After visiting Seoul recently, I thought I would dig some pictures out of the archives and talk about Changgyeonggung Palace. While not quite a temple or hermitage, it is a beautiful historical compound that draws thousands upon thousands of visitors each year. It was a rainy day when I went, but the palace was still just as beautiful as ever. Changgyeonggung Palace(“Palace of Bright Rejoicing”) was first built as a summer palace by Goryeo King Sukjong. It was originally constructed in 1104, and it was named Suganggung Palace; however, in the 1390’s, the palace’s name was changed to Changgyeonggung, when the first king of the Joseon Dynasty took up residence at the palace while Gyeongbokgung Palace was being completed. Like all historic structures in Korea, Changgyeonggung Palace was destroyed during the Imjin War in 1592. Fortunately, the palace was rebuilt in 1616. A majority of the palace’s structures were reconstructed in the 1830’s after a devastating fire. Unlike most major palaces in Seoul that are facing north to south, Changgyeonggung Palace is positioned east to west, which was apparently a Goryeo orientation method. When you first approach the palace from the footbridge from Jongmyo Shrine, you’ll be greeted by an assortment of stone structures strewn upon the descending hill that leads to Changgyeonggung Palace from the south. One of the stone structures is Gwancheondae, which is an astronomical observatory built in 1688. Continuing down the path, you’ll first come across Honghwamun (“Gate of Vast Transformation”). This large gate aligns with the throne hall. As you approach the main courtyard to the palace, you’ll cross over the customary bridge: Okcheon-gyo. It’s a twin-support stone bridge built in 1483. In all probability, it’s probably the oldest bridge in the city. But what makes this bridge so unique are the faces of the beasts that adorn the bridge. Crossing over Okcheon-gyo, you’ll next pass through Myeongjeong-mun gate, which allows you access to the main courtyard at Changgyeonggung Palace. Immediately before you is the beautiful throne hall: Myeongjeong-jeon (“Hall of Lustrous Government”). The present throne hall was constructed during the 1484 renovations. It apparently escaped the destructive war of 1592 and the devastating fire of 1830. As a result, it’s the oldest throne hall in all of Korea. What is also noteworthy about this throne hall are the finely carved haetae that protect the palace, as well as the finely carved stone phoenix that both stand on the staircase that leads up to the throne hall. Directly to the side of the throne hall is Munjeong-jeon, which was a rebuilt in 1986, and acted as a place to conduct daily business by the king. And to the rear of the throne is Hamin-jeon, which is an open pavilion. Set even further back of the throne hall is Tongmyeong-jeon, which was used principally as the queen’s residence. Up a staircase that is situated by a large boulder, you’ll climb these stairs north. You can really capture some stunning pictures of the palace from this elevated vantage point. Continuing north, you’ll come across Chundangji, which is a beautifully serene lotus pond. On the western side of the pond is a seven-tier pagoda of Chinese origins. Unlike Korean pagodas, this pagoda has a very tall base. This pagoda was originally brought to Korea in 1470.
HOW TO GET THERE: Much like Jongmyo Shrine, you can get to Changgyeonggung Palace by crossing over the footbridge that links the two grounds together. To get to Jongmyo Shrine you can take the Seoul Subway to Jong 3-ga Station on subway line 1. You can exit out of #11. The entrance for Jongmyo Shrine is across from the Jongmyo Citizen’s Park from Jong-no. Admission to the palace is 1,000 won and it also covers the entry into Jongmyo Shrine, as well. The hours of operation for Changgyeonggung Palace are from Tuesday to Sunday (closed on Monday) from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. April to October, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. November and March, and 9 a.m to 5 p.m December through to February. Also, you can only be admitted to the palace one hour before closing.
View Changgyeonggung in a larger map
OVERALL RATING: 8/10. Equal to Jongmyo Shrine in size and importance, Changgyeonggung Palace rates equal to its attached complex to the south. The highlights to the palace are the uniquely sculpted Okcheon-gyo bridge with its fiercely carved sculptures, the oldest throne hall in Korea, and the tranquil lotus pond to the rear of the palace buildings. For all these reasons, Changgyeonggung Palace is worth the trip either to both Jongmyo Shrine or all by itself. So if you’re in Seoul make sure you drop by one of the more unique palaces in the nation’s capital.
A little hike through a wooded forest that connects Jongmyo Shrine with Changgyeonggung Palace.
This is Gwancheondae, which is an astronomical observatory built in 1688.
The approach from south of the palace.
The massive Honghwamun (“Gate of Vast Transformation”), which aligns parallel to the throne hall. Unlike most palaces in Seoul, this palace runs east to west.
The first glimpse at the outskirts of the palace walls.
A view of Okcheon-gyo: a twin-support stone bridge built in 1483.
Another view of the ancient bridge.
A look at Honghwamun gate from Myeongjeongmun gate.
A look at Myeongjeongmun gate and the courtyard from the throne hall.
The beautiful and oldest throne hall in all of Korea: Myeongjeong-jeon (“Hall of Lustrous Government”).
The beautiful throne at Changgyeonggung Palace.
The intricate hallways directly behind the throne hall.
Neighbouring palace buildings with a massive stone as flooring at the palace.
A beautiful vantage point to take pictures of the palace.
Chundangji: The Royal lotus pond at the back of the palace compound.
A path that kings and queens walked upon.
This seven tier pagoda originated in China and it was brought to Korea in 1470.
One last look at the lotus pond before we left Changgyeonggung Palace in Seoul.