The Ancient Palaces of Korea
Deoksugung, also known as Gyeongun-gung, Deoksugung Palace, or Deoksu Palace, is a walled compound of palaces in Seoul that was inhabited by various Koreanroyalties until the Japanese occupation of Korea around the turn of the 20th century. The buildings are of varying construction, including some of natural cryptomeriawood), painted wood, and stucco. Some buildings were built in Western style.
Deoksugung, like the other “Five Grand Palaces” in Seoul, was intentionally heavily destroyed during the Japanese occupation of Korea. Currently, only one third of the structures that were standing before the occupation, remains.
Deoksugung was originally the residence of Prince Wolsan, the older brother of King Seongjong. This residence became a royal ‘palace’ during the Seven-Year War after all of the other palaces were burned in 1592 during the Japanese invasions of the Seven-Year War. King Seonjo was the first Joseon king to reside at the palace. King Gwanghaegun was crowned in this palace in 1608, and renamed itGyeongun-gung (경운궁, 慶運宮) in 1611. After the official palace was moved to the rebuilt Changdeokgung in 1618, it was used as an auxiliary palace for 270 years and was renamed Seogung (West Palace).
In 1897, after the incident when Emperor Gojong took refuge in the Russian legation, he returned to this place and named it Gyeongungung again. Expansion of the facility followed after his return. After Emperor Gojong abdicated the throne to Emperor Sunjong, he continued to live in this palace. The palace was then renamed Deoksugung, as a reference to a wish for longevity of Emperor Gojong. Emperor Gojong died in Hamnyeongjeon.
Chang Deok Gung Palace :
Donggwoldo, the landscape painting of Changdeokgung.
Changdeokgung, also known as Changdeokgung Palace or Changdeok Palace, is set within a large park in Jongno-gu, Seoul, South Korea. It is one of the “Five Grand Palaces” built by the kings of the Joseon Dynasty. Because of its location east ofGyeongbok Palace, Changdeokgung, with Changgyeonggung, is also referred to as the East Palace(東闕, Donggwol). The literal meaning of Changdeokgung(昌德宮) is “Palace of Prospering Virtue”.
Changdeokgung was the most favored palace of many princes of the Joseon Dynastyand retained many elements dating from the Three Kingdoms of Korea period that were not incorporated in the more contemporary Gyeongbokgung. One such element is the fact that the buildings of Changdeokgung blend with the topography of the site instead of imposing upon nature.
Changdeokgung was the second palace after Gyeongbokgung which had been established in 1395 as a primary palace. In the midst of strife for the throne between princes and vassals, authority of Gyeongbokgung was deteriorated. King Jeongjongenthroned by Prince Yi Bang-won moved the capital to Gaegyeong, the one ofGoryeo dynasty, again in 1400 on the pretext of superior geographical features of it, in fact, in order to avert the power struggle. Taejong(Yi bang-won) soon taking over the throne returned to Hanseong(present-day Seoul) had a new palace named Changdeokgung instead of Gyeongbokgung because he had killed his half brothers in Gyeongbokgung whose construction was led by Jeong Do-jeon, the king’s rival before. Construction of Changdeok Palace began in 1405, and was completed in 1412. King Seonjo expanded the palace grounds by about 500,000 square meters, including Huwon (see below).
The Palace was burnt to the ground during the Japanese invasion in 1592 and reconstructed in 1609 by King Seonjo and King Gwanghaegun. The next arson was in 1623 because of King Injo Political Revolt against Gwanghaegun. The palace was also attacked by the Manchu Qing but throughout its history of reconstruction and repair has remained faithful to its original design. Changdeokgung was the site of the royal court and the seat of government until 1872, when the neighboring Gyeongbokgung was rebuilt. Korea’s last Emperor, Emperor Sunjong lived here until his death in 1926.
Today there are 13 buildings remaining on the palace grounds and 28 pavilions in the gardens, occupying 110 acres (45 hectares) in all and the area is designated as Historical Site No. 122. Buildings of note include Donhwa-mun (built in 1412, rebuilt in 1607, with a copper bell weighing 9 short tons or 8 metric tons), Injeong-jeon (main hall), Seongjeong-jeon (auxiliary office in the main hall), Huijeong-dang (the king’s private residence, later used as a conference hall), Daejo-jeon (living quarters), and Nakseon-jae (former residence of Korean imperial family including Princess Bangja.
