Jongno-gu Travel Blog› entry 4 of 10 › view all entries
This is the second palace we hit on Saturday while on the Seoul City bus tour. Changdeokgung is one palace that does not allow people to do self-guided tours, except one day a week sometimes. We just missed the 11:30am tour so we had to kill a couple hours wandering around until the 1:30pm tour started. Some people said we should've done the Korean Tour and just tried to follow along in our brochure. LOL.
Changdeokgung Palace was built in 1405 during the fifth year of King Taejong's reign during the Joseon Dynasty. It was the second palace built after the main palace, Gyeongbokgung, was constructed. After all the palaces were destroyed by Japanese invasion in the late 1500s, Changdeokgung was reconstructed during the reign of King Gwanghaegun (1608-1623) and became the longest functioning main palace in Joseon history.
Donhwamun is the main gate of Changdeokgung, built in the 12th year of King Taejong's reign in 1412. This gate was restored in the first year of King Gwanghaegun's reign in 1609. This gate is the oldest palace gate among those still remaining in Korea.
Apparently, when the gate was first constructed, there was a white granite substructure, on top of which was the two story gate erected. The substructure has since disappeared, only leaving the two story building remaining. Historical accounts note this particular gate was simple, yet elegant, as it was the entrance to a separate palace of the Changdeokgung palace.
Geumcheongyo Bridge is the oldest stone bridge remaining in Seoul, built during the 11th year of King Taejong's reign in 1411. Our guide noted that if one is to enter a palace, you must cross a stream first. This stems from the geomantic belief of pungsu which states the flowing water secured auspiciousness and prevented harm.
The bridge has two arches and a mythical animal caled "Haetae" to the south and a turtle statue to the north called "Hyeonmnu". Behind the statues is a monster carved where the two arches meet and is said to ward off evil spirts.
Injeongmun Gate & Injeongjeon Hall
The Injeongmun gate is an open entrance to the existing wing surrounding the Injeongjeon Hall. The Injeongmun was first built in 1418 during King Taejong's reign but subsequently destroyed during the Japanese invasion. The existing gate is believed to have been reconstructed in 1745 when the Injeongjeon Hall was also reconstructed.
Injeongjeon is the most notable building in Changdeokgung. This hall was used for official ceremony, such as celebrations by royal subjects. Injeongjeon was constructed in 1405, during the fifth year of King Taejong's reign when the palace was first established. As with the Injeongmun gate, the hall suffered damage in the fire caused by the Imjin invasion by the Japanese. The hall was restored in 1609, during the first year of King Kwanghaegun's reign. The first year of King Sunjong's reign in 1908 saw some modifications, including changing the interior of the building in a more European style.
The Injoengjeon is stationed at the center of the outer buildings in the palace. This is the usual manner that outer buildings should be located in the south of the inner buildings, and the most important buildings and pavilions are arranged in accordance with the line of the main axis of the meridian.
The stones lining the courtyard of Injeongjeon Hall serve as markers to place civil and military officers during the official ceremonies, such as those for the changing of the seasons and the reception of foreign envoys.
Seonjeongjeon was where the king dealt with state affairs. "Seonjeong" means to carry out good politics. The hall was built in the 7th year of King Sejo's reign in 1461. After suffering damage in numerous fires, it was rebuilt in the 25th year of King Injo's reign in 1647. This hall is the only remaining building with the blue tile roof remaining on the palace grounds.
One interesting note we learned is the blue roof appears to still be a modern day symbol of politics. The South Korean President conducts his work in what they call "The Blue House" which is close to one of the other notable palaces in Seoul. My understanding is you cannot tour it specifically but just view it in conjunction with that palace tour. We saw the roof but I was not in a position on the tour bus where I could snap a decent photo. Rats!
Initially, this building served as the king's sleeping quarters, but later became his office as well. The room in the center with no partitions, was used as a conference hall. This building is unique as it shows the influence of the western civilization in its interior furnishings.
The modern day appearance of Heuijeongdang is not what it used to be. During the Japanese occupation of Korea, this structure was lost in a fire in 1917. It was rebuilt with the dismantled materials of the Gangnyeongjeon, which was the king's sleeping quarters in the Gyeongbokgung palace. The western influence was introduced when the hall was rebuilt.
Daejojeon was the sleeping quarters for the queen, located just north of the Heuijeongdang Hall. Like Heuijeongdang, the fires of 1917 destroyed this building and the queen's sleeping quarters from Gyeongbokgung were dismantled and moved to Changdeokgung. Like the king's quarters, this building also reflects the influence of Western architecture.
An interesting note about the queen's sleeping quarters - there is one way to always tell the queen's quarters from those of the king. Apparently, the queen's building lacks the notable ridge on all the other palace buildings.
Three buildings make up the Nakseonjae area - the Nakseonjae, Seokbokheon, and Sungangjae. Originally, the Donggung, which is the quarters of the crown prince, was on this site as well. All these buildings were used at one time or another as residences for royal family members.
Nakseonjae was built as the king's quarters in the 13th year of King Heonjong's reign in 1847.
Seokbokheon was constructed in the 14th year of King Heongjong's reign in 1848. It was built between the sleeping quarters of King Heonjong (Nakseonjae) and the quarters for his grandmother (Sungangjae) so that the Royal Lady could better attend to the needs of the king and his grandmother.
Sungangjae was first built in the 9th year of King Jeongjo's reign in 1785 and later turned into the quarters for Queen Sunwon.
Biwon (Secret Garden)
Behind the palace is located the secret garden which lies on approximately 78 acres and was designed for the use of the royal family. The garden has ponds, pavilions, and incredible landscaping. The unfortunate thing was we picked pretty much the worst day to come! Every 3-4 years, they drain the ponds on one day to clean them and help keep them clear. Of course, we picked that day! LOL. It was still pretty and I can imagine with water in the ponds and a few more months into the year when the flowers are blooming, the garden is incredible to view.
Buyongji is a pond that was created based on the perception that heaven was round and the earth is a rectangle. The pond symbolizes earth and the island in the center symbolizes heaven. The Bujongjeong Pavilion has two legs then immersed into the pond.
Across from the Bujongjeong, there is a two story building which was off limits today. It appeared some type of renovation or restoration was taking place. Unfortunately, the scaffolding did not make for the prettiest pictures but I still wanted to at least take one or two. Heck, the Parthenon is still breaktaking with scaffolding so why not! LOL. The building undergoing the restoration work is called Juhamnu. It was built in the first year reign of King Jeongjo in 1778.
There is a building in front of the pond called Yeonghwadang. The king used to personally supervise state examinations to recruit civil and military officials, which took place in the front yard also known as Chundangdae of the building.
This was the last part of the garden we saw as needed to get going to head back to the hotel so we could change and get ready for the concert. We did not realize when we got off the tour bus to do this tour it was going to take so long so we weren't going to have time for anything else but the bus ride around the city which was fine.