Changgyeonggung Palace – 창경궁 (Jongno-gu, Seoul)


The beautiful courtyard at Changgyeonggung Palace in Seoul.

Hello Again Everyone!!

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.

Deoksugung Palace – 덕수궁 (Jung-gu, Seoul)


The beautifully ornate craftsmanship on display at Deoksugung Palace in Seoul.

Hello Again Everyone!!

I had been to Deoksugung Palace (“ Palace of Virtuous Longevity”) twice before the summer of 2008, and it was only by chance that I ended up going again. I had been planning to meet up with a student that had just recently graduated from high school; a student that I taught in Canada. She was from Seoul, knew that I was going to be in the area, and wanted to meet up. Originally, we were going to visit Gyeongbokgung Palace, but when we got there on Tuesday, it was closed. As a heads-up, if you want to visit Gyeongbokgung Palace, don’t visit on Tuesday because it’s closed. So instead, we decided, after a bit of hemming and hawing, to go to Deoksugung Palace. I hadn’t been in a while, and it was close to her home, so we got on the Seoul subway and made our way to our second palace pick.

Originally, Deoksugung Palace(덕수궁) was built as a private residence for King Sejo’s grandson in the mid-1400’s. However, after the sacking of Seoul in 1592 by the Japanese, this residence became a temporary palace in 1593. And for the next 15 years it was used as the official royal residence and seat of government for Korea. In 1623, King Injo moved the throne to the Changdeokgung Palace, and the Deoksugung Palace reverted back to being a subsidiary palace. And in 1895, after Queen Min was murdered at Gyeongbokgung Palace, both King Gojong and his son (future King Sunjong) fled to the Russian Legation for protection. Finally, in 1897, both father and son moved to Deoksugung Palace, where King Gojong was to die in 1919. After a decade of neglect, the palace was open to the public in 1933.

Back in 2004, the first time I visited Deoksugung Palace, the main gate, Daehan-mun (“Great Han Gate”) was still under renovation. But fortunately for us now, it’s no longer under renovation. Originally, this gate was located on the south wall, but was subsequently moved to the east wall, where it stands now. It was moved to its present location because of the traffic problems it was creating. This is the smallest gate at any of the major palaces in Seoul, but don’t let this fool you, as Daehan-mun is just as beautiful and magnificent in its own right. And if you’re lucky enough to visit the palace at 11 a.m., 2 p.m., or 3:30 p.m., like we were, you’ll be able to watch an authentic Joseon Dynasty changing of the guard ceremony. As you pass through Daehan-mun, you’ll cross a stone bridge that is traditional to all Korean palaces. While a lot more compact than the other Seoul palaces because of a disastrous fire in 1904, Deoksugung Palace deceptively looks larger than it actually is. To the right is a wide field with a statue of King Sejong, while on the left is a path that leads to Junghwa-mun. This is the gate that allows entrance to the palace courtyard and throne hall, Junghwa-jeon (“Hall of Central Harmony”). This throne hall was burnt down in 1904 and rebuilt again two years later, and it’s the newest throne hall out of all the major palaces in Seoul. Behind the throne hall are the uniquely designed buildings: Junmyeong-dong and Jukjo-dang. They are connected by an enclosed walkway used for official court business. A third, and more unusual building, is Seogeo-dang. It’s unusual because it’s the only two-story royal residence hall from the Joseon Dynasty. In a walled compound to the right is Deokhong-jeon, where the king conducted business; and the L-shaped Hamnyeong-dang, which was a living quarters where King Gojong died in 1919. The out of place western-looking building is Jeonggwan-heon. It was built in 1900 and hosted the king’s parties. On the palace grounds there’s also a National Museum of Art. It costs 11,000 Won for adults. Personally, I’ve never visited.

HOW TO GET THERE:  To get to Deoksugung Palace, you should get off at the City Hall Station on subway line #1, and take exit #2.  If you’re getting off at City Hall Station from subway line #2, you should take exit #12. The cost of admission is 1,000 won. The palace is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Additionally, free English tours are given at 10:30a.m. from Monday to Friday, and at 1:40 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

View Deoksugung in a larger map

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10. While certainly not the most impressive of the palaces located in Seoul, any palace you visit in Seoul is well worth the trip.  The most impressive features about the palace are Daehan-mun, the main gate at the palace; the statue of King Sejong on the green lawn; and Seogeo-dang, the only two-storied residence from the Joseon Dynasty. The drawbacks are the newer looking buildings and the smaller size of the palace.  But either way, if you have the time, and want to see a beautiful palace, make a stop at Deoksugung Palace.

Daehan-mun: the smaller, but still beautiful, main entrance gate at Deoksugung Palace.
Junghwa-mun is the entrance gate to the courtyard at the palace.  Through the gate you can see the throne hall in the background.
The throne hall at the palace: Junghwa-jeon.
The decorative masonry on the stairs leading up to the throne hall at Deoksugung Palace. n657235703_3704807_5379
The throne that Korean kings sat upon at Deoksugung Palace.
The emblem of Korean royalty.
 The old and the new.  Jeonggwan-heon is the western style building on the right.
 The walled off part of the palace just to the right of the throne hall and courtyard.
 A closer look at these historical buildings from the previous picture.
And King Sejong waving good-bye as we left.