Friday, December 28, 2012

Yeongyeongdang, Changdeokgung Palace

Built in 1828 by the Crown Prince to celebrate his mother's 40th birthday, Yeongyeongdang is patterned after a typical nobleman's house of the day. It was also used to receive foreign envoys and hold politically-motivated parties. 
With the doors and windows opened, the warm fall light reflected through its corridors.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Uiduhap Pavilion, Changdeokgung Palace

Built in 1827 by Crown Prince Hyomyeong, the modest study known as Uiduhap, devoid of the traditional vibrant colors and patterns of other palace structures, was used as a reading area. Walking through a choice of gates, one reaches the Aeryeonji pond and a smaller overhanging pavilion known as Aeryeonjeong.

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Joyous Christ-filled Christmas from Seoul

Although I have escaped the cold of Seoul for the holidays, I decided to post a photo from there. This scene is from the Yonsei University campus in Seoul, located on the hill next to my school. 
I am thankful for residing in a mostly Christian country and for teaching at a school that freely shares and professes the love of Jesus Christ. As our elementary school division's last chapel event clearly emphasized, it is because of the coming of Jesus, celebrated today, that humanity can truly be joyous.
A Blessed Christmas to all!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Bullomun Gate, Changdeokgung Palace

To reach the Aeryeonji Pond within the Secret Garden, a visitor passes through a stone gate known as Bullomun. Its inscription, originally meant for the king, wishes those who pass through it a long and healthy life.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Secret Garden of Changdeokgung Palace

Once past the ticketing gate by Hamyangmun, the beautiful area of Changdeokgung Palace, known as the Secret Garden, beckoned. Revisiting the UNESCO site in fall, I was thrilled when the tour guide (normally mandatory for this section) announced that those who wished to venture off on their own could do so. It would be a bit more like how it was for the royal family of yesteryear, wandering through the hilly but shaded paths of the forest, stopping to enjoy the beauty of the ponds, architecture, and natural landscape. 

The first main item of note is the rectangular pond known as Buyongji, framed by the lotus-shaped Buyongjeon pavilion, a small Sajeonggibigak building, and a larger Yeonghwadang Pavilion, where state exams were sometimes held. Opposite the pond with its central tree now ablaze in red, is the Juhamnu Pavilion. Perched many rows of steps up on a hill, this structure commands a fine view of the surroundings. I imagined what joy this scene must have given the royal family when they came here as a retreat or for study. Such harmony of buildings with the natural surroundings.

Walking through paths shaded by fall-colored trees

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Stairs to the Secret Garden

Although today's visitors must pass through metal gates when wanting to visit the Secret Garden of Changdeokgung Palace, royalty once was able to ascend a much more peaceful-looking set of stairs and gate. With such lush greenery beyond the enclosed arched gateway, a walk through the cooler forest beckoned.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Daejojeon, Changdeokgung Palace

The queen's residence at Changdeokgung Palace, Daejojeon is one of the few buildings in which one can see furnishings. Above we see some ornate but very hard-looking furniture, decorated in mother-of-pearl. Above the doorway was a beautifully carved phoenix, traditionally a symbol for the Queen. Phoenixes are associated with peace, prosperity, and happiness - a bit ironic, considering that the Daejojeon was the site of the last cabinet meeting of the dynasty in which Japan's annexation of Joseon was deliberated. 

Outside of the area buildings was the fire cauldron, meant to quickly help put out fires in the immediate area. I guess it wasn't effective enough, as Daejojeon was destroyed by fire in 1917. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Black and White on Black

Always on the lookout for interesting decorative tiles and wood pieces of the buildings at Changdeokggung Palace, I always make a point of looking upward. The black and white markings of this bird made it blend in with the black dragon tile on which it had perched. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Simpler Style, Changdeokgung Palace

Located just below the stepped hill where the Samsamwa pavilion is situated, one can find the complex known as Nakseonjae. Built in 1847, it was King Heonjong's favorite place to relax and read. Unlike other structures in the palace that are colorfully and decoratively painted, these buildings retained the simpler brown and white hues. In fact, the interior and exteriors were very similar, as evidenced by these photos. Nakseonjae was used as recently as 1989, occupied by the last crown prince's wife and used as a residence.
The walls currently surrounding the buildings here were restored in 1996, after being removed during Japanese occupation.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Crown Prince Residence, Changdeokgung Palace

