On Wednesday the 17th we fought the traffic from Chunan to Seoul watching carefully for speed cameras. My brother Soolgi was kind enough to let me borrow his car and I was careful not to get a speeding ticket. Although I really don’t know since they wont be mailing it to my address.
The agenda today was a trip to the historical Kyongbokgoong. (the royal palace) It was originally constructed in 1394-1395 at the beginning of the E dynasty name after a King named “E”. Historically speaking this place has had a rough time which I guess can be said of Korea itself. A mysterious fire burnt the palace 1543 whereby it was immediately reconstructed. Then about fifty years later really bad luck came to roost, for in 1592 the Japanese invaded and burnt the palace to the ground. The palace went for nearly three hundred years before the royal family felt it was worth the effort to rebuild it. The kings always wanted to bring back its glory however, they did not due to fact they the felt the money would be better spent on the people. In 1865 it was finally rebuilt however, the Japanese invaded in 1911 it was burnt to the ground again and this time they completely killed off the royal family including the last Min queen from Ilsu’s family. If someone wants to know why there is no royal family in Korea … now you know.
The Kyongbokgoong still has a majestic feel to it even though it has been rebuilt so many times. The last time it was rebuilt was 1968. The Koreans have searched endlessly to find old photographs of the palace to help in its reconstruction but none have been found. Oddly enough in 1911 the Japanese took plenty of pictures of what poverty they could find however, they never took any pictures of the palace before they destroyed it. I understand that the Koreans are still searching for photos of the structures. I must say that I am very impressed with what the Koreans constructed even though they didn’t have pictures to assist them.
We arrived in the morning and the first thing I noticed was the size of the layout. There is about 100 acres of buildings and courtyards and a couple of ponds. At one time there were over seven thousand rooms to the entire complex.
As we approached the gate I could see many guards in front of the gateways. Below are pictures as we approached.
The following is a picture of the main gate as you look though the opening in the gate you can see a courtyard and another structure which turns out to be another gate with another courtyard.
Another look at the guards and the royal flags at the main gate are shown below.
The next picture is a panoramic view that I shot of the first courtyard. You may get a feel of the courtyard’s space and its many surrounding rooms. It seems the tourist in the fore front is studying the gate structure. You can also see the next gate with the red musas (warriors) standing guard. As you peer through the second gate you can see another structure which happens to be the office of the king. (Use the scroll bar when looking at the panoramic photos)
Here we are at the second gate and El Conde is posing for a picture with the musas. You now get a better view of the Kings office.
Here we have a noble musa standing in the brisk winter morning air.
A side view of the musas at the second gate of the royal palace Kyongbokgoong.
Below is a shot of courtyard of the King. When the King called a general assembly together the people would congregate in this courtyard. The stone markers delineate the caste order whereas the most noble were at the front near the King and the lower classes were further from the King although I am sure that none of the people in this court were low class. (Use the scroll bar when looking at the panoramic photos)
The Picture below is of the Kings office which is the focal point of the palace. This is where the king performed his official duties for the state. He also held official functions and would entertain foreign dignitaries there. There is an extensive stone foundation under this structure and as you can see the palace is elevated to give a symbolic presence of royalty.
The following three pictures show some of the inside of the Kings office. The first picture is looking east from the front door on the south side of the structure. In the past the floor has had many royal objects to accent the proper ambience. One of the things I love about Korean architecture is danchung coloring scheme. The colors work so well with each other and seem always to be visually balanced.
The next picture is looking straight above the last picture at the east rafters. The vista displaying a montage of angular lines in bright danchung colors is not only beautiful but it emphasizes an identity of Korean culture.
The last picture of the three shows the throne itself against the north wall. I may someday create a panoramic view of this space when I get more sophisticated software to help. A note of interest is that during the Japanese occupation the Japanese used the palace as the Japanese embassy.
The next picture is of the entire space of the Kings Office. I shot 19 pictures and sewed them together to create this panoramic mosaic, There is 180 degrees between the left edge of the picture and the right edge which is why the space is so cylindrically distorted to enable you to see the entire vista. The beams in the structure are straight not bent and you will have to use your imagination a bit to feel the space. Click the picture one more time and you get a much bigger picture in which you can scroll around.
The next two pictures are similar in feel yet taken from completely different locations. It is interesting to note that while surfing the internet I notice that other photographers had taken the same exact picture as the second one. It seems that this photographic composition is so strong that it begs you to take a picture.
The following picture is one taken looking west along side of the north wall of Gyotaejun hall which was the queen’s residence. On the right side of the picture chimneys are seen as part of the Amisan garden which was built for her majesty.
Below is a door to one of the many hallways through out the pavilions.
This picture is nothing special however; the composition was begging to be seen.
This picture below is looking west into one of the courtyard walls.
This picture is looking north toward the north mountain "bugaksan". The picture is taken from a location south east of the Hwangwonji pond and Hyangwonjung pavilion. The gate on your left leads back into the main pavilions the structure straight north is the Jagyunjun (queen’s residence.)
The next three pictures are of the Hwangwonji pond and Hyangwonjung pavilion. The original pond and pavilion were built in 1456. The pond’s reconstruction as well as the building of the current pavilion were done in 1873. The shot below is looking north at the buguksan mountain.
The bridge is called Chuihyanggyo. The following picture was shot looking looking east where you can see the National Folk Museum in the distance.
The following picture was shot looking north east again you can see the National Folk Museum.
The picture below shows the great Gyeonghoeru, or pavilion of Joyous Meeting. It was originally erected by King Taejo, who was the founder of the Joseon kingdom and responcible for the construction of Gyeongbokgung palace. King Taejong(r.1400-1418)commissioned Park Ja-cheong to expand the pavilion. A square island was built by Minister Park supported by long stones. The second floor was supported by Forty-eight stone pillars, sculptured with dragons. It was built to serve the king for entertaining guests, boating and parties. The man made lake is fed by underground springs.
It was burnt to the ground by the Japanese in their 1592 aggression. It was rebuilt again in 1867 by King Gojong. This time they put fire a eating bulgsari deity on stone rails in front of it to stand guard. It seems to have worked because it survived the Korean War as shells exploded all around it.
The next picture shows a building that was used to house foreign dignitaries.
At the bottom of the steps from the picture above sits another fire eating beast ---the haetae.
I ran across these darling children interacting with this audacious bird.
Just west of the Folk Museum was this set of Chinese zodiac figures(above.) All of the anthropomorphic statues had such wonderful personality I really enjoyed them. Everyone wants to have their picture taken in front of their zodiac ‘sign’ as you can see by the picture below.
If you have any questions or comments I would be happy to answer them. You can contact me by the link below.