The palace was built between Peak Maebong of Mt. Bugaksan in the back and Rivulte Geumcheon having flowing in the front influenced by the principle “baesanimsu”(배산임수) in Feng Shui theory. Contrary to Gyeongbokgung whose main buildings are arranged in accurate architectural principle, however, buildings in Changdeokgung are disposed more freely without a regular system. Though its structure seems chaotic at a glace, all buildings are in harmony with the environment surrounding them.
Changdeokgung consists of governmental area(治朝, chijo) centering on Injeongjeon and Seonjeongjeon, royal private area(寢殿,chimjeon, meaning ‘a house of king’s bedroom’), Nakseonjae area in the east, and Huwon beyond the north hills. Most of major official buildings such as Injeongjeon, main hall of Changdeokgung, Seonjeongjeon, king’s office, and many of government offices(궐내각사,gwollaegaksa) are placed in the front parts of the palace, beyond which there are royal private court for king and queen. King’s houses like Seonjeongjeon, Huijeongdang, and Nakseonjae are surrounded in many folds of buildings and courts in case any outsider break through. The architectural style of Changdeokgung overall features simplicity and frugality because of Confucian ideology.
Structures of particular interest include :
The pavillion Buyong-jeon in the secret garden(Buyongjeong pavilion and Buyeongji pond at the Huwon area)
Nakseonjae area (courtyard)
Donhwamun Gate – The main palace gate. Built in 1412, Donhwamun has a two-story pavilion-type wooden structure, and is the largest of all palace gates. Donhwamun was burned down during the Japanese invasion of 1592 and was restored in 1608.
Geumcheongyo Bridge – Oldest bridge still extant in Seoul. Built 1411.
Injeongjeon Hall (National Treasure)
- the throne hall of Changdeokgung, it was used for major state affairs including the coronation of a new king and receiving foreign envoys. Originally built in 1405, it was rebuilt in 1610 after being burned down during the 1592 Japanese invasion, and a third time in 1804 after being destroyed by a fire.
Seonjeongjeon Hall -
An office for ruling officials, the king held daily meetings with ministers, reported on state affairs and seminars here.
- Originally the king’s bed chamber, it became his workplace after Seonjeongjeon was deemed too small for conducting routine state affairs. The original Huijeongdang was destroyed by a fire in 1917. The reconstructed structure is completely different from the original due to recent Western influences. Wooden floorboards and carpets, glass windows, and chandeliers can be seen inside the building.
- Official residence of the queen. Destroyed by fire in 1917, it was rebuilt with materials taken from Gyeongbokgung. Daejojeon was used as a residence for the last empress of Joseon, allowing us a glimpse into the final years of the royal household of the Joseon Dynasty.
Juhamnu Pavilion (Kyujanggak)
- Royal libraries stood in this area. State exams were conducted in front of the pavilion on special occasions in presence of the king.
Yeon-gyeongdang Residence – Built in 1827, it was an audience hall modeled after a typical literati house.
Behind the palace lies the 78-acre (32 ha) Huwon (後苑, Rear garden) which was originally constructed for the use of the royal family and palace women. The garden incorporates a lotus pond, pavilions, and landscaped lawns, trees, and flowers. The surroundings and the palace itself are well matched. There are over 26,000 specimens of a hundred different species of trees in the garden and some of the trees behind the palace are now over 300 years old. the garden that was extremely private space for the king had been called ‘Geumwon'(禁苑, Forbidden garden) because even high officials could not dare to come in without king’s permission. Also it had been called ‘Naewon'(內苑, ‘Inner garden’). Today Koreans often call it ‘Biwon'(秘院, Secret garden) which derived from the office of same name in the late 19C. Though the garden had many another names, the name most frequently used through Joseon dynasty period was ‘Huwon’.
