themselves, and only six years later, the king, fed up with it all, left Seoul as battles raged all over the new city between armies belonging to his sons. To-jon eventually abdicated in favor of his pushy, ambitious fifth son, Pang-won.
The palace of Gyeongbokgung grew in, around and over the ashes of this in-fighting.
In the distant past, this was a huge complex of royal palaces and buildings, stretching over the gentle slope up to the mountains. Metaphorically, this slope retains the seat of power in Korea as the Blue House, the official residence of the president, sits serenely behind Gyeongbokgung…and perhaps significantly, slightly higher up!
Today, most of the buildings have disappeared, but the most important ones remain – some in their original state, others reconstructed in their original form. Korea can teach many countries about how to create a dignified and atmospheric setting for cultural heritage. It is done in a way that is respectful yet educational and informative: it is neither pushy nor aggressive, like the cultural heritage of some Asian countries, nor is it crassly commercialized. The authorities here provide access to their culture for a nominal sum (just 1000 won or US$1 at many sites) and give out free informative leaflets in Korean, English and Japanese. This reserved, thoughtful approach to cultural heritage management deserves applause and wider recognition, not because it provides cheaper tours by foreign visitors flitting by, but because it provides access to ordinary Korean people and their children so that they can feel their history and their culture.
As the winds of profit and commerce blow in every direction around the world, Korea deserves credit for their strategy, their tactics and their attitude.
Gyeongbukgung is the main palace in the Seoul area. This was the seat of power for the Joseon dynasty, the final dynasty of Korea before the Japanese colonial period starting in 1910.
The palace is open to the public, which means that it is busy on weekdays and nightmarish on weekends! Be prepared to get jostled a bit.
The palace was almost completely razed during the colonial period, so much of what is there now is what has been rebuilt by the Korea government over the last few decades.
The palace is quite impressive, with large squares, great halls, beautiful gardens and the like. To get a better idea of the history of the place, I recommend taking a free tour. The English tours leave several times a day; ask for information when you buy your ticket.
Dongsipjagak is a watchtower at the southeastern corner of Gyeongbokgung Palace. the stone platform was made by King Taejo built the palace in 1395. it is one of the most outstanding building of Gyeongbokgung Palace.
( Seoul Trangible Cultural Property No 13 )
Gyeongbok Palace was built as the primary palace of the Chosun Kingdom by its founder, King Taejo in 1395, the fourth year of his reign.
The place where I took this photo was believed to be the best view of this beautiful architecture.
Hyangwonjeong are good examples of Korea Garden art. built in 1873 by King Gojong. he had built on an island in the pond. Hyangwonjeong are mean's far reaching fragrance pavilion. and to the pavilion connected bridge name's are originally called Chihangyo inner part of Gyeongbokgung
Gyeongbokgung was the primary palace of the Joseon Dynasty. it's built by founder King Taejo. King Taejo established the Joseon Dynasty in 1392 and built the palace in 1395. this palace was burnt king seonjo ( 1592 ) during the Japanese invasion. it was estored of King Gojong(1868). since 1990,the restoration project by the Korean government. ( Historic Site No. 117 )
Admission Fee : 3000won
Open : 09:00~18:00
Closed : Tuesdays
Gyeonghoeru is the best architecture of Joseon time's pavilion. this pavilion is official banquets and foreign envoys were entertained place. it was built by King Taejong dug the pond and rebuilt this pavilion 1412. and burnt 1592, restored by King Gojong 1867. one of most beautiful architecture of Gyeongbokgung area.
( National Treasure No.224 )
Just behind the Gyotaejeon stands a small hillock, called Amisan,named after a prominent mountain in Sacheonseong, China.This man-made hillock was formed with the soil left after excavations for the pond by the Gyeonghoeru Pavilion.Beautiful plantings, granite pots with peculiar stones,
and a hexagonal red-brick chimney create picturesque views.
Sipjangsaeng mean's are Ten objects Symbolizing longevity by Sun, Mountain, Water, Stone, Moon or Cloudy, Tortoise, Crane, Deer and Herb of Eternal Youth. situated by Behind Jagyeongjeon Hall stands a red brick wall decorated. very interesting point of Gyeongbokgung Palace.
( Treasure 810 )