Suitcase and World: Changdeokgung Palace.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Changdeokgung Palace.

Ffter having lunch in Insadong, I fired up my Google map George and I walked the short distance to Changdeokgung Palace, another one of the five Joseon Dynasty palaces located in Seoul.

Changdeokgung Palace was the second royal villa built following the construction of Gyeongbukgung Palace in 1405. It was the principal palace for many kings of the Joseon Dynasty, and is the most well-preserved of the five remaining royal Joseon palaces. The palace grounds are comprised of a public palace area, a royal family residence building, and the rear garden. Known as a place of rest for the kings, the rear garden boasts a gigantic tree that is over 300 years old, a small pond and a pavilion.

While George bought our entry tickets, I turned my sights to Donhwamun Gate, the main gate at the entrance of Changdeokgung. It was originally built in 1412 during the reign of King Taejong. Donhwamun Gate was burned down during the Japanese invasion in 1592 and was restored in 1609.

Update:  November 19, 2016.  I was at my local Korean supermarket today and happen to strike up a conversation with one of the Korean women who works there.  I told her I had gone to Seoul.  She asked me if I had visited the palaces.  I replied that I had.  She then asked me if I had worn a traditional hanbok on my visit to the palace.  I replied that I had not and they asked her why would I?  She then told me that if you wear a hanbok when you go to any of the palaces, you can get in for free.  That might explain why there are so many hanbok rental places in the city.  So, on my next trip to Seoul, I might just have to rent a hanbok.  I know I won't look out of place as I can easily pass for Korean. :-)

Looking back at Donhwamun Gate.

Unlike the entrance to Gyeongbokgung Palace which was pretty devoid of greenery, entering Changdokgung was like entering a park.  The wide path was flanked by grass and trees.  Not to mention that there were far fewer tourists here - it was a nice stroll in.

The path took us from Donhwamun Gate to Jinseonmun Gate.

Jinseonmun Gate.

On the other side of Jinseonmun Gate was the main part of the palace complex.  For whatever reason, there were quite a few women, dressed in traditional Korean hanbok, strolling the grounds.  I quickly found myself surreptitiously taking photos of them as I love the colorful and very feminine dress.

We soon happened up on Injeongjeon Hall , the throne hall of Changdeokgung. Major state affairs, including the coronation of a new king and reception of foreign envoys, took place here.  Originally built in 1405, Injeongjeon Hall was rebuilt in 1610 after being burned down during the 1592 Japanese invasion, and a third time in 1804 after being destroyed by a fire.

From the outside, Injeongjeon Hall appears to have two stories, but inside it is a single space with a high, beautifully adorned ceiling.

The floor of the hall was originally covered with blocks of baked clay, but today it is covered with wooden floorboards.

If Injeongjeon Hall was the symbolic main hall, then Huijeongdang Hall was used as the actual main hall of Changdeokgung, where the king spent most of his time. The king’s office, Seonjeongjeon, was not large enough for conducting routine state affairs. As a result, Huijeongdang, which originally was the king’s bed chamber, came to serve as his workplace. Huijeongdang was destroyed by fire in 1917, and the existing building was rebuilt with materials taken from Gangnyeongjeon, the king’s residence at Gyeongbokgung.

Here is where I have to {sheepishly} admit that we were lame tourists.  We looked at each other and asked if the other wanted to see more of the complex or not. We both decided we had had enough.   We had only walked by 2 of the buildings in the palace complex and we were ready to declare, "Done!".  Sad but true.  In our defense, there were no descriptive plaques explaining the buildings not to mention that the ones here looked pretty much the same, to our untrained, non-Korean eyes, like the buildings in Gyeongbokgung Palace.

In any case, on my way out of the complex, I stopped for a few seconds to admire a very old tree.  I suspect this one predates many of the buildings here.

We walked back to the apartment to rest for a bit.  I have a special night planned!