A variety of ceremonies host by the king were held in Huwon. In early period of Joseon dynasty, military inspections participated with king himself had been practiced many times. King Sejo had troops parade and array before him or commanded them by himself in the garden. In addition, giving feasts, playing archery games, or enjoy fireworks in Huwon.
The Ongnyucheon (“Jade Stream”) area is of particular interest. It contains a U-shaped water channel carved in 1636 for floating wine cups, with a small waterfall and an inscribed poem on the boulder above it. The area also contains five small pavilions.
Gyeongbokgung, also known as Gyeongbokgung Palace or Gyeongbok Palace, is a royal palace located in northern Seoul, South Korea. First constructed in 1394 and reconstructed in 1867, it was the main and largest palace of the Five Grand Palaces built by the Joseon Dynasty. The name of the palace, Gyeongbokgung, translates in English as “Palace of Shining Happiness.”
Nearly destroyed by the Japanese government in the early 20th century, the palace complex is slowly being restored to its original form prior the destruction. As of 2009, roughly 40 percent of the original number of palace buildings still stand or are being reconstructed.
Hyangwonjeong pavilion and bridge
The palace was originally constructed in 1394 by King Taejo, the first king and founder of the Joseon Dynasty, and the nameGyeongbokgung was created by an influential government minister named Jeong Dojeon. Gyeongbokgung was continuously expanded during the reign of King Taejong and King Sejong the Great, but the majority of the palace was burnt down during the Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–1598).
During the regency of Daewongun in 1867, the palace buildings were reconstructed and formed a massive complex with 330 buildings and 5,792 rooms. Standing on 4,414,000 square feet (410,000 square meters) of land, it was a symbol of majesty for both the Korean nation and the seat of the Korean royal family. In 1895, after the assassination of Empress Myeongseong by Japanese agents, her husband, Emperor Gojong left the palace; since then, the Imperial family never returned to Gyeongbokgung.
From 1911, the Japanese government systemically demolished all but 10 buildings during the Japanese occupation of Korea and ultimately constructed the Japanese General Government Building for the Governor-General of Korea in front of the throne hall, Geunjeongjeon, in order to eradicate the symbol and heritage of the Joseon Dynasty. Gwanghwamun Gate, the main and south gate of Gyeongbokgung, was relocated by the Japanese to the east of the palace, and its wooden structure was completely destroyed during the Korean War.
Gyeongbokgung’s original 19th century palace buildings that survived both the Japanese occupation of Korea and the Korean Warinclude Geunjeongjeon the Imperial Throne Hall (National Treasure No. 223), Hyangwonjeong Pavilion, Jagyeongjeon Hall, Jibokjae Hall, Sajeongjeon Hall, Sujeongjeon Hall, and Gyeonghoeru Pavilion (National Treasure No. 224). Modern archaeological work has brought 330 building foundations to light.
In 1995, the Japanese General Government Building, after many controversial debates about its fate, was completely demolished by the Korean government in order to reconstruct Heungnyemun Gate and its cloisters.
Today the palace is open to the public, and houses the National Folk Museum of Korea and the National Palace Museum of Korea. TheNational Museum of Korea, also previously located in the palace grounds, was relocated to Yongsan-gu in 2005.
By the end of 2009, it is estimated that approximately 40 percent of the structures that were standing before the Japanese occupation of Korea will be restored or reconstructed. As a part of the phase 5 of the restoration initiative, Gwanghwamun the main gate is currently being restored to its original state. However, another restoration project spanning 20 years is planned by the Korean government to restore Gyeongbokgung to its former status.
