Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Buyongjeong Pavilion, Fall

Although I had visited the Changdeokgung palace and its "Secret Garden" before, I was keen to return and photograph the foliage when fall transformed it. Shown here is one of many photos I took this past  Sunday. Worth the revisit, eh?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Quieter Residence?

The area known as Geoncheonggung, located in a more secluded place of the palace that was rebuilt 10 years beforehand, was to be a quieter residence area for the king and queen. Built to resemble a scholar's residence, it lacked the colors and ornamentation found in other royal buildings. A favorite area for the king, it was also used to receive political representatives from the USA, Great Britain, and Russia in order to resolve some deep political issues. This area was first to receive electric lights and tragically became the place where Queen Myeongsung was assassinated by the Japanese in 1895. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Jibokjae and Hyeopgildang

Located next to the octagonal building Parujeong and connected via interior corridors, the buildings known as Jibokjae and Hyeopgildang were once used as a reception hall for foreign envoys. Unique in the palace, Jibokjae has side walls made out of brick, reflecting the Qing Chinese influence. Its interiors were once rather luxurious, also reflecting the Chinese flavor of the time. The windows and painted decorations were particularly ornamental, prompting me to take a nice collection of detail photos. Located on the end, the Jyeopgildang building is more traditional Korean in style and contains the wonderful heated Ondol floor.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Bit of Chinese

One of my favorite sections of the spacious Gyeongbukgung Palace is the Jibokjae section. It's a distance from the main gate and throne halls, thus receiving less visitors. Considering the busy Chusok holiday when I first visited this palace, having any area to one's self was quite an accomplishment.
Here, I enjoyed the beautiful octagonal two-story pavilion known as Parujeong. Built in the Qing Chinese style, it displays characteristics of strong Chinese influence, seen at that time as being very modern. These buildings were originally built in the Changdeokgung palace where the king temporarily lived after a devastating fire in 1876, but were moved here in 1885. With its many windows and great views of the mountains and nearby ponds, Parujeong was a favorite reading room for the royalty.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Show of Legitimacy

When walking through the section of the Gyeongbukgung Palace known as Taewonjeon, I was a bit surprised to read about the purpose of these residential-looking buildings. In order to communicate his legitimacy to the throne (King Gojong wasn't born a prince to the preceding king), he had Taewonjeon built to house portraits of the kings that went before him, particularly King Taejo who was the founder of the Joseon Dynasty. The section was also used at one time to house the coffins of deceased queens. During the Occupation, all these buildings were removed by the Japanese, but were restored in 2006.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Gyeongbok Dragons

Throughout the expansive palace property of Gyeongbokgung and other palaces, one can find imagery of dragons. A common mythological creature of Korea and neighboring countries, the dragon known as yong has three forms, one protecting the sky, another one on earth, and a hornless one in the ocean. Typically containing four claws (Chinese dragons have five and Japanese ones have three), the Korean dragon has the head of a camel, horns of a deer, eyes of a rabbit, ears of an ox, neck of a snake, belly of a frog, scales of a carp, claws of a hawk, and tiger's feet.
During the lengthy Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910), only the king could use the dragon in the palace as his symbol. It is seen as a symbol of power, dignity, and majesty. The robes of a king often contained a dragon in its ornamentation.

Below are a few images of dragons found in the Gyeongbokgung Palace.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Gyeonghoeru Pavilion

One of the most picturesque places within the expansive Gyeongbokdung Palace is the area around the Gyeonghoeru Pavilion. It is here that formal banquets for foreign envoys were thrown. From here, the royalty and guests would have a splendid view of the palace and Mount Inwangsan. The upper floor, built on top of 48 stone columns, has three slightly varying levels, symbolizing heaven, earth, and man. Like the majority of buildings in all the palaces of Seoul, this one succumbed to fire during the Japanese invasion of 1592. In 1867, the present building (much larger than the original) was built. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Geunjeonjeon Throne Room

It is in the Geunjeongjeon throne hall that the kingdom's state affairs took place, including meetings, foreign envoy meetings, and coronation ceremonies. 
Note the painted folding screen behind the throne. The sun and moon represent the king and queen, while the five peaks stand for a mythical place. The Irworobongdo screen displayed the splendor of the Joseon royal court. 

