First constructed in 1395 during Joseon dynasty, Gyeongbokgung is second largest palace in East Asia after JageumSung in China. Even though only 20% of its original form is restored after the Japanese invasion, Gyeongbokgung is not only famous for its gorgeous views of buildings but also for its historical value.
In order to save time and energy, CAH looked around Gyeongbokgung in a most efficient way. It took roughly about two hours to get around. The order of CAH’s visit was Geunjeongjeon-Donggung-Sajeongjeon-Gangnyeongjeon-Gyotaejeon-Amisan-Jagyeongjeon Hall Compound-Gyeonghoeru Pavilion-Taewonjeon shrine-Hyangwonjeong.
Geunjeongjeon is a throne hall that depicts the authority and dignity of the king and the country. The king holds main events in the place, including a morning assembly with civil and military functionaries, enthronement, and installation. This compound reflects one feature of the Joseon dynasty, which is a strict social rank order that regards the king as superior.
Donggung is where the crown prince lived with the crown princess during his training period for the throne. Knowing that the crown prince, Munjong, cultivated cherry trees for his father, King Sejong, it is interesting to find that there are many cherry trees observed inside Gyeongbokgung. This compound was built in 1427 during King Sejong’s reign, not when Gyeongbokgung was first constructed.
Sajeongjeon, in Korean, means ‘deep thinking contributes to the national affairs.’ This is a council hall where King Sejong studied and discussed matters with officials about the affairs of state. King Sejong built this place in order to train human resources and do research.
Gangnyeongjoen Hall is king’s living quarters. The king not only read books personally in the place, but also called his court officials to discuss the affairs of the state. He also held parties for their relatives. Gangyeongjoen was burned three times and it was currently reconstructed in the year of 1995. The floor is characterized by Ondol, which means heated-floor.
The queen resided in a different place called Gyotaejeon. She had a crucial duty to bear a son who would become the crown prince. She also had the right to keep tranquility and order in the royal family. The arrangement of the queen’s living quarters is similar to that of the king’s. The design of the building seemed feminine and gorgeous compared to other compounds.
An artificial mound, Amisan, is located behind Kyotaejoen. This mound was provided for the sake of the queen to have rest, who hardly had a chance to go in and out of the palace. The name, Amisan uses the same Chinese characters for Mountain Emei, a Chinese mountain that is said to be the most beautiful and mysterious. Hexagonal chimneys placed behind the hall are embellished with diverse paintings of bats, pine trees, plum blossoms, cranes, deer and phoenixes, etc.
The beautiful decorations of the courtyard walls for the Jagyeongjeon Hall compound catches the viewer’s eyes. It is a place for the queen dowager’s residence. The chimney is adorned with ten symbols of longevity and other favorable images.
Gyeonghoe-ru Pavilion and Hyangwonjeong are two main places where the king could have rested comfortably. Gyeonghoe-ru Pavilion stands in the middle of a lotus pond. The king held feasts in the place with foreign envoys and his court officials. The two pavilions are ineffably exquisite, which absolutely give pleasure to the viewers.
Taewonjeon Shrine, located in the northwest of Gyeongbokgung, is a royal coffin hall where the dead bodies of the king or queen would lie in state before they are buried. This place was used to hold portrait of King Taejo, the founder of the Joseon Dynasty, and perform rituals for the deceased.
Amazingly, there are still many other places to look at near Gyeongbokgung. First one is the National Folk Museum inside Gyeongbokgung, where visitors can experience and learn about Korean folkways and traditional life styles. CAH was fascinated about how well the museum was organized. The museum is divided into three exhibition halls: History of the Korean People, The Korean Way of Life, and The Life Cycle of Koreans.
What visitors must know:
free entry to all visitors
Free museum tour guide is also available in week days. English museum tour is available twice a day, 10:30 and 14:30 in front of the Exhibition Hall I.
Groups of 10-20 people can make free tour reservation through call number (02)3704-3129. For foreign language tour guide, reservations can be made for a smaller number of people. Tour reservation should be made three days before the tour.
March to April and September to October: 09:00-18:00
May to August: 09:00-18:00 / Saturdays, Sunday, National holidays : 09:00-19:00
November to February: 09:00-17:00
The museum is closed on 1 January and every Tuesday.
Next, CAH visited Cheongwadae Sarangchae Exhibition & Museum. It is placed in front of Cheongwadae Fountain Plaza. After exiting Gyeongbokgung through the Sinmun gate, turn left and walk 500m. The museum shares the image of Seoul’s past, present and future vision. It offers information about country’s world heritage sites and cultural assets. This place is especially recommended for foreigners since they can obtain information about how to cook Korean food, which places in Seoul are good to visit, and also to buy traditional handicrafted items and special souvenirs. It also took about an hour to look around.
What visitors must know:
Operating hours are from 9:00 to 18:00. Entrance is possible before 5:30.
It is closed every Monday. In the case when Monday is a holiday, the museum is closed on Tuesday instead.
For group tour more than 20 people and foreign tour guide reservation, visitors should call (02)723-0300.
Free entrance fee
Walk along the road ahead Cheongwadae. Then you can reach a road with numerous shops and restaurants, which is called Samcheong-dong Road. In this place, visitors can look around for shopping, visit art galleries, eat delicious food and drink coffee at well designed coffee shops. Samcheong-dong Road is especially popular for couples to have a date. Among the many restaurants lining the road, CAH ate lunch at Pungnyeonssalddeokbokgi, a small food shop which offers Korean traditional snack, such as ddeokbokgi, ddeokggochi, sundae, twigim, sikhae, and eomookggochi. Even with its cheap price, the taste was great. Since the food is indigenous to Korea, foreigners can again experience Korean culture on Samcheong-dong Road.
After eating a satiating lunch, CAH walked along the Samcheong-dong Road until we reached Bukchon Hanok Village. Since Korean nobleman during the Joseon dynasty used to live in this village, people can find various cultural heritages including historical landmarks, cultural assets, and folk materials. This is why the village got a nickname of ‘street museum.’ It is also located in the best place under the Feng Shui theory; a theory of divination based on topography. Hence, people living in the village can spend a relatively warm winter and enjoy the beautiful view of Mount Namsan. Since Bukchon Hanok Village is very large, CAH looked around the houses near Samcheong-dong Road.
On the way to Samcheong Park, CAH enjoyed watching around some of the fascinating coffee shops and gallery art shops. CAH rode a shuttle bus, Jongro 11, at Samcheong police substation to get to the Samcheong Park. This park is connected to the entrance of Mount Bukak. In the park, people can not only appreciate the beauty of nature, but also feel a historical atmosphere since there is an old fortress and the Sukchoeng gate. CAH stopped by Waryong Park as well, which is placed beside Samcheong Park. The parks were quiet and tranquil, perfect places for people to exercise.
CAH left the park when we were beginning to feel hungry and came back to Samcheong Road. On the street, we entered a well known restaurant to eat dinner. The restaurant was called Samcheongkalguksu, which served delicious Korean food, including several chopped noodles, Korean pancakes, and dumplings. Eating dinner was the final course of the CAH tour. We had a great fun, and hope CAU students also find our tour interesting!
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