Changgyeonggung Palace

This palace was built in 1418, destroyed by the Japanese in 1592, rebuilt in 1616, burnt down in 1830, rebuilt in 1834, leveled for a zoo in 1909, called just a park instead of a palace by the Japanese starting in 1911, restored in 1983. It was the first one I visited and, maybe because of that, my favorite. There was almost no one else there, and it also was not so big that it was overwhelming, which I felt some of the others were.

I went in the Honghwamun entrance (on the right side), then the Myeongjeongjeon and then I took a right and went out to the Inner Palace Site, Chundangji, Gwangeokjeong and Jipchunmun. Headed back into Myeongjeongjeon I went further into the Munjeongjeon, Sungmungdang and Haminjeong, then right to Gyeongchunjeon and Hwangyeongjion, Yeongchunheon and Jipbokheon and Tongmyeongjeon and Yanghwadang.

Honghwamun is a beautiful area that was used for greetings.

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Myeongjeongjeon was used as the main hall where state affairs such as royal coronations, royal weddings and, royal banquets were held.

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Inner Palace Site used to have buildings for all the women, but these were all taken down during Japanese occupation.

Chundangji is a pond. It looks as if there are two as it gets bottlenecked at one point, but the smaller one (in the back) was always a pond while the larger one used to be for the Kings rice paddies.

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Gwangeokjeong is a military training area as it is a wooded area and Jipchunmun is a gate that lead to a small shrine.

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Munjeongjeon is a south facing building where the king dealt with routine state affairs.

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Sungmungdang is a banquet and classical literature hall. Haminjeong is another banquet hall, but was also used to receive state officials. I’m seeing a lot of similarities between the uses of buildings, but they are different sizes so can be used for different sizes of groups.

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Gyeongchungjeon is the queens room (and ‘birth hall’) while Hwangyeongjion was for kings and princes.

Yeongchunheon and Jipbokheon were concubine rooms.

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Tongmyeongjeon is the queens bedroom and is elevated because of that while Yanghwadang was used for guests.

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Changdeokgung Palace

This is connected to Changgyeonggung Palace though Hamyangmun exit/entrance. This palace was built in 1405, destroyed by Japan in 1592, reconstructed in 1610, destroyed in a fire  in 1623, restored in 1647, and made part of the Unesco World Heritage List in 1997. There were other small fires that only destroyed a building or two. Much of it was inaccessible when I went, which was disapointing to me on a few levels, the one most people don’t think about being: if I can’t see half the palace, why am I paying full price?  After going in Hamyangmun, I went to Seongjeonggak, Nakseonjae Complex, Huijeongdang and the gift shop which was opposite it, then Seonjeongjeon and out though Injeongjeon.

Seongjeonggak is an area where the Prince used to have books and hold talks about them, as well as read them to audiences. It is on the way to the secret garden, which was quite dead when I went on December 23rd.

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The Nakseonjae Complex is where the prince and king lived and read alone. The colors are not very bright for the reason  that the king wanted to relax there (I was wondering that when I saw the buildings but was too cold to take out the booklet or stand and read a sign).

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Huijeongdang was originally the kings bedroom but became his work area when the other location became too small.

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Seonjeongjeon was that other location. It became too small, so the king moved things to his bedroom, Huijeongdang. This is the only building in the area with a blue tiled roof.

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Injeongjeon was the throne hall and where most major ceremonies went on.

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Gyeongbokgung Palace

I believe this is the biggest palace in Seoul, even though the guidebook does not mention it. It is the one that is at the top of a main street (Sejong-daero and Sajik-ro). Inside it is the National Palace Museum and behind it is the blue house, Cheongwade, where the president lives. It was founded in 1395, destroyed by a fire during Japanese invasion in 1592, reconstructed in 1867 and since there other areas have been destroyed and rebuilt, with the last restoration being Gwanghwamun. It is said that this palace has the best feng shui as it has the mountains in the background. I went in though Gwanghwamun, to Geungongjeon, left to Sujeongjeon and Gwolnaegaksa, back to Sajeongjeon, onward to Gangnyeongjeon and Gyotaejeon, further back to Heumgyeonggak and Hamwonjeon finally going right to Jagyeongjeon and then returning to the main gate. While approaching the gate, there are two statues, as seen below.

