Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Changdeokgung

I visited Changdeokgung, one of the most popular palaces in Seoul, during my last few weeks in Korea. It was built in 1395 and only 30% of the original palace remains because much of it was destroyed during Japanese invasion.  The reason for my interest in Changdeokgung was it's secret garden, which I will get to later in the post.

Insadong is a traditional neighborhood nestled around the five important palaces in Seoul.  If you head to Insadong on a weekend, you are almost sure to find some traditional performances among the huge crowds of people.

If your purpose for shopping is to get some great, traditional souvenirs, Insadong is just the place.
Insadong requires all stores to have signs in hangul - Korean alphabet.  The one below is suh-tah-buk-suh ca pi.  Any guesses?  Starbucks Coffee.

I found an old man on the street whittling these grasshoppers out of palms.  It was amazing...now I know what to do with all those palms on Palm Sunday;)

Biwon - The Secret Garden

Korean gardens are different than western thought of a garden having flowering plants.  Korean gardens differ from Chinese and Japanese gardens.  Korean gardens are simple, unforced, and flow with nature.  You can see my post on a Chinese garden here:  http://katieskoreanadventure.blogspot.com/2010/08/shanghai-yuyuan-gardens.html

The Secret Garden is 78 acres and built for the pleasure of the royal family.  Here you will see the building on the top of the hill.  This was a library for the royal family.  It is difficult to see but there is a main entrance - for the royal family (or just King - it's been a while, can't remember) and the side doors are for others - high official diplomats, etc.
The prince would often go fishing off the side of this building.
The water in this area of the garden, the water is in a square shape - to represent the Earth.  At that time they believed the earth was flat.  The circular island in the middle represents the moon.
No clocks in 1395.
The prince's study.

This area was for "the help."  This particular area was for the horses and the door to the left was the bathroom.
The bathroom.
"The helps'" quarters.  The entire complex was divided between men and women's quarters.  Somehow procreation existed so somehow they saw each other occasionally...it's just not publicized how.
Our tour guide showing us the newest technology the palace used in staying cool.  No, not the fan.  The way they hinged the door to come out.
Rooms for the help.


What's this?  Of course a noble person could not step onto the ground.  The entirety of the palaces are built so that it's possible that you'd never step onto the ground.  This was built to mount a horse.  This small step exists so that the noble person never has to step onto the ground.
I love the details.
This was a special copper roof...it has extreme significance - but this is the reason why I should do these posts directly after visiting a place.


This was recently restored and painting.  Restoring these sorts of things are very costly and time consuming.  Because Korean traditional structures use NO NAILS - these items can be taken apart and reassembled.  They stick to the traditional paint which is used by natural materials that I also cannot remember.  The natural materials are very scientific and they repel insects and do some other cool stuff I can't remember:/  
This pond is in the shape of Korea...all of Korea since at this time there was no separation.
As rice is important in so many aspects in Korea, this was built in honor of the rice fields.  There was/and I believe still is - a festival every year in honor of the rice harvest.  The royal family cultivated the rice to truly understand farming techniques.



That was all in the garden tour - now to the palace itself.
King's throne.






Korea uses an ondol system to heat their buildings.  They heat underneath the floor.  It's amazing and considering in traditional Korean culture you sleep and sit on the floors - it's brilliant.  This is the traditional way of heating under the floor.


I enjoyed Changdeokgung because it was a palace where I could actual imagine people living.  The royal family lived here until Japan invaded in 1910.  The photo below is the kitchen.

Queen's quarters.


The last queen before the invasion was quite brilliant.  She sat in this room with important officials planning how they could prevent Japan for invading Korea.



Well...I guess that sums up the Changdeokgung as my last palace visit in Korea.  Of all the palaces in Korea, I would vote this one number one because of it's garden and fact that it seemed to be livable to me.  Gyeongbukgung is pretty close in ranks - to me - because of it's wonderful museum.

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