- Gwanghwamun (The Main and South Gate)
- Heungnyemun (The Second Inner Gate)
- Geunjeongmun (The Third Inner Gate)
- Sinmumun (The North Gate)
- Geonchunmun (The East Gate)
- Yeongchumun (The West Gate)
Oejeon (Outer Court)
- Geunjeongmun (The Third Inner Gate)
- Geunjeongjeon (The Throne Hall)
- Sajeongjeon (The Executive Office)
Naejeon (Inner Court)
- Gangnyeongjeon (The King’s Quarters)
- Gyotaejeon (The Queen’s Quarters)
- Jagyeongjeon (The Late Queen’s Quarters)
Donggung (Palace of the Crown Prince)
- Jaseondang (The Crown Prince’s and Princesses’ Quarters)
- Bihyeongak (The Study of the Crown Prince)
- Gyeonghoeru (The Royal Banquet Hall)
Gyeonghoeru pavilion where official banquest were held
Gangnyeongjeon (Hangul: 강녕전; Hanja: 康寧殿), also called Gangnyeongjeon Hall, is a building used as the king’s main sleeping and living quarters. The building contains the king’s bed chamber and was first constructed in 1395, the fourth year ofKing Taejo. Destroyed during the Japanese invasions of Korea in 1592, the building was rebuilt when Gyeongbokgung was reconstructed in 1867, but it was again burned down by a major fire on November, 1876 and had to be restored in 1888 by the orders of King Gojong.
However, when Huijeongdang of Changdeokgung Palace was burned down by a fire in 1917, the Japanese government dismembered the building and used its construction materials to restore Huijeongdang in 1920. The current building was rebuilt in 1994, meticulously restoring Gangnyeongjeon to its original specifications and design.
Gangnyeongjeon consists of fourteen rectangular chambers, each seven chambers located to the left and right side of the building in a layout out like a checkerboard, and corridors. The king used the center chamber while the court attendants occupied the other side chambers to protect, assist, and to receive orders. The building rests on top of a tall stone foundation, and a stone deck or veranda locates in front of the building.
The noted feature of the building is an absence of a top white roof ridge called yongmaru (Hangul: 용마루) in Korean. Many theories exist to explain the absence, of which a prominent one states that since the king was symbolized as the dragon during the Joseon Dynasty, the yongmaru, which contains the letter dragon or yong (龍), cannot rest on top of the king when he is asleep.
Geunjeongjeon (Hangul: 근정전; Hanja: 勤政殿), also known as Geunjeongjeon Hall, is the throne hall of Gyeongbokgung where the king formally granted audiences to his officials, gave declarations of national importance, and greeted foreign envoys and ambassadors during the Joseon Dynasty. The building was designated as Korea’sNational Treasure No. 223 on January 8, 1985.
Geunjeongjeon was originally constructed in 1395 during the reign of King Taejo, but was burned down in 1592 when the Japanese invaded Korea. The present building was built in 1867 when Gyeongbokgung was being reconstructed. The name Geunjeongjeon, created by the minister Jeong Dojeon, means “diligence helps governance.
Constructed mainly of wood, Geunjeongjeon sits on the center of a large rectangular courtyard, on top of a two-tiered stone platform. This two-tiered platform is lined with detailed balustrades and is decorated with numerous sculptures depicting imaginary and real animals, such as dragons and phoenixes. The stone-paved courtyard is lined with two rows of rank stones, called pumgyeseoks (Hangul: 품계석; Hanja: 品階石), indicating where the court officials are to stand according to their rank, and is surrounded by wooden cloisters.
Geunjeongmun (Hangul: 근정문; Hanja: 勤政門), aligned and located directly to the south of Geunjeongjeon, is the main gate to the courtyard and to Geunjeongjeon. The gate is divided into three separate aisles and only the king was allowed to walk through the center
Gyeonghoeru (Hangul: 경회루; Hanja: 慶會樓), also known as Gyeonghoeru Pavilion, is a hall used to hold important and special state banquets during the Joseon Dynasty. It is an important national landmark registered as Korea’s National Treasure No. 224 on January 8, 1985.
The first Gyeonghoeru was constructed in 1412, the 12th year of the reign of King Taejong, but was burned down during the Japanese invasions of Korea in 1592. The present building was constructed in 1867 (the 4th year of the reign of King Gojong) on an island of an artificial, rectangular lake that is 128 m wide and 113 m across.
Constructed mainly of wood and stone, Gyeonghoeru has a form where the wooden structure of the building sits on top of 48 massive stone pillars, with the wooden stairs connecting the second floor to the first floor. The outer perimeters of Gyeonghoeru are supported by square pillars while the inner columns are cylindrical; they were placed thus to represent the idea of Yin & Yang. When Gyeonghoeru was originally built in 1412, these stone pillars were decorated with sculptures depicting dragons rising to the sky, but these details were not reproduced when the building was rebuilt in the 19th century. Three stone bridges connect the building to the palace grounds, and corners of thebalustrades around the island are decorated with sculptures of the twelve Zodiac animals.
