The Imperial Palace

So yesterday, the gang and I (from Left to Right: Brad, Chay, Kendra, Myself, and Sungwon) went to Gyeongbokgung, the ancestral Korea Imperial Palace. It was a great adventure, and something that was right up my alley, since I love visiting cultural sites. We were really all looking forward to the trip, probably myself the most, since I can’t get enough of visiting cultural sites. (Please note that this blog is being posted before the video, and while the album can be viewed here, the true beauty will be in the video.)

The Palace is about an hour away by bus, so we jumped on the 5500 bus and rode from Yongin to Seoul. Then it was a short walk to the Palace. Along the way, we saw the Korean National Police gearing up for the Anti-US Beef Protest that would take place later that day. It was really neat walking through a thousand police officers in riot gear.

While we didn’t have the best weather (the forecast called for steady rain), it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. In fact, the most rain we got was a few drops here and there. The main Palace entrance is grand. A true sight to be seen. In front there are about 20 men dressed in period uniform that perform a Changing of the Guard ceremony roughly every 30 minutes. After taking that in, we purchased our admission tickets ($3) and I opted to buy the $1 English Audio Tour (money well spent).

So here’s some history about the Palace:

  • It was originally built in 1395 (three years after the founding of the Joseon Dynasty) by Yi Seong-gye and set the capitol of Korea in Seoul.
  • The Palace was destroyed by Japanese incursions in the 1592 and was not rebuilt until 1868. At this time, the Palace was expanded to over 300 buildings, 5700+ rooms, and totaling over 4 million square feet in area.
  • The Royal Family vacated the Palace for good after the Japanese assassination of Empress Myeongseong in1895.
  • The Japanese demolished all but 11 buildings in 1911.
  • Reconstruction of the Palace began in 1990 and is expected to be complete in 2009.

Walking through the Palace, you really get a sense of how massive this place is. We spent a good few hours there before they started closing it down because of the impending Protests. I wish we could have stayed a few more hours to really take in it all. The Palace has three main gates one must travel through, as a sign of respect and safety for the Imperial Family. The Ruling Hall, is actually still, for the most part, original and considered a National Treasure. Behind the hall, were the family quarters. One for the King/Emperor, one for the Queen, and one for the Prince. Surrounding these quarters were over 100 rooms for staff.

Hyanwonjeong is a small octagonal building built on a artificial lake inside the palace boundaries. It is one of the most photographed places in Korea, and I can see why. The beauty of the building, looking out on the lake and Palace is amazing.

In the far back of the Palace was Taewonjeon. It was a house that served to consecrate the paintings of the Emperor. It doubled as the royal funeral parlor.

One of the most beautiful places was Gyonghoeru Pavilion and Yeonji Pond. This large two-story structure has detached doors that one could open in the summer and close in the winter. The two story structure was used to house amazing parties. In fact the first President of Korea built a small structure on the pond so he could fish.

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