Friday, September 2, 2016

Colorful Changing of the Royal Guard Ceremony.


I  don't think my nap yesterday afternoon helped my jet lag recovery efforts any. I got to sleep sometime past midnight and woke up sometime past 4a. I tossed and turned but never fell back asleep until around 6:30 and then I was out for only about an hour. I decided trying to sleep was really an exercise in futility so I just resigned myself to the fact that I will be dragging all day today. Since I didn't have dinner last night, I was actually hungry when I woke up. I broke into the ramen bowl that I had bought yesterday - that really came in handy. Then I hit the shower and got ready for the day.

At 9:35a, I was out the door and on my way to Gyeongbokgung Palace. I know I had said that I would wait until George arrived before seeing the entire ceremony but I figured I would go this morning as well.....just in case they don't have the ceremony on weekends.

It was surprisingly nice, temperature wise, as I hit the streets of Seoul. One block over and it looked a small flea market was in the process of setting up - a couple of vendors selling clothes but most were selling food items of some sort.

In just about 10 minutes, I was standing on the other side of the Gwanghwamun Gate.



There was a roped off section around the walkway leading to the central entry gate. I figured the walkway was off limits to viewers so I looked for a spot that I thought would be good for watching the ceremony from and sat down on the curb and waited. There was quite a crowd of tourists gathering all around the courtyard. I patiently waited and soon an announcement came over the PA system telling everyone that the ceremony was going to take place at 10a. A palace attendant came over to where I and a bunch of other people were standing and sitting and told us we had to move over to a spot behind the rope. I had been sitting with a bunch of young Chinese. They went off in one direction and I deliberately chose to go off in another. They had been a noisy lot and I wanted my peace.

Then I heard the rhythmic beating of a drum. I could see the movement of flags as they were being carried in procession. The ceremony began when a guard, standing on a balcony above Gwanghwamun Gate, blew the shell of a very large sea snail (Charonia tritonis, commonly known as Triton's trumpet or the giant triton).


The colorful Changing of the Royal Guard ceremony at Gyeongbokgung Palace dates back to 1497 when the royal guards of the Joseon Dynasty performed the task of guarding the entrance to the palace where the king ruled the country. The present reenactment ceremony began in 1996.  The Changing of the Royal Guard ceremony at Gwanghwamun Gate takes place twice daily - at 10a and at 2p.

Two sets of guards marched into the courtyard, each led by a commander.  The guards were all dressed in what I presumed were the costumes of the 15th century....reinterpreted for the 21st century.  I loved it all - the brimmed hats (especially the ones capped with feathers),  the colorful military style hanbok which were made of such a lightweight fabric, they fluttered as the guards marched and the traditional cloth shoes.  The guards also carried either swords or bow and arrows to complete the look.








At the same time, the royal band marched in.







One set of guards stood in position along the walls of Gwanghwamun Gate.  They were recreating the positions of existing guards i.e., those that would be changed out.



The commanders greeted each other and confirmed IDs.






Once the commanders acknowledged IDs, old and new guards faced each other.  Old guards moved out and new guards moved into position.






All the while, the band played on.


Once the new guards were in place, a commanding officer did his check.


The old guards lined up in formation to walk out.


As the ceremony took place inside the palace, the changing of the guard also took place outside the palace gate.  Although the entire ceremony only took 15 minutes, I loved the colorful pageantry of it.  I'll definitely come back with George tomorrow!

When it was all over, I made my way outside the gate and took a few photos of the guards standing at attention there.




People were rushing up to have their photos taken with the guards.   Not my cup of tea but I couldn't resist taking a photo of these two Korean women, dressed in traditional hanbok, standing alongside one of the guards.  There's so much tradition represented here!


After the short ceremony, I headed back to the apartment to cool off a bit and to check Google Maps for directions to my next sightseeing spot - Jogyesa Temple. In planning my time in Seoul, I mapped out places to go to that we're in easy walking distance from the apartment. It was only after I started doing this that I realized just how centrally located the apartment is. There are a lot of landmarks located near the apartment!

My day of sightseeing in Seoul continues!