Palaces in SEOUL (Part 4)

Changgyeong Palace (창경궁) just like the other four Seoul’s Grand Palaces is located in the central part of the city making it accessible for the visitors at any time the palace is operating. Changgyeong Palace unlike the other palaces was built during the golden era of Goryeo Dynasty (고려왕조). The palace mostly served as a Summer Palace of the dynasty’s kings and high ranking officials. However, afterwards Changgyeong became one of Five Grand Palaces of Joseon Dynasty. Nowadays, the palace serves as one of the most visited cultural sites in Seoul as it provides the viewers with a great insight in traditional Korean culture.

Just like other Grand Palaces, Changgyeong was heavily damaged after the Japanese invasion and war. Unfortunately, due to the long war period, nowadays many of the traditional sites have been renovated from a more modern approach and some of the most old-style features are not as visible as maybe a century ago. Another reason why the palace has been heavily damaged nowadays is because the Japanese officials during the Japanese Colonial Era decided to turn the palace into a museum that also included an on-site botanical garden and even a zoo that was filled with numerous animals known to belong to Korean culture. Luckily, in 1983 the Korean officials concluded that the botanical garden and the zoo are not part of the traditional palace compound and removed these two features. In the past years, therefore, the palace has regained some of the ancient and traditional structures that were better observable during the Joseon Dynasty.

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Nowadays, the most popular sites of the Changgyeong Palace are the Honghwa Gate (홍화문), Okcheongyo Bridge (옥천교), Myeongjeongjeon (명정전) or the palace’s main hall and also Munjeongjeon which served as the council hall where leaders made most of the deals, negotiations and plans happen.

You will find the Honghwa Gate right after you enter the palace using the main entrance. Right after you pass the gate, you will be able to step on the Okcheongyo Bridge. In between the arches under the bridge’s parapet are carved goblins, named dokkaebi in Korean culture, that are intended to ward off evil spirits and protect the palace and Korean people from forces that want to invade the country. Of course, Changgyeong Palace just like in all palaces of the Joseon Dynasty have beautifully kept ponds that have and arch bridge over them. Okcheongyo is one of those bridges. After crossing the Okcheongyo Bridge, and passing the Myeongjeongmun Gate, and you will find Myeonjeongjeon (main hall). Back in time this hall operated as the office of the king. Moreover, Myeongjeongjeon is the oldest hall of all the Joseon Dynasty palace halls. On the southern side of the palace, you will find Munjeongjeon Hall that unlike Myeongjeongjeon was not used for official banquets and events, but for king’s place to work and lead the country. Unfortunately, most of the features of this hall have been heavily damaged.

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If you are planning to visit all of the Grand Palaces here in Seoul, just like I did and you are wondering how to get to Changgyeong Palace, then you should take Seoul Subway Line 3, get to the Anguk Station (안국역) and take exit 3. However, this time you will need to walk a bit more. After leaving the station, you will still need to walk for about one kilometre along Yulgok-ro until you reach the palace. Yet, it is definitely worth the walk, especially during the beautiful autumn period here in Seoul!

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Article by Zanda from the U.K.

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