As always, it's important to look up. Look how beautifully decorated the lofty ceilings are decorated.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Critters around the Palace

Located around the throne hall at Gyeongbokgung Palace are a rather large collection of stone-carved critters. Facing each of the four cardinal directions are guardian figures (white tiger, blue dragon, black tortoise, and red peacock). In addition, there are twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac, responsible for guarding the hall and its occupants against evil. 

I find it rather humorous that most of the critters have large noses. Any significance there?

Blue dragon


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Courtyard and Geunjeongjeon Hall

The spacious courtyard leading up to the main throne hall known as Geunjeongjeon is comprised of rough-hewn granite stone slabs. Such finishing helps reduce glare. On the photo above, notice the stone markers near where the people are walking. It is here that officials lined up by ranks at the designated marker. The courtyard has three paths leading to the throne hall. Only the king could walk along the center path. 
This lofty roof is rather deceiving, appearing to have two floors. Instead, the illusion completes a high-ceilinged one-floor chamber.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Yeongjegyo Bridge, Gyeongbokgung Palace

Having passed through the initial main gate and secondary gate (Heungnyemun Gate), visitors would pass over a small bridge named Yeongjegyo. Located on the top of the canal right next to the bridge were several imaginary creatures known as Seosu. 
Two additional figures flanked the beginning of the bridge. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Tale of Two Gates

This view presents us with two gates within the Gyeongbukgung Palace - the Gwanghwamun Gate (foreground) and the distant Heungnyemun Gate. Looking at the ceiling of the main entrance Gwanghwamun Gate, one finds two turtles, which are symbolic of fortune and longevity. The Heungnyemun Gate and surrounding area was destroyed during the Japanese occupation and was restored in 2001.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Watchtower in the Intersection

Now rather isolated in a traffic island intersection amidst modern buildings, this structure, known as Dong-sipjagak, is actually a watchtower. Located on the southeast corner outside the Gyeonbokgung Palace, its southwest pair was destroyed during Japanese occupation. Despite looking a bit out of place, the watchtower is a reminder of the rich history of Seoul, carefully preserved on its tiny parcel of land.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Rooftop Gardening

While technically not on the actual roof of the house, this elderly woman attends to her rather comprehensive garden on the elevated plot next to her traditional home in the Bukchon neighborhood in Seoul. Considering the elevated price of produce this year, such a garden could provide considerable savings.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Dragon Drum at Gwanghwamun Gate

Still some time prior to the hourly changing of the guard procession, the dragon drum just inside the main Gwanghwamun Gate of the Gyeongbokgung Palace stood bold and silent. Its vivid rainbow palette of colors and dragon designs scaling the side contrasted sharply to the neutral colors of the gate's stone bottom. 

 As a signal that the changing of the guard would commence, a red-clothed member forcefully hit the end of the drum. The center of the drum's head contained a symbol called a Samsaeg-ui Taegeuk, with red & blue representing heaven & earth, and yellow representing humanity. Let the procession begin!

Monday, October 01, 2012

Spam - a Korean Favorite

If giving a $100 box of apples isn't quite to your the liking of your special person on the harvest festival of Chusok, you can always give them a specially gift-wrapped box of SPAM. Just for the holiday, this box can be yours for about $50 - a special deal. Ever since local began getting a taste of this highly processed leftover meat from the local American army bases, they have incorporated it into their diet. In fact, outside of Guam and Hawaii, Koreans are the biggest consumers of SPAM. It has made its way into kimchi stew and kimbap rolls - two classic dishes. Fore more about the history of SPAM in Korea, visit A Short History of SPAM in Korea website.

So serve up that SPAM for your Chusok guests. Enjoy!

Happy Chuseok, Korea!

The Gyeongbokgung Palace was a very busy place today, on this very important holiday called Chuseok. It is on this lunar holiday that Koreans pay respect to their ancestors for the year's harvest and share some of their bounties with family and friends. Traditionally, families would return home to their ancestor's graves, making the roads very congested and leaving Seoul deserted. Having been downtown today both in the palace and surroundings, I can attest a lot of people were definitely still in Seoul. Those wearing a traditional hanbok were able to get in the palace at no admission fee. While some took advantage of this offer, I was disappointed to see that most continued to wear Western clothing. At least I got a photo shot of a few cuties such as this one! 

Read more about Chuseok on this website, made by the Korean Tourism Organization.