Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Palace in Seoul - Gyeongbokgung (Seoul Trip Day 1)

Gyeongbokgung (景福宫) was built by King Taejoin, the founder of the Joseon Dynasty, in 1395. The palace originally consisted of 330 buildings with more than 3000 staff serving the royal family.

The palace was burnt in 1592 during the Japanese invasion, rebuilt in 1867, but again almost completely destroyed by Japanese during their occupation from 1910 - 1945. Only a few buildings such as Gyeonghoeru Pavilion, Geunjeongjeon Hall, and Sajeongjeon Hall were spared. The major reconstruction of the palace is again started since 1990. Many palace buildings that we can see today are accurate replicas. To date, Heungnyemun Gate, Gwanghwamun Gate, the royal quarters, and the crown prince's quarters had been restored to their original state.

Gyeongbokgung is really huge. It took us 2 and a half hours to walk around the palace. Wearing comfortable shoes can ensure a good time walking through the ground with sand and uneven stone tiles. There are a few stairs to climb as well. Checking the weather forecast is important so that we can bring an umbrella in case of raining. We found only one cafe available at the souvenir shop. So we need to bring enough water to keep us hydrated if we are planning to stay long in the palace.

The ceremony of changing palace's guard is conducted in front of Gwanghwamun. The ceremony is held every hour starting from 10 am until 4 pm. The best spot to watch the ceremony is at the middle of the gate. We watched the ceremony at 11 am, before we started our tour around the palace. The ceremony however is a bit simple compare to the ceremony at Deoksugong.

The admission fee for an adult is KRW 3000 (around MYR 12). The detail about the opening hours and admission fees are available at the official site of Imagine Your Korea. A very informative map is available at The Soul of Seoul. We took subway Line 3 to Gyeongbokgung Station, and took exit 5. We could see Gwanghwamun on our left.

Gwanghwamun Gate was restored to its original state in 2010. The gate can be seen from Gyeongbokgung Station (upper left). The gate was beautifully painted with royal imaginary beasts (upper right). The royal guards attracted many visitors outside the gate (lower right). The ceremony of changing palace's guard starts at 10 am. We reached the gate around 10:40 am, and watched the ceremony before we continued our tour around the palace. The ceremony took around 10 minutes.

Heunghyemun (兴礼门) is the first front gate inside the palace's wall. There is a large square in between Gwanghwamun and Heunghyemum. The square was heavily guarded in old time. The ticket counter is located on the right side of the square. Click on the photo for bigger panoramic view.

Geunjeongjeon Hall (勤政殿) is the biggest and most magnificent building in the palace area. It is the throne hall in the palace. There is a gathering courtyard for the officials in front of the hall. The officials were arranged according to their ranking there. The higher their rank, the nearer their waiting position to the throne hall. Two rows (left and right) were assigned for the first three grades, the rest were one row each. This hall was built in 1867 to replace to one that was burnt in 1592.

Exquisite craftsmanship is exhibited on the top of Geunjeongjeon Hall.

The officials had to gather at the place designated for them, according to their ranking in front of Gyeongbokgung (upper left). The hall was built on two-stage stone platform with animal sculptures around located around the platform, including animals such as lions (upper right) and cat (lower right). We can see fine wood carved decoration in the throne hall, especially on the ceiling. 

The wooden throne of the king.

Sajeongjeon Hall (思政殿) is located behind the throne hall. It was the main council hall for the king- the meeting place for the king with the highest ranking officials. This hall was built in 1867.

Inside of Sajeongjeon Hall- the main council hall.

The halls such as Gangnyeongjean Hall, Gyotaejoen Hall, Donggung, and Sojubang Kitchen were restored after 1990. We walked around these halls through the passage beside the buildings (upper left). We could see the restoration work in progress in some of the buildings (upper right). The building patterns and craftsmanship are getting more simple (lower right). There are two structures that worth seeing- centralized chimney outside of Jagyeongjeon Hall with relief that symbolizes longevity, and the chimney behind the Gotaejeon Hall. These chimneys were used as the outlets for the smokes generated by the heating systems beneath the halls.

The backdoor of Jagyeongjeon Hall lead us to an open space with yellowish ginkgo trees. Click on the photo for bigger panoramic view.

The garden was beautiful in autumn mood.

Hyangwonjeong Pavilion.

This is a special structure at the back of the palace- Geoncheonggung (乾清宫), as it was built  by the mixture of stones, bricks, and wood. This structure was restored in 2007.

Jibokjae Hall is located beside Geoncheonggung. It was once the private study room for the king. It is now a public library with around 1000 books in collection. We started to walk back to the main entrance via the left sidewalk, where we could see Taewonjeon Hall, Gyeonghoeru Pavilion, and Sujeongjeon Hall.

Beautiful scenery of Taewonjeon Hall, which was restored in 2005.

Gyeonghoeru Pavilion was a place used for royal events. The current building was built in 1867.

Sujeongjeon Hall was built in 1867, served as the resting area for the king. The hall was built on two-stage stone platform in respect of the king.

Gyeongbokgung is really a place that worth a visit. The palace is huge, and really look nice in autumn. There are other places of interest nearby- Bukchon, Changdeokgung, Deoksugong, and several other places are within walking distance (10 - 30 minutes). 

We took a lunch break nearby Sejong Center of Performing Art, and then continued our journey to Changdeokgung.

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