Exploring Changdeokgung Palace in Seoul, South Korea
We spent our last day in South Korea in Sejong Hotel (hotel info) in Myeong Dong. When I woke up for our early check out that day, I couldn’t believe that time flew so fast. We were leaving this beautiful country soon, and one of the last places in our itinerary was the Changdeokgung Palace.
We left the hotel early and headed to Changdeokgung Palace because we did not want to miss the English tour they are offering every morning. All of us except our tour guide were non-Korean speakers, so we made sure we did not miss that specific tour.
I did not mind visiting the Palace early, because I believed it was a great time to do so. The air was a bit chilly but fresh, and the early morning sun gave me and my travel buddies the feeling of traveling back in the olden times of Korea. The light also gave this elegant effect to the blue-roofed palace.
The palace grounds are massive and grandiose, and within the walls of Changdeokgung Palace, we were able to feel what it was like during the dynastical Joeson Era in South Korea.
We visited these key attractions:
Donhwamun Gate. Of course, we had to visit the gate first before anything else. It is the main palace gate, after all. It is a two-storey, pavilion-type gate that we learned was burned down in the 1590s, and was restored in the 1600s.
Geumcheongyo Bridge. We visited another royally magnificent part of the palace—the Geumchengyo Bridge. Our tour guide told us that it was built in 1411, and is the oldest bridge in Seoul! It looked like an ordinary pale gray concrete bridge.
Injeongjeon Hall. Injeongjeon Hall, which was restored thrice since its construction in 1405, served as the throne hall of Changdeokgung. We were told that this was where coronations of new kings were held.
Seonjeongjeon Hall. Similar to our home country’s session hall (but a bit larger since this is a palace, of course) is Senjeongjeon Hall, a place that looked like a session hall. Seonjeongjeon also served the same purpose as well, so that went without saying.
Huijeongdang Hall. Our tour guide said that Huijeongdgang Hall was converted from the Emperor’s sleeping chambers into a hall dedicated for state affairs. The building was destroyed in 1917 by a fire, and it was rebuilt. Our tour guide said that the reconstructed Huijeongdang doesn’t look like its original form. Nevertheless, I thought that it is still beautiful now.
Daejojeon Hall. If the Emperor had sleeping chambers, the Empress had her official residence within the palace grounds as well. The interiors of the building was very well preserved, and we were able to see the remnants of royalty from the last Empress of the Joseon Dynasty.
Juhamnu Pavilion (Kyujanggak). This area of the palace was where the royal libraries stood. I was able to imagine the days when government scholars, clad in their national, formal attires, spent their days studying! And just like some of the Korean movies I’ve seen so far, we were told by our tour guide that the palace conducted state exams as well, with the presence of the Emperor.
Yeon-gyeongdang Residence. This building was a relatively small audience hall that was built in the 1820s, according to our tour guide.
As we wandered around the palace grounds a little more, our tour guide gave us more history lectures. We learned that Changdeokgung Palace is the best-preserved palace among the five Joseon Era palaces. I am huge fan of political science and history and I truly appreciated the beauty of Changdeokgung Palace.
The palace grounds were very large and quite intimidating, and I could not imagine how the common folk of ancient Korea must have felt when they were allowed to enter inside the walls of this royal fortress.
Nevertheless, the ambiance, the fresh air, and the trees around me whose leaves have slightly turned orange and brown due to the autumn season made me feel very relaxed, contented, and thankful that I was born during this time to be able to appreciate the Changdeokgung Palace.
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