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Gwanghwamun Gate is south facing and represents summer and fire. It is the largest gate in Seoul, and has three entrances/exits and is a two-story pavilion. There used to be watch towers that were attached, but now only one is left and it is in the middle of an intersection (Dong-sipjagak). They have shows in front of the gate but I’m not sure the times (I twice walked past and it was going on both times but I was across the street and unable to get a good photo). There are also two Haetae statues near this gate, which is a lion-looking creature that is supposed to ward off evil spirits.

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Geungeongjeon is the next area you walk into and was the main throne hall were parties were had and other royal pepole were greeted.

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Off to the left from there is Sujeongjeon and Gwolnaegaksa which were government offices.

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Sajeongjeon is where you go back into the main order of things, and is where the king dealt with state affairs and the name itself means ‘hall where the king should think deeply before deciding what is right and wrong’ which I think is a perfect name and is something all government workers should think of when they do their jobs. This was burnt down during the Korean war and rebuilt in 1988.

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Gangnyeongjeon is the first building in the next area and was the kings house while Gyotaejeon is right behind it and was the queens house. Behind her house is a terraced garden called Amisan which was only restored in 1995.

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Heumgyeonggak and Hamwonjeon were used for scientific discoveries and Buddhist events.

Jagyeongjeon to the right was the living quarter for Jo who brought Gojgong to the throne. It is the most elegant living quarter on the palace grounds and the name means ‘wish for much happiness for senior royal ladies’

At this point I was too cold to go on AND it was crazy busy–way too many people to appreciate it. I will go back in Spring or Summer and go there right when it opens.

Gyeonghuigugn Palace

This palace is the smallest and is behind the Seoul Museum of History. Entry is free. It was originally a royal villa and was constructed in 1617, destroyed during Japanese occupation, decided upon as a historic site in 1980, and reopened in 2002. Probably due to it’s size, I was one of 3 people there.

After going in the main gate, you will see Sungjeongjeon which was the main hall. I really liked the terraced roof behind the building, and it seemed impossible to see any of the other buildings when I went in.

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Deoksugung Palace

This was the last palace I saw, and it is quite near the Seoul Museum of Art and City Hall. This palace was adopted as a temporary palace in 1593 by Prince Wolsan and renamed in 1611 to a palace. In 1904 most of it was lost to a fire, and in 1933 the Japanese colonial government destroyed most of the palace buildings and creates a public park. Looking on the map given to you upon entry, you can see how much bigger (three times the size!) it used to be and how it was impossible for the Korean government to completely restore the palace without destroying buildings, including the Salvation Army. I went in though Daehanmun, then off to the right to Hamnyeongjeon and Deokhongjeon and Jeonggwanheon, then further back to Jeukjodang and Seokjojeon and turning back towards Daehanmun going through Junghwajeon.

Daehanmun is the east and main gate, and was originally titled to mean ‘to be in great comfort’ but now means’ Seoul will prosper’. Once entering you will go over a bridge (you can go around it too) or make a sharp right to the gift and coffee shop.

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Hamnyeongjeon (the first building you see) was the sleeping quarters for the king while Deokhongjeon was where he received guests. Deokhongjeon was decorated in Western style and had a chandelier hanging from the ceiling.

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Jeonggwanheon is behind Hamnyeongjeon and Deokhongjeon and is made in half Western style and half Korean style. I was not a fan of it…but the king served coffee and gave banquets here.

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Heading further away from the main gate is Jeukjodang which served as the main throne hall during Japanese invasion.

Seokjojeon is even further back and looks very Western–a ‘symbol of a nation seeking to modernize’. It initally served as sleeping quarters but is now the National Museum of Art.

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Junghwajeon used to be the main throne hall, when the gate in front of it was the main gate (south facing).

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