Gyotaejeon (Hangul: 교태전; Hanja: 交泰殿), also called Gyotaejeon Hall, is a building used as the main sleeping and living quarters by the queen during the Joseon Dynasty. The building is located behind Gangnyeongjeon, the king’s sleeping quarters, and contains the queen’s bed chamber. It was first constructed in around 1440, the 22nd year of King Sejong the Great.
King Sejong, who was noted to have a frail health later in his reign, decided to carry out his executive duties in Gangnyeongjeon, where his bed chamber is located, instead of Sajeongjeon. Since this decision meant many government officials routinely needed to visit and intrude Gangnyeongjeon, King Sejong had Gyotaejeon built in consideration of his wife the queen’s privacy.
The building was burned down in 1592 when the Japanese invaded Korea, but was reconstructed in 1867. Nevertheless, when Daejojeon of Changdeokgung Palace was burned down by a fire in 1917, the Japanese government dissembled the building and recycled its construction materials to restore Daejojeon. The current building was reconstructed in 1994 according to its original design and specifications. The building, like Gangnyeongjeon, does not have a top roof ridge called yongmaru.
Amisan (Hangul: 아미산; Hanja: 峨嵋山), a famous garden created from an artificial mound, is located behind Gyotaejeon. The four hexagonal chimneys, constructed around 1869 in orange brick and decorative roof tiles, decorate Amisan without showing their utilitarian function and are notable examples of formative art created during the Joseon Dynasty. The chimneys were registered as Korea’s Treasure No. 811 on January 8, 1985.
Hyangwonjeong (Hangul: 향원정; Hanja: 香遠亭), or Hyangwonjeong Pavilion, is a small, two-story hexagonal pavilion built around 1873 by the order of King Gojongwhen Geoncheonggung residence was built to the north of the Hyangwonjeong site within Gyeongbokgung.
The pavilion was constructed on an artificial island of a lake named Hyangwonji(Hangul: 향원지; Hanja: 香遠池), and a bridge named Chwihyanggyo (Hangul: 취향교; Hanja: 醉香橋) connects it to the palace grounds. The name Hyangwonjeongloosely translates as “Pavilion of Far-Reaching Fragrance,” while Chwihyanggyotranslates as “Bridge Intoxicated with Fragrance.
The bridge Chwihyanggyo was originally located on the north side of the island and was the longest bridge constructed purely of wood during the Joseon Dynasty; however, it was destroyed during the Korean War. The bridge was reconstructed in its present form on the south side of the island in 1953.
Jagyeongjeon (Hangul: 자경전; Hanja: 慈慶殿), also called Jagyeongjeon Hall, is a building used as the main sleeping and living quarters by the late queen Sinjeongwanghu (Hangul: 신정왕후; Hanja: 神貞王后), the mother of King Heonjong. First constructed in 1865, it was burned down twice by a fire but was reconstructed in 1888.Jagyeongjeon is the only building served as a royal sleeping quarters in Gyeongbokgung not demolished by the Japanese government during the Japanese occupation of Korea.
The chimneys of Jagyeongjeon are decorated with ten signs of longetivity to wish for a long life for the late queen, while the west walls of the Jagyeongjeon compound are adorned with floral designs. The protruding southeast part of Jagyeongjeon namedCheongwonru (Hangul: 청원루; Hanja: 淸燕樓) is designed to provide a cooler space for the late queen during the summer, while the northwest part of Jagyeongjeon namedBokandang (Hangul: 복안당; Hanja: 福安堂) is for the winter months. The eastern part of Jagyeogjeon named Hyeopgyeongdang (Hangul: 협경당; Hanja: 協慶堂), distinguished by the building’s lower roofline when compared to Jagyeongjeon, was used by the late queen’s assistants.
The building and the decorative walls were registered as Korea’s Treasure No. 809 on January 8, 1985.
