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Friday, 4 May 2007

Visiting Deoksugung Palace in Seoul

During the Joseon Dynasty, there were "Five Grand Palaces" built in Seoul. We've had the chance to visit the largest and main palace in the past, Gyeongbokgung. This time around, I took the chance to visit Deoksugung, which like the others is right in the heart of the city.

According to the Galbijim Wiki:

The palace began as a relatively humble villa constructed in the late fifteenth century for Prince Wolsan, older brother to King Seongjong. After the Imjin Invasion of 1592, when the other palaces were destroyed, it served as the official home of King Seonjo and subsequent kings until the reconstruction of Changdeokgung. During that time King Gwanghaegun had his coronation ceremony there and renamed it Gyungwungung (경원궁). for the next 270 years it would be used as an auxiliary palace under the name Seogung (서궁).

After Emperor Gojong left from hiding in the Russian Embassy in 1897, he made the palace once again the official royal residence and renamed it back to Gyungwungung, and began an expansion which saw the first and by far most extensive introduction of western architecture to a Korean palace. After his abdication to Emperor Sunjong, he gave the palace its present name and lived there until his death in 1919.

In 1897, after the incident when Emperor Gojong took refuge in the Russian Embassy, he returned to the palace and renamed it Gyungwungung again, and began to expand it. After abdicating the throne to Emperor Sunjong, he renamed it its present name of Deoksugung and made the palace his permanent residence, living there until his death in 1919.

Did you get all of that? Good. Anyways, Deoksugung is a great place to visit in Seoul as the admission is dirt cheap (1000w--$1US) and there is lots to see (check out the Tour2Korea site here). Let's take a look at some of the highlights from my visit.

Here's the main entrance of the palace. There are lots of people here watching the free changing of the Royal Guard that takes place multiple times a day:

What is he thinking right about now? Submit your caption in the comments! I'll start..."This multicolored outfit makes me look fat"

The changing of the guard was interesting. Let's take a look at some videos. I was lucky to catch the start of another show...I was pretty close but I then realized I was standing and filming in an off limits area. One of the organizers shouted at me to get out of the way--whoops!

A second video...once again I'm standing on the inside while these guys are walking around me, and other tourists and spectators are on the outside looking in. Catch me if you can, suckas!

What do these guys do between shows? They rest and continue to sweat in their elaborate costumes. Here they are chilling out behind the ticket booth:

I mentioned that the palaces are right smack dab in the city. Check out the buildings in the distance. This view is looking at the front entrance from the inside:

Considering visiting the palace? Here's the layout of the compound:

This is the main hall of Deoksugung where official functions took place. Those stone markers designated where civil servants or military officials were supposed to stand during these events:

Junghwamun gate, which leads to the main court yard:

Here is a picture of a rooftop...

Spring has come...it's starting to get warmer now:

More palace love...I can't remember which one this is exactly:

Deoksugung Palace is located in downtown Seoul near City Hall. Get there by Subway – Get off at City Hall Subway Station. At either Exit No.2 (Subway Line No. 1) and Exit No.12 (Subway Line No. 12) walk for about 2~5 minutes. More info is on the Tour2Korea website.


Cat said...

Great photos. When Dave and I visited there the first time, we got there just as the changing of the guard ceremony was starting. I think it was the last one (only one?) of the day?

When it was over, the guys all marched down the small street next to the palace (the one leading toward the art museum), and we followed them, thinking this was part of the performance. Turns out, they were just getting into cars and going home.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if you would bother to post these amazing and rare pictures on the English Wikipedia. If you want help, contact me on my talk page - (on search, type "user talk:Wikimachine"). : )

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