Palaces in SEOUL (Part 5)

Gyeonghuigung Palace (경희궁) is the last of the Five Grand Palaces of Seoul. The palace was also built during the Joseon Dynasty (조선왕조). They started constructing it at the beginning of the 17th century and finished it already six years later. It is located at the West side of the city and if translated literally, the name Gyeonghuigung means Palace of Serene Harmony because it served as a hiding and relaxation place to the Kings and Queens. However, sometimes the locals call it Seongwol which means the Western Palace.

The choice of the location was smart in order to make sure that the Kings are protected in case of an invasion or other difficult times. The palace is surrounded by mountains to ensure that nobody can access it without complications. Of course the unique scenery also brings benefits to the visual side, especially for tourists or visitors in general nowadays. Moreover, during the palace’s heyday, it even had an arched bridge which connected Gyeonghuigung to Deoksugung Palace to make it strategically easier to hide or confront the enemy.

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However, if you hope to see Gyeonghuigung the same it was during the 17th century, then maybe you might feel disappointed when visiting it. Unfortunately, the palace was heavily destroyed during the 19th and 20th centuries when the Japanese forces invaded Korean peninsula and did a lot of damage to all of the five palaces that were built during or before the Joseon Dynasty. However, trust me, it still has a lot to offer in terms of history and the beautiful surroundings.

By the beginning of the 20th century, Gyeonghuigung Palace was made up from about 100 buildings each containing something unique and having its own purpose. However, during the Japanese occupation of Korean peninsula most of these buildings were either destroyed or removed to make way for schools for Japanese children. For instance, the two major building of the palace – Sungjeongjeon throne hall (성정전) and the Heunghwamun gate (흥화문) – were disassembled and moved to other parts of Seoul as historic artefacts.

In the 1990s, reconstruction work was started to restore the decayed royal residence as part of the South Korean government’s initiative to rebuild the Five Grand Palaces that were heavily destroyed by the Japanese. Though many of the gates and halls have since been restored, it still looks very different from its original design and features due to urban growth and decades of neglect. It is believed that the government was only able to reconstruct around 33% of the former Palace. In 2002, the area was reopened to the public.

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Moreover, you should visit this place not just because of seeing the palace, but also because Seoul Museum of History (서울역사박물관) and The Seoul Musuem of Annex of Art (서울시립미술관 별관) are also located in the palace grounds.

If you are travelling by subway, then you should take Line 5 and get off at the Seodaemun Station (서대문역). If you take Exit 4, you just have to walk straight for about 400 metres. The palace entrance will be on your left side. You can’t really miss it, as all the signs lead the right way.

Enjoy exploring the palaces as now I have left you description about all the five of them. Moreover, if you are really planning to see each of the palaces then you can just ask for a multiple ticket that will allow you to enter any of the palaces in Seoul. Have fun!

 

Article by Zanda from the U.K.

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