Just before the entrance to Changdeokgung Palace's famous Secret Garden is a set of buildings that once was the crown prince's residence. Some of the buildings (where the gate entrance for the garden currently is located) were removed in 1891. The only original buildings that remain today are the hexagonal pavilion (Samsamwa) and Seunghwaru. These structures were once connected to Seongjeonggak (originally the crown prince's study and later used as a royal hospital during Japanese occupation) via corridors.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Palace House Interior Doors

A few of the buildings at the Changdeokgung Palace allow visitors to peek inside. Typical of the period, the Nakseonjae building's walls, doors, and windows are covered with white rice paper. I love the geometric designs framing the doors. The circle door in the photo above added an artistic, almost modern flair. 

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Blue Tiles of Seonjeongjeon

Whereas the main throne hall of Injeongjeon was reserved for VIP events, it was the Seonjeongjeon building where more routine state affairs were handled. Destroyed twice, it was rebuilt in 1647. Unique amongst the buildings at Changdeokgung, its roof is made from blue tiles. Each of the 150,000 tiles was baked individually to give maximum strength and longevity. Once common in roofs of Korea, these blue tiles are now limited to a few places in the country. 

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Injeongjeon Throne Hall, Changdeokgung Palace

The throne hall of the Changdokgung Palace, much like that of Gyeongbokgung Palace, has the outer appearance of being two stories, but in actuality is a single floor with a lofty ceiling. Westernized in 1908, it has electric lightling, glass windows, curtains, and wooden floorboards (which replaced baked clay blocks). Coronation of new kings, major political affairs, and receiving of foreign envoys took place here.

See below for a 360°view

Interior of the Injeongjeon (the throne hall), Changdeokgung Palace in Seoul

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Geumcheongyo Bridge, Changdeokgung Palace

The oldest stone bridge in Seoul, the Geumcheongyo bridge was built in 1411 over the auspicious stream Geumcheon. This stream demarcates the outside from the inside of the palace. Like the area of the palace leading up to the main hall, it had three lanes, with the middle one set aside for the king. Two arches of the bridge are met by stone creatures. On the northern side of the bridge is a Hyeonmu (black tortoise) and on the south, a haetae (mythical guardian beast).  Faces of guardian animals protrude from just below the railing, meant to ward off evil spirits.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

First Snowfall in Seoul

Aside from some remnants of snow on the ground last spring in Kashmir, it's been four years since I've had to deal with the white stuff. Just before noon, flakes began falling in Seoul. The kids were so excited, anxious to get out and play in it. Kids had fun making the slides extra-slick, sort-of making snow balls, and sliding down the hill by the school. For some, it's been a few years since they experienced snow, and there are a few at school who had never been in snow. With the slippery roads, it sure was nice to do the 2 minute walk to my apartment building, instead of dealing with "The Hill." From my balcony window, I had a nice view of the snowfall - all in the comfort of a warm apartment. Just the way I like it.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Donhwamun Gate, Changdeokgung Palace

The entry into the Changdeokgung Palace is through a two-story wooden gate called Donhwamun. Built in 1412, it is the largest of all Seoul’s palace gates. It is the gate that the king would use to enter the palace; attendants would enter the western Geumhomun gate. Like nearly all of the palaces, this gate fell victim to Japanese destruction, burned in 1592 and then restored in 1608.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Changdeokgung Palace, Seoul

Built as a secondary palace to Gyeongbokgung for the Joseon Dynasty in 1405, Changdeokgung became the residential palace and later the main palace. After the Japanese invasion from 1592-1598, it was the palace that was reconstructed (1610) and served as the main palace, until Gyeongbunkgung was finally rebuilt from the ashes in 1868. About 30% of the structures from pre-Japanese times still remain; others have been since restored. Unique amongst the city’s palaces, Changdeokgung was laid out to be harmonious with the topography. Although the palace has some beautiful and naturally arranged buildings, it is the rear garden that steals the show. Recognizing the palace as an “outstanding example of Far Eastern palace architecture and garden design,” it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. 

Saturday, December 01, 2012