Jibokjae (Hangul: 집옥재; Hanja: 集玉齋), located next to Geoncheonggung Residence, is a two-story private library used by King Gojong. In 1876, a major fire occurred in Gyeongbokgung Palace, and King Gojong, for a brief period, moved and resided in Changdeokgung Palace instead. He eventually moved back to Gyeongbokgung in 1888, and he had the already-existing Jibokjae building dissembled and moved from Changdeokgung to the present location in 1891. Its name,Jibokjae, translates loosely in English as “Hall of Collecting Jade.”
The building uniquely shows heavy influence of Chinese architecture instead of traditional Korean palace architecture. Its side walls were entirely constructed of brick, a method commonly employed by the contemporary Chinese, and its roof design, interior screens, and columns also show Chinese influence. Its architecture possibly was meant to give it an exotic appearance.
Jibokjae is flanked by Parujeong (Hangul: 팔우정; Hanja: 八隅亭), an octagonal two-story pavilion, to the left and Hyeopgildang(Hangul: 협길당; Hanja: 協吉堂) to the right. Parujeong was constructed and used to store books, while Hyeopgildang served as a part of Jibokjae. Both of the buildings are connected to Jibokjae by internal corridors.
Bohyeondang (Hangul: 보현당; Hanja: 寶賢堂) and Gahoejeong (Hangul: 가회정; Hanja: 嘉會亭), buildings that also formed a library complex to the south of Jibokjae, were demolished by the Japanese government in the early 20th century.
Culture of Korea
Lotus lantern festival
Apart from the instruments used, traditional Korean music is characterized by improvisation and the lack of breaks between movements. A pansori performance can last for over eight hours during which a single singer performs continuously.
Nongak performace, farmer’s dance
Traditional Korean musical instruments can be divided into wind, string, and percussion types. Wind instruments include the piri (cylindrical oboe), taepyeongso (metal-bell shawm), daegeumsaenghwang (mouth organ) and the hun(ocarina). Traditional string instruments include zithers such as the gayageum, geomungo, and ajaeng, and the haegeum, a two-stringedfiddle.
A great number of traditional percussion instruments are used including the kkwaenggwari (hand-held gong), the jing (hanging gong),buk (barrel drum), janggu, (hourglass drum), bak (clapper), and pyeonjong (bell chimes or stone chimes), as well as the eo (tiger-shaped scraper) and the chuk (wooden box).
Korean sword dance-Jinju geommu
A scenery on Dano day
Lacquer drawer with mother-of-pearl inlay, at the National Museum of Korea in Seoul.
Celadon Incense Burner from the Korean Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392), with kingfisher glaze, is the National Treasure of South Korea #95 and is currently on display at the National Museum of Korea in Seoul.
Traditional house, hanok
Traditional Korean houses can be structured into an inner wing (anchae) and an outer wing (sarangchae). The individual layout largely depends on the region and the wealth of the family. Whereas aristocrats used the outer wing for receptions, poorer people kept cattle in the sarangchae. The wealthier a family, the larger the house. However, it was forbidden to any family except for the king to have a residence of more than 99 kan. Akan is the distance between two pillars used in traditional houses.
The inner wing normally consisted of a living room, a kitchen and a wooden-floored central hall. More rooms may be attached to this. Poorer farmers would not have any outer wing. Floor heating (ondol) has been used in Korea since prehistoric times. The main building materials arewood, clay, tile, stone, and thatch. Because wood and clay were the most common materials used in the past not many old buildings have survived into present times. Japan’s kidnapping of an entire city known for its castle building skills built Japan’s most famous castles and palaces, an act which the Japanese government has formally acknowledged and apologized for.
Sites of residence are traditionally selected using geomancy. It is believed that any topographical configuration generates invisible forces of good or ill (gi). The negative and positive energies (yin and yang) must be brought into balance.
A house should be built against a hill and face south to receive as much sunlight as possible. This orientation is still preferred in modern Korea. Geomancy also influences the shape of the building, the direction it faces and the material it is built of.
Traditional farmer’s house of Korea, located in the folk